What’s new in Visualization Solutions by Nakisa 4.0
The end of 2012 sees the release of Nakisa 4.0, the latest incarnations of SAP Organizational Visualization by Nakisa (SOVN) and SAP Talent Visualization by Nakisa (STVN). The focus of this release is around performance, stability, audiences, access and enablement. A number of solutions have been rebranded and a new mobile solution is available. The AdminConsole has been significantly extended to include a number of new features to allow Nakisa Professional Services, Partners and customers the opportunity to easily enhance the standard solutions.
Nakisa are focusing on providing their value proposition to the different audiences within their customers: IT Management, HR & Shared Service, C-Level & LoB, and Employee. The consolidation of their STVN suite reflects how Nakisa’s experience with their customers has altered their strategy. The way in which the solutions are focused genuinely reflect the audiences found within their customers and will provide further value to customers whose business needs are reflected across these groups. Nakisa have also given some products different names in the customer-facing frontend in order to better align with the overall suite and how their customers use their products. Both names can be used interchangeably and while this might seem confusing, I feel it will have little effect in the marketplace. The products with the additional names are:
TalentHub for Employees
SuccessionPlanning for Managers
TalentHub for Managers
TalentHub for HR & Executives
For me the number one thing that I noticed when first using 4.0 is the performance. Both the application interface and the SAP function modules have been re-written for enhanced performance. Using the Staged version of OrgChart provides an instant response to button clicks and the Live versions are not far behind. I did some tests on OrgChart and version 4.0 always matched or beat 3.0 SP3, although some clicks in 4.0 were only ½ a second ahead of 3.0 SP3.
Nakisa have also improved their integration so that complex data customizations are moved to the backend (in the form of function modules) so only integration and visualization design need to be performed in the application AdminConsole. This removes risk in the product and provides better supportability. This also enables partners to use their more trusted and familiar ABAP skills to create data sources rather than specific NakisaRFC skills.
A highlight for me is the integration of Development Planning into the STVN suite. Although not integrated with succession planning activities yet, it is a solid foundation for development planning activities and also for future development planning functionality and integration. The Development Planning functionality allows HR to create a catalog of Targets and a catalog of Activities to support these Targets. Activities can have weights, priorities and ranking. Activities can also be linked to Competencies. In the future Nakisa will provide functionality to maintain the competency catalog through STVN.
Nakisa have made additional adminifications of configuration features, although the details panels in OrgChart still cannot be fully configured in the AdminConsole. To remove the email fields on the Position/Employee details panel the user must customize the detail data configuration. This still forces individuals to attempt customization that they might not be skilled or experienced enough to perform and this can lead to mistakes and unnecessary effort to rectify. I have known this scenario create a lot of bad press for Nakisa when the problem was squarely with unskilled consultants. The lack of configuration of the OrgChart details panels is probably my only disappointment in 4.0.
Now that Nakisa have a high-performing and stable suite of applications they will, going forward, move their focus to new features, functionality and products.
Performance and stability are greatly improved in 4.0 and the performance enhancements should be noticeable to anyone experienced with using 3.0 SP3 regularly. 3.0 SP3 had performance enhancements within the function modules used for data retrieval, but 4.0 also have enhancements to the core product code that greatly improves how the applications perform. In the STVN applications, background data retrieval has been introduced to speed up initial data display.
Keyboard shortcuts have been introduced across all applications to enhance the user experience through easier and more powerful navigation. These include such tasks as resizing the orghchart or navigating around the orgchart.
In addition to the existing languages, there are now 4 new languages: Norwegian, Finnish, Arabic, and Hebrew. These new languages are designed to help the growing Nordic and MENA markets. For Hebrew and Arabic the application can be switched to Right-to-Left.
Performance is significantly increased in the STVN suite. Some small but significant enhancements have been made to speed up the application performance during loading of data and writebacks to SAP. Details panels and analytics do not wait for all data to be returned before loading – data is displayed as it is returned to the application. Writebacks have been optimized and “cached” refresh functionality introduced so that the application screen updates and is free to use while the backend update completes processing. These make a significant difference to loading times in the applications.
