This was my first SAPPHIRE and only my second SAP conference (HR2012 in Las Vegas was my first) – and yet again I had a blast. For me the conference is as much about meeting great people and catch up with friends as it is about getting the latest information and big announcements from the world of SAP. And quite often the first is more relevant than the last.
As a SAP Mentor I got access to a few events, areas and people you wouldn’t normally get access to. Anybody following the tweets will have seen the photos of some SAP Mentors (including myself) at a Global Communications event with the likes of Hasso Plattner, Jim Snabe, Bill McDermott, Lars Dalgaard, Oliver Bussman, Sanjay Poonen and a number of other high profile SAP figures. In reality there was little conversation with Plattner, Snabe, McDermott and Dalgaard, although the likes of Bussman and Poonen were happy to stay and talk to us. Snabe did the rounds and I found him to be a genuinely nice guy who enjoyed being around the SAP Mentors. I did share a quick quip with Plattner during our photo:
Plattner: “Who are you SAP Mentors? You promote us?”
Plattner: “And you critize us?!”
Marson: “Yes, but only to make you better!”
Photo by Martin Gillet.
I thought the keynote speeches were hit and miss. Personally I didn’t get much out of the ASUG keynote with exception of the excellent Lance Armstrong. No matter what you think of him, he is great on stage. Bill McDermott’s keynote didn’t really do much for me either, although the panel interview with the customers was better than the previous part of this keynote.
For me the real highlight of the keynotes was Jim Snabe’s. I think he spoke without some of the “front” that was seen in the previous and following speaker’s time on stage. I particularly liked his joke about SAP buying SuccessFactors as part of a mid-life crisis. His interview with Ron Dennis, the CEO of McLaren, was particularly engaging as Dennis is genuinely passionate and honest about how SAP has helped their business. Lars Dalgaard was animated and energetic (although apparently toned down from normal), but his sucking up to SAP was slightly nauseating, the first two videos were quite cheesy, and his messages about Business ByDesign were unclear (or should that be cloudy?). On the up-side, it is clear that he is incredibly passionate and the brief video about SuccessFactors’ implementation of the Business ByDesign components was interesting, albeit not overly informative.
Hasso gave a passionate speech in the final keynote, but it was probably a bit techy for this audience. Vishal Sikka followed up Hasso superbly, as one would probably expect.
There were a few messages delivered, although nothing too surprising. SAP’s focus areas are cloud, mobile, analytics and social. I think we all knew this before the conference.
SAP HANA seemed to be the big topic of the conference for SAP. HANA is going to power both SAP Netweaver and cloud solutions. For me the most powerful message was the story of the Berlin university hospital Charité that is using HANA to analyze cancer cells and provide the correct treatments within minutes rather than weeks. It’s not often that technology is used to benefit or save lives in this way and it’s a testament to the power of HANA. Another message for me was from Hasso himself; HANA isn’t a rival to Oracle, it is a new category. It does similar things to a database but in an entirely different way.
SAP are, according to the VP of SAP Labs, “continuing their journey of renovations for on-premise”, with a number of enhancements and renovations due out this year. The details of this can be read below, but the main points were that SAP are pushing to develop a large number of mobile apps and that a HR Renewal 1.0 package for EhP6 is to be released “soon” with more improvements for SAP HCM.
One of the most confusing messages delivered was about Business ByDesign. Lars Dalgaard “unveiled” the news in his keynote that there were new on-demand apps, or that they were once part of Business ByDesign, or they are part of Business ByDesign. Okay, you get the picture, but it turns out that Lars was actually announcing that Business ByDesign was being split up into independent applications. SAP released a slightly less confusing but almost ambiguous press release shortly after Lars’ keynote finished, which can be read here.
One of the least confusing messages delivered was that HANA and NetWeaver Neo developer licenses are now free for everyone. Vishal Sikka took great pleasure, as did a host of developrs in the audience and SAP Mentors corner, to announce this new initiative. I even heard that Dennis Howlett applauded SAP over this move (evidence and more info here).
