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After his obituary was mistakenly published, Mark Twain sent a cable from London stating “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” To parody that, I would say the Death of core SAP HCM On-Premise has been Greatly Exaggerated – Long Live On-Premise! I was at a meeting of some prominent SAP HCM customers recently, where there were a number of SuccessFactors related presentations. Even though, I was there showing these customers the new core SAP HCM user-experience for HR Professionals in Personnel Administration, Organization Management, and HCM Processes and Forms, there was some concern expressed regarding whether they would be pushed onto the cloud. It was not the first time I heard this – often cited in this context is a SAP management quote that SAP HCM on-premise would be supported until 2020.

This is where I caution on writing SAP HCM’s obituary prematurely. What is missing from the 2020 quote are the words “at least”. This quote that came out was always meant to give comfort to our loyal customers that have made very significant investments in our SAP HCM on-premise solutions. The 2020 date stems from SAP’s standard maintenance strategy. It was meant to be a minimum guarantee and not an “end-of-life” indication by SAP. It is true that for some topics, namely talent management, SAP has named the SF cloud solution as the “go-forward” solution that would get the lion’s share of investment. It is normal that SAP, and others, have investment cycles whereby they invest more in some areas than others. SAP HCM on-premise talent management just went through a heavy innovation cycle. Our Ehp6 version has lots of improvements! So, it should be no surprise that the immediate Roadmap in that area shows less investment.

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At the same time, however, SAP management has said that we will continue to invest in “core” HCM on-premise. As evidence, we point to our HR Renewal releases. HR Renewal 1.0, went to ramp-up in June 2012 and was generally available (GA) on August 30, 2012. HR Renewal is a new kind of program, whereby, we plan to release new innovations on a quarterly basis as so-called “In Advance Shipments”- a kind of Support Package modeled as an add-on. 

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It seems like most customers feel more comfortable applying add-ons like this. If there is any catch, it is that Ehp6 is a prerequisite. That said, I have also heard from customers that Enhancement Package upgrades like 4 to 5 or 5 to 6 are becoming much, much easier “…barely a blip on the radar..”. I can tell you from my experience as an SAP HCM developer; this is resulting from a process that SAP put into effect many years ago. I remember management’s message was that customers were demanding more stability and easier upgrades. I can testify from the Developers perspective, that SAP took this message to heart and set to work putting processes and tools in place to facilitate and enforce actions and rules to make life easier on our customers. First, I remember that we were limited on how far back we could retrofit a note. Then we were limited on what kinds of objects and database changes we could make in a Support Package. We implemented the core and extension concepts. Then we added the Enhancement Package concept. All of this in the name of stability and easy upgrades. Additionally, we responded to your calls to fill functional gaps, limiting the amount of custom code on your part.

It has taken a while for our customers to see the fruits of this but I believe that we are at the point where you can reap these benefits and the benefits of upgrading to newer Enhancement Packages, like Ehp6, in order to take advantage of new innovations — like the one close to my heart, new user-experience for HR Professional users available with HR Renewal. Because of your increasing confidence in upgrades, you are now in a position to take advantage of the even quicker, quarterly cycles, with HR Renewal. From my perspective, all of the above is just evidence of SAP listening to its customers and the market – I believe that SAP’s acquisition of SuccessFactors only supports that notion. Clearly, there is a growing segment of the market and SAP’s customer base that is interested in implementing SaaS based HCM solutions and SAP has a great solution for the SaaS market too! Or choose a hybrid model, backed by two great names – SAP and SuccessFactors. For a long time now, you have known SAP HCM on-premise for it robust functionality, legal support, and global reach – with HR Renewal, my colleagues and I hope you get to know the delightful user-experience soon and keep on enjoying for as long as it fits your needs. Me personally, I say long live SAP HCM on-premise!

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  1. Steve Bogner

    Robert – Thanks for posting; it’s great to see you and the team putting new content on SCN – thanks! Your message on continued investment in core on-premise HR “at least through 2020” is important to reinforce.

    I understand why Renewal and other new features require EhP6, but have to also say a fair portion of my clients are holding off on EhP6 for now, or considering it for a 2013 effort. Even if EhP’s are increasing in quality and ease, many clients will still take it through their periodic release cycles. That’s just how their on-premise change management is designed, for better or worse. While it is good to see more frequent releases from SAP, not all clients are geared (yet) to handle implementation and change management at the same pace.

    I’m still concerned with quality. Faster cycles are great, but the software needs to work the first time. As I’ve said a few times, customers shouldn’t have to pay twice – once for the license and once for a consultant to help work through the issues. Everyone wants software that works, but too often errors are slipping through that should have been caught and resolved before release. Perfection is not a realistic expectation, but progress sure is.

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    1. Robert Moeller Post author

      I cannot disagree with your comment.  Steve, I know you are aware of some of my history with SAP.  Others of you may not have realized, I worked as an SAP HCM developer previously, and led a number of projects as late as Ehp5.  Those of you that really know me know also that every bug bothers me like heck!  I took pride in helping solve bugs quickly and to document the solution well, pushing my team and others to do the same.  At one time in my SAP career, I even took on the role of Quality Manager and made it my mission to help improve initial quality and support.  More recently, SAP has embraced the agile (SAP calls it LEAN) development methodology -hopefully this helps too. The title of this blog may throw you but it was also about SAP responding to its customers.  I see and believe that we do!  That is the reason I can actually appreciate your call for quality improvements.  I see it as a way of reminding everyone at SAP that we need to always do better on the topic of quality (Remind me to tell you the story of my “aha moment” when I was responsible for administering my own project system landscape).  I also see it as a call to SAP management to continue to invest in quality.  Some of you may also be aware that we sometimes have customers and partners participate in formal testing programs and also in programs like ramp-up – and when you can, we appreciate it very much and also hope that the participants feel they benefit too.

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  2. Stephen Burr

    Robert – loved the blog!

    I remember back at the start of the summer, both at SAP HR 2012 (Milan) and at a UK User Group event hearing the mis-quoted “until 2020” comment.  It was ironic that the message was supposed to re-assure on-premise clients but was mis-quoted meaning it caused the opposite effect in the market!

    I hope to read more from you soon.

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    1. Luke Marson

      hearing the mis-quoted “until 2020” comment

      That’s how I first heard it the “news”. SAP were clear in their clarification at the major events, but I agree that the early mis-quote definitely caused a lot of unnecessary panic and confusion!

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  3. Paul Snyman

    Here here, great to see you getting this message out Robert, you are on the money with most customers wanting to see investments made in HCM core. Kudos to your collective SAP HCM Solution Management team for these communications, I’ve seen other good posts from Prashanth & JB.

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  4. Vinay Naithani

    Hi Robert, great blog and i really enjoyed reading it. I think this will also become a reference point to resolve any confusion about the future of core SAP HCM beyond 2020.

    What’s even better is the focus on improving the UX for on premise users of CORE HCM.

    Look forward to reading more of your blogs.

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  5. Luke Marson

    Hi Robert,

    This is a great blog and it’s clear that you are passionate and knowledgable from different perspectives (developer, customer, product management). I’m glad you made provided SAP’s messaging to on-premise support and positioning and it’s also important that you mentioned about Talent Management coming out of a cycle of significant investment. Many people think that you’ve stopped investing in Talent Management period, but I understand that you are just “adjusting” your level of investment after a period of revamping your offering.

    I think you understand that SAP have many on-premise HCM customers who will be relieved to know that you are not abandoning them at 2020, before or beyond and I think that these customers might not necessarily extend their investment to a cloud portfolio.

    Best regards,

    Luke

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