Environment-wise, the following are now supported:
- Internet Explorer 9
- Firefox 10.x
- Adobe Flash Player 11
- Microsoft SQL Server 2012
- IBM DB2 9.1, 9.5, 9.7 and 9.8
- Java 1.6
…and the following are no longer supported:
- SAP NetWeaver CE 7.1
- IBM DB2 8.1
- Oracle 81 and 9i
- Java 1.5
SAP JCo 2.1 is supported on selected Operating Systems.
Interestingly, the adoption rate of EhP4 for Talent Management has been such that Nakisa will only support ECC6 EhP4 and above for the STVN solutions. I see many customers using EhP4 or above now – which is where SAP introduced their new Talent Management functionality – and I think it makes a lot of sense for Nakisa to focus only on EhP4 or above. There is not much value in customers use the old data model and I would argue that customers should be looking to migrate to the latest data model if they intend to stay with on-premise Talent Management.
The AdminConsole sees the biggest changes in Nakisa 4.0, with the exception of performance and stability. Nakisa have tried to further “Adminify” common customizations into easy configuration steps to try and remove challenges faced by consultants during implementation. The AdminConsole for all solutions, with exception of some features in the less popular OrgManager, have been aligned to offer the full functionality across all modules. Many features introduced in SOVN OrgChart 3.0 SP1, SP2 and SP3 are now available in all modules in addition to the new features. This adds greater flexibility for configuration options; for example, the Functional Area details panel could not be configured in the AdminConsole in STVN SuccessionPlanning 3.0 SP3 but can be from 4.0.
The following AdminConsole features are now common across all applications:
- Data Center
- View Designer [except: DataQualityConsole/OrgAudit]
New AdminConsole features across all of the applications include:
- Enhanced data integration [except: DataQualityConsole/OrgAudit]
- Validation re-design
- Resource Bundles
- Data Connections
- Module Assignment
- OrgChart structures
- New options for creating Search Listings
- Enhancements to Detail Designer
The data integration has been enhanced to allow complex parameters and structures to be passed into function modules and for complex structures to be returned. This means that any type of function module can be used with 4.0 applications – particularly the HRTMC function modules such as HRTMC_GET_TALENT_ATTR. Writeback function modules can also be integrated in the AdminConsole.
The Configure Validations feature under Application-wide Settings has been re-designed to allow much easier creation and maintenance of input validations. In 4.0 this feature is now known as Manage Validations.
The Multi-Tenancy feature is now enabled by standard and can be configured from the AdminConsole, under Application-wide Settings. Although not widely used or tested, it has gone through some testing and security audits with some of Nakisa’s BPO partners as the feature is primarily for a Cloud delivery model. The feature allows for multiple builds to be run on one single application instance and can be used for a variety of different reasons, for example organizations with subsidiaries across different countries. For more information on what Multi-Tenancy is I recommend that you read the Wikipedia entry for multi-tenancy. Under Security Settings it is also possible to assign tenants to different AdminConsole users.
Resource Bundles allow assets, such as icons, to be uploaded in the AdminConsole and linked to variables for use in views and details panels. It allows fields to be mapped to text, images or colors that can be used across the application. This is particularly useful for things such as rating icons (e.g. Performance ratings) or country flags. A default value (e.g. a default image) can also be defined if no value is found.
Wherever a data connection is specified (e.g to SAP or a database) the name of the connection configuration is specified. This is nothing spectacular, but proves useful when creating data elements and working out what source your data is coming from. When entering the role mapping connection data in the Security Settings module the format is now the same format as other SAP connection strings and also features a Test Connection feature. Similarly to connection strings, data element configuration names are also displayed where applicable.
Different objects can now be assigned to different Modules, or, to put it simply, menus. OrgCharts, Search Listings and Chartbooks can now be defined to display under any of the available module menus. For example, in OrgChart it could be possible to create a new Search Listing and put it under the OrgChart menu.