One message that wasn’t announced, are details of the integration packages for SAP and SuccessFactors. During the SAP HCM Roadmap session it was announced that the first package has been released on SMP and is available for download. Disappointingly this was the first and last announcement on integration packages at SAPPHIRE. It was also fairly disappointing that no roadmap for the development of new features of any SuccessFactors solution was announced. Maybe SAP are trying to kill the hype themselves, thus saving industry analysts from doing it for them.
I actually didn’t make it to that many sessions, but the 2 stand out ones were the SAP HCM Roadmap session by Srikanth Gopalakrishnas, VP of SAP Labs India, and What Keeps HR Executives Up At Night? panel discussion.
My favourite session was the excellent What Keeps HR Executives Up At Night? panel discussion, hosted by Karen Heatwole of SAP and originally featuring Jason Averbook (who withdrew due to illness). A panel of experts – Steve Bogner, Jarret Pazahanick, Martin Gillet and Jeremy Masters – discussed various HR topics with the audience during an hour long session. I really love the panel format and it is definitely not used enough. This type of format empowers the audience to effectively pick the content and having interactive discussions with the panel. This was not so different from the Q&A sessions that were run with the likes of Jim Snabe, Bill McDermott, Lars Dalgaard, Hasso Platner and Vissal Shika.
The SAP HCM Roadmap session by Srikanth Gopalakrishnas was well attended and covered a lot of new features, functionality and strategies for SAP HCM. I’ll attempt to summarize here. The session started by covering HR Trends and there seems to be a definite move towards talent management, with key trends including:
- Workforce diversity/next generation entering the workforce
- Networked organizations
- Role of HR as a strategic enabler
- Role of manager as a coach and as a mentor
- Employee empowerment
The message here was simply: empower these employees, coach and mentor them and leverage social media. The IT Trends were fairly obvious: cloud, mobile, social media and big data. SAP went on to confirm their focus areas for HCM are Talent Management (E-Rec, PMP, ECM, Talent Assessment & Talent Review), Ad Hoc reporting, Time Management, Benefits, Payroll localization, ESS/MSS and Shared Services Framework. Their on-going on-premise priorities are UI enhancements, HANA (for both analytics and process optimization), Mobile First and Customer Connection. Their 3 areas of innovation are UI, Mobility and Analytics, although this isn’t new news.
“Mobile First” is SAP’s strategy for building native mobile applications, which SAP said are forcing them to simplify. These new “Micro Apps” will be built initially for time recording, absence, employee lookup, team calendar and manager leave request. 2 new mobile apps that were focused on were the SAP HCM Interview Assistant, to give mobile access to interview-related process content (and integrated with e-Rec), and the HCM Leaning Assistant application, to aid mobile learning consumption.
Customer Connection is SAP’s customer co-innovation programme for SAP HCM. The first round is focussing on OM/PA and runs until the end of May. The second round will focus on Performance Management and E-Recruiting. SAP claim to want as much feedback about customer pain points as possible and what topics they should focus on to enhance and renovate.
There are some very cool looking UIs for ESS/MSS, HCM Analytics dashboards and the new HR Administrator portal built on HTML5. The new HR Administrator portal includes a number of columns containing data for their watch list, favourite org units, social media feeds, action catalog and inbox overview.
Some other points:
- SAP will release a HR Renewal 1.0 package “soon” with more improvements for HCM – EhP6 is a pre-requisite
- HANA will be used to power on-premise
- There is some “out of the box” integrations between on-premise & SuccessFactors, particularly around Talent Management, although the RDS are needed “to make the magic happen”
- Talent Management is to be balanced against what is available in on-premise versus what SuccessFactors has
- There will be a new WDA-based form designer for HR Processes & Forms which will ship shortly
So for me it sounded very much like SAP are committed to developing the on-premise solution further, although maybe not with major “innovations” as they had before (not that I can remember too many major innovations in SAP HCM recently). It’s disappointing that clients have to buy a RDS for their SuccessFactors integration on top of their SuccessFactors license and possible SAP license.
A fun conference and some interesting titbits, but no announcements like those we just saw at HR2012 Las Vegas. Nevertheless, there was still some interesting information available and a good chance to meet some great people. I think it can be hard to justify a business case for a visit for some organizations, but I definitely recommend it if you get the chance.