The structure of OrgCharts has changed. Previously the root hierarchy of an orgchart was always combined with the orgchart itself and only linked hierarchies were displayed underneath the orgchart. Now the orgchart is displayed with the root hierarchy underneath, as well as with all of the linked hierarchies. While this might sound confusing to those with experience of using the AdminConsole but not customizing an orgchart, it will become clear after using the AdminConsole for some time. Those with a sound knowledge of how orgchart configurations are structured will understand what I am talking about.
From 4.0 it is now possible to create Search Listings using a pre-existing data element (e.g. one created in the Data Center) or a TREX search configuration, in addition to the SAP RFC option available in 3.0. The Using Search Configuration ID option reads a TREX search configuration and provides a list of the searchable and displayable fields – this is useful because certain fields cannot be searched on or displayed. A color for the objects in the Selected Items basket can also be configured for each search listing.
The ability to create Joined Details is a big feature that has been added. This allows two details (with different data sources) to be joined together so data from these two data sources can be displayed in one section with one XSL template. For example, a column table could be put together using data from different sources. Additional configurable features in the AdminConsole include applying CSS styles to sections and setting them to start collapsed by default. Because the Details Designer is featured in every application,it makes editing for all of the object details panels in SuccessionPlanning/TalentHub for HR & Executives possible – unlike in STVN SuccessionPlanning 3.0 SP3 or before.
In the AdminConsole for STVN applications writeback forms (and their components) can be configured with their own wizard. The layout and contents of the module menus can also be configured in its own AdminConsole module. For example, it could be possible to move the Employee menu search listings to the Position menu and delete the Employee menu.
Some application specific features have been included, which are listed under the specific applications.
OrgChart 4.0 doesn’t really differ from OrgChart 3.0 SP3 and contains few application specific enhancements, with exception of OrgHub for Mobile, minor changes to icons and icon text in the Help Panel, the AdminConsole and the cross-application features. While this may seem disappointing, the existing OrgChart solution is still feature-rich and the focus on performance, deployability & configuration, support, UX, and mobile still bring a strong business case for implementation. One noticeable feature that has been disabled is the Call From feature, which I disabled for nearly all of my clients (even global clients).
In the AdminConsole the SAP_Live_2 build has been removed for performance issues, but is available on request from Nakisa for special circumstances. While in principle I see this as a bonus, right now the SAP_Live_RFC build does not support structural authorizations. However, these can be enabled using enhancement points by customers or partners and Nakisa plan to support them from 4.0 SP1.
Interestingly, the extractor function for POSITIONIDS now reads the positions from HRP1007 instead of HRP1001. Sensibly the evaluation path used now is ORGEH, which speeds up extractor processing considerably. The extractor configuration used in the SAP_Live_RFC build differs from the Staged version to skip some calls that are unnecessary and thus increase performance.
In the 4.0 release OrgModeler has undergone a serious revamp. Nakisa’s focus has been on evolution, while providing workflow, collaboration, a near real-time staged environment, and writeback capabilities. The big feature, of course, is the writeback to SAP. Scenarios can now be, if required, written back to SAP. Although this sounds potentially dangerous, there are a number of “fail safe” features within scenarios and workflow steps in the writeback process to ensure data stability and integrity. It is also worth noting that SAP wrote a majority of the writeback functions.
Within a scenario, all data input fields provided by standard are validated against SAP F4 helps. For example, selecting a Controlling Area or Grade must be from the same F4 list that you would see in SAP if you were assigning a value there. During the writeback process these validations can be processed by more complex validations in SAP, using function modules (e.g. if an organization uses a specific format for its object Short Code for instance).
There is a multi-step workflow approval in OrgModeler for writing data back to SAP. A user must be assigned an approver role in the scenario and this user must already have an approver role assigned in the AdminConsole. During preparation for writeback, the scenario is synchronized before being finalized and then requires all approval(s) before writeback can begin. Finalized scenarios can no longer be changed unless the approval is rejected (only comments can be modified at this point). Once the scenario has been approved then the writeback button is available (to permitted users) to begin the commitment process. In addition, the system maintains a full audit history of what was changed in the scenario, and which user(s) have modified, finalized, approved and written back.
Before writeback can be completed the scenario must be synchronized with the source SAP system. Any changes in the source must be merged into the scenario and the system provides a guided process to merging these changes, including resolving any conflicts. An example might be where an OrgUnit name has changed in SAP since it has been changed in a scenario. The user would then need to select which record is the correct record.
Once the writeback process begins all changes are “validated” to ensure that there are no errors. Any errors must be resolved, since no scenario can be written back without having 0% errors or conflicts. A change field in SAP (REASN) is used to specify or reference OrgModeler as a source of change for the data. Although during modeling there are “simulated” IDs created, during writeback SAP will generate the correct IDs.
In order to support effective writeback, Nakisa have made a number of architectural changes to the application and underlying database tables. The org chart data used within scenarios is read in near real-time from SAP using ALE and only delta-changes to this data (the scenario changes) are stored in the database, as opposed to storing all scenario objects as was the case in the previous version. Effectively OrgModeler is showing live data with changes on top from “delta changes” tables and this can enable huge scenarios to be handled, upwards of 20,000 objects. The database tables used to store scenario data are now designed to closely match the SAP database table structures, so the data model is as similar as is required in OrgModeler. The log table also aligns with the SAP data model. During scenario modeling synchronization can be done so that changes in SAP can be merged into the scenario, keeping data in the scenario up-to-date.
Within OrgModeler itself, the first thing a user will notice is that the OrgChart top level menu item has been renamed Org Source. Scenarios display additional details in the list of scenarios, including Scenario Status and Template, and when a scenario has been selected a hyperlink to a direct URL is also displayed. It is worth noting that the Published Scenario feature has been removed and that a license is required to view the scenario via the direct URL.
Within the Org Source module users will see a much greater alignment between the orgchart here and the one found in SOVN OrgChart. The views are more aligned and the overall look and feel is similar. The details panels have had tabs removed and are now using sections to display data. Similar data is displayed, although more important account, enterprise and personnel information is displayed, such as Controlling Area, Staff Assignment Indicator, Planned Compensation, and Compensation Data.
Creating a scenario is now done via a wizard. Pre-defined Templates can be used during the scenario creation process, which can contain pre-defined fields, views, analytics and KPIs. The first step of the wizard allows the basic settings of the scenario to be entered (name, effective date, comments, starting point etc), while in the second step the views, analytics (of which there are 12 pre-defined to choose from) and other users can be added. These items can also be added in a scenario that has already been created.
In the third step the user can define KPIs, or import them from anExcel file. This is a brand new feature that provides the user with the opportunity to set targets to support the development of the model and know when modeling is completed. For example, the user needs to reduce headcount in an OrgUnit from 9 to 6 positions so they set a target of Position headcount = 6. Within the scenario the KPI View can be used to view the analytics, KPIs and the delta between them.
In terms of scenarios, there are a few notable changes. Access rights have been changed to enable assignment of users by role (e.g. users who have ROLE_Executive). Users can also be made scenario approvers upon assignment.
My biggest disappointment with the new OrgModeler is that the Change Log has only been enhanced very slightly, as there is more scope to add change information here. This is exceptionally useful as a reference tool or simply for users to understand why a change has been made. However, now there is no way to make comments about changes, but this is something I see coming in a future release. To flip my disappointment into approval, the new Changes Report is a much welcome piece of functionality that details object-by-object changes in a logical way. This type of report provides a better overview than what was available previously and also translates data from the Change Log into a more understandable format.
Another area of enhancement is Effective Dating. It’s much easier to change the effective date of the scenario and quick-change by 1 month or 6 months either forward or backwards.
Within the scenario modeling itself there are two main additions. First, the start icon is now displayed in the node for any object that has been modified, for easy tracking of modifications during modeling. Second, two or more objects can now be edited in the Selected Items basket using the “Multi Edit” object. This allows values to be changed across all selected objects in one edit task.
Before using the AdminConsole the ALE/IDOC configuration must be setup in SAP using the command line setup tool. In OrgModeler 4.0 only the check tables for drop-downs (e.g. Employee Group or Business Area) are extracted into a database.
The first thing you will notice when going into the AdminConsole is the drop-down menu in the top-right corner. In the OrgModeler 4.0 AdminConsole there are effectively two AdminConsole’s: one for the source OrgChart and general application settings (Source & Application) and one for the scenario OrgChart settings (Scenario OrgChart). In the Source & Application option (the default) most settings are the same as in the other suite AdminConsole applications. The only real difference is the OrgModeler Connection Settings option in Application-wide Settings. The Scenario OrgChart option is fairly similar to the previous version of OrgModeler, except for being “Adminified”.
DataQualityConsole/OrgAudit (from here on OrgAudit) contains new functionality for enhanced data issue review and tracking. One thing I did find was that there are 2 less rules (48, down from 50) in 4.0. One new listing is introduced called All Errors.
A quality scoring mechanism has now been included to give weighting to errors. 2 new views (Error Severity Score and Error Standard Score) and a new tab in the details panel have been introduced to display this data. This feature is unique in the marketplace and applies principles of gamification, such as score comparison and leaderboards, to drive data quality initiatives.
It is possible to add a link to take the user to an application to resolve the error. For example, the URL to SOVN OrgManager could be added so that the error can be rectified there. OrgManager has native integration with OrgAudit so it can leverage the ID of the object in OrgAudit.
Chartbook has been introduced to OrgAudit to provide an overview of errors for large parts of the organization. I’m a fan of using Chartbook for large parts of the org structure and I can definitely see added value in providing this for data stewards, managers and HR professionals.
In the AdminConsole additional options have been added to clear the audit history and delete the audit and reapply the rules. New Template Rules can be created and deleted, with a step-by-step wizard that allows users to configure the SAP tables, rule logic, parameters and perform a delta-extract of the new Rules so an entire extract does not need to be performed. I hope that the foundation of this functionality eventually makes it into the Staged Extractor configuration in OrgChart.
Role based security has also been introduced for Rules, so different user groups can maintain different Rules. Different users can still see the aggregated errors in views, but can’t see the detail of all of the errors in the details panel (depending on the rules secured to their role).
The OrgAudit AdminConsole still uses the “old” View Designer that pre-dates the template-based view designer now standard across most of the suite. Since OrgAudit uses Staged data only, the options available in the Data Center and when creating new Listings is much more limited than within other applications.
OrgManager, unfortunately, has had to bear the brunt of Nakisa’s strong investment in other areas and has been fairly neglected in 4.0. Even the “adminification” of the suite largely overlooked OrgManager, although the changes to Data Center, Validations, Data Connections (except when configuring the Authentication Source) and OrgCharts did make it in. Oddly a detail can be selected for the OrgChart, but there is no Detail Designer to edit it.
Pre-EhP5 (ECC 6.0+) support was added to OrgManager in this release.
STVN CareerPlanning/TalentHub for Employees
CareerPlanning/TalentHub for Employees (from here on TalentHub for Employees) is much the same as the previous version, but includes some new usability features as well as the new Development Planning functionality.
When the user enters the applications they are now defaulted to the “Where Am I?” tab instead of the “Where do I want to be?” tab. Competencies are now displayed on this tab along with the user’s position assignment date. In the “Where do I want to be?” tab the Preferred Location and Disliked Location can be maintained under the Mobility panel, much the same as the Talent Profile for Employees in the SAP NetWeaver Portal. In all tabs the print and data assignment/removal buttons have been changed to ensure configuration and support within the AdminConsole.
Employees can now track their development Targets and Activities easily within the My Development Plan module. Here they can view their Development Plan, add their own Targets and add their own Activities, if required.
STVN SuccessionPlanning for Managers/TalentHub for Managers
SuccessionPlanning for Managers/TalentHub for Managers (from here on TalentHub for Managers) has been updated to provide further functionality for managers, including the new Development Planning functionality. The first thing a user will notice is that the blue bar at the top of the application is now green in STVN4.0.
Managers can now assign competencies or modify existing competency assignments for positions within their area of responsibility (direct and indirect reports defined by the 012 relationship). A manager can now create, modify or delete the following in their area of responsibility:
- Talent Group assignments
- Successor Pools assignments
- Targets assignments
- Activities assignments
- Key Indication
Managers can only make nominations and cannot edit approved assignments. A manager can also create new Targets and Activities in the global catalog or their private catalog.
The Talent detail panel is aligned more with Talent Profile and provides the manager with a more logical approach to viewing employee data. Previously 4 tabs existed (Success For, Talent Assessment, Talent Profile, and Career Aspirations), but these have now been split into 6 (Succession, Assessment, Competencies, Career Aspirations, Development, and Talent Groups).
The Compare module now includes an option to compare Activities and Targets with each other (either same type objects or different object types).
STVN SuccessionPlanning/TalentHub for HR & Executives
In SuccessionPlanning/TalentHub for HR & Executives (from here on TalentHub for HR & Executives) the core SuccessionPlanning functionality and framework remains, but the TalentFramework application has been incorporated alongside the new Development Planning functionality. Some of the details panels have been modified to create a more logical layout for the data. Like with TalentHub for Managers, the red/orange bar at the top of the application has been changed from the traditional blue color in STVN4.0.
The first thing a user will notice is the change in the modules across the top. There are two new modules – Framework and Development – and the order of the existing modules has changed. The Framework module is simply the TalentFramework application and Development is the Development Planning functionality. Here the user can browse the catalogs of Activities and Targets and also create new Activities and Targets.
Two changes have been made to the “9-box” Grid; a new function module is supplied to retrieve data and Performance and Potential can be maintained from the Grid just like in a Talent Review Meeting. This is a nice feature that provides users with the ability to perform Talent Review Meeting with STVN TalentHub for HR & Executives without having to use the Talent Review Meeting functionality. Additionally, the Compare module has been extended to include the two modules
Just like TalentHub for Managers, the layout and design of the tabs on the Talent Details Panel have been re-aligned. There is also integration with MSS Talent Profile, which will be released as a SAP Note. This will include function module configuration to enable the integration of the MSS Talent Profile and some application configuration documentation.
OrgHub for Mobile
OrgHub for Mobile is Nakisa’s first mobile app and offers the core functionality of OrgChart on the iPad, with more platforms becoming supported in the future. More details can be found in this blog and some screenshots can be found below:
Nakisa 4.0 Service Pack 1.0
Although you might think that it’s a bit early to mention Service Pack 1.0, it’s worth mentioning that Nakisa weren’t able to cram everything into the initial 4.0 release and will provide additional functionality and enhancements in Service Pack 1.0. This will also fix any inevitable teething problems with the new releases. Since parts of the applications have been re-written, there will no doubt be a few bugs. However, since the release of 3.0 SP3 the Nakisa series has really stabilized and I am more confident than ever that the new release will perform solidly upon implementation. Having been involved in Premium Qualification testing and partner testing of 4.0 I can definitely verify that a significant effort has been put into making this release the most stable yet.
Some of the new features that are likely to be in the new release include:
- Support of structural authorizations in SAP_Live_RFC build function modules
- For complex validations in OrgModeler scenarios, including use of function modules
- Support for SAP 4.7 and ERP 2004 for OrgModeler and OrgManager
- Additional OrgHub for Mobile support
- Performance enhancement for Chartbook
Please note that there is no guarantee that any of the above features will make it into Service Pack 1.0.
This is the best release of Nakisa’s solutions yet, although customers expecting more features for end-users might be disappointed. The revamped OrgModeler application and STVN suite show progression through innovation and targeting particular audiences with different applications and functionality definitely offers value across the board.
As a system integrator there is a lot to write home about with the new AdminConsole, but from an end-user perspective the real deal will come with SP1 and the release of 5.0. Nakisa have invested significant time in creating a stable, configurable, maintainable and higher-performing suite of solutions that are a definite improvement on the previous release.