Huddle.jpgWhen it comes to workforce analytics, SAP runs SAP and SuccessFactors.

Here in the HR Analytics and Reporting team at SAP, we are in the unique position of being both customer of our SAP analytics solutions, and part of the company striving to innovate, build and put the best workforce analytics solutions on the market.

We face the same challenges as many of our customers: data quality, finding meaningful metrics and standards, and being able to deliver HR programs in a scalable yet secure way to the business. Yet we are fortunate in that we have direct access to many of the brilliant minds working to make meeting these challenges easier. In this blog I would like to discuss some of what we have learned inside SAP’s HR Analytics and Reporting team, with the hope that it might help add another dimension to our conversations with customers.

Content is king

At the beginning of 2012, we encountered a new opportunity with the offering of SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics. You may wonder why at SAP we would look into this solution when we have such a rich portfolio already with our HR BW data warehouse and SAP BusinessObjects technologies. There are a number of differentiating factors which have made us quite excited about the SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics solution – most importantly the content. How many of you have spent months debating which metric to use and taken a whole year to implement just one dashboard on headcount? The SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics solution has behind it years of consulting expertise around workforce analytics and measurement, before a tool was even thought of and implemented.

As a professional in the HR Analytics space, it is refreshing to be looking at technology which directly builds on industry expertise of workforce related metrics, with embedded explanations of what these metrics mean and why we measure them. In addition to this rich content, we can display benchmarks against others in the industry; benchmarks which protect the data of others, but which allow us to provide a frame of reference in our analysis. Finally, with this solution supported in the cloud and directly connected to Strategic Workforce Planning capability, we feel confident that on a regular basis we will encounter more and more rich capability on top of an already very rich set of standards and metrics.

HR domain expertise really does make a difference

We embarked on the implementation of the core of SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics in February of 2012, Core Workforce and Mobility. By April we were live with data in the system (excluding Germany pending negotiations with the workers councils), 150 standard metrics (most with benchmarks available), a number of standard reports built and ready to go showing headcount, hires, terms, gender diversity, headcount movements, all against our standard SAP organizational unit hierarchy from our internal SAP HCM system, IPP.

The speed and quality of the implementation was incredible in our eyes, and the deep knowledge of the Workforce Analytics experts with whom we worked with from SuccessFactors was equally impressive. It is one thing to implement analytics solutions with people who are more used to calculating sales and financials figures, who tend to be unfamiliar with the core questions we and the business ask in terms of our workforce. It is quite another thing to work with experts who speak the same language, and have in-depth knowledge not only of analytics in general, and how best to drive such a function, but specifically about workforce analytics. We were highly impressed with the professionalism, passion, and expertise of the SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics teams.

Workforce analytics transformation is a journey

We have made the first steps on our Workforce Analytics journey, yet there are many more steps ahead we must take before reaching our goal of reaching a high level of maturity in this area. Yet one fact that will accelerate our progress is that the standards from SuccessFactors are there, available to internal HR customers. With this automation we are able to start to take that critical step towards where we spend less time calculating numbers from the system, and more time understanding results to support the business in answering their critical workforce related questions.

We have a two-year plan in front of us to enrich the content in Workforce Analytics to cover more workforce related topics, allowing for increasingly sophisticated analysis to support business decision-making. For example, we will be able to better analyze impact of workforce programs by having enterprise-wide data available, allowing us to consider recruiting metrics along with our learning and development and our high level financials data. How much more this will enable us to answer such critical questions as time to productivity, or impact of learning programs on company results! We see this as a transformation for us first, moving from being specialists in extracting data from our systems, to being specialists in answering workforce related business questions. It also represents a transformation for our business, by virtue of leveraging data-based insights and analysis about our workforce to make better, more sustainable decisions.

Check back again soon to hear more about our experiences, challenges and success with Workforce Analytics at SAP, around such topics as data protection and security, metrics standards, selection of true KPIs to monitor and predict success. We look forward to your comments and questions!

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  1. Chad Palmer

    Helen, Very informative and thought provoking article,

    When I think about meaningful metrics I cannot help but consider my own shortcomings and past mistakes in my career, we all want to be viewed as a great employee, especially when looking for a new job. When the Country or World is viewed with this perspective and concern, does the current systems leave a lot of undesired potential employees on the market? What is a good position considering their experience? Do you feel at some point the prospective employees that have substandard attributes will have positions taylored to their shortcomings and lack of experience? Its just a thought that I have had, while watching a lot of industry players focus on perfection. What about everyone else? Thanks for the Info.

    1. Helen POITEVIN Post author

      Chad, thank you for your reply and questions.  It is an interesting one when we are looking at the Workforce Analytics topic, especially compared to analytics on other topics such as sales figures, financial results, activity volume and efficiency measures – there are individual people behind the numbers in workforce analytics,  not just transactions.  In general, I think the analyses we do and metrics we track as HR professionals are there to help organizations improve, and for individuals therefore to find better fit roles and better support in their career development.  When it comes to finding the right fit job for each of us as individuals, per our own strengths, skills, interests, and values, we all face that challenge of being in the right place for that right job where there is a strong mutual fit.    Systems and measures can help to a point in finding those matches, but in this case I think it does really come down to the individual and personal connections made in the recruitment process.  I’m curious if you’ve read Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth Godin-  you might find it an interesting read, based on your question.

      1. Chad Palmer

        Sweet, I checked out some reviews for Linchpin, very interesting, and I like the artwork on the cover, very empowering 😛 I am enjoying the education regarding Business outcomes and agree with the intended results of better BI in general. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Talent Management, before too long, an Organization will take an outside the box solution and prove its worthiness, It is fun to observe, it would be even more fun to be in that Organization, In my opinion many good people are overlooked, because they aren’t on the Bandwagon.

        Thanks much for the pointers.


  2. Luke Marson

    Hi Helen,

    Thanks for the perspective on using SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics. I’ve been working a lot with Frans Smolders recently – who is an expert on HR analytics – and I know that the solution is different to other HR analytics solutions available, especially with the volume of predefined content available.

    I would be interested to know whether you and your team did any research or took any training on how to interpret the analytics you are seeing. I guess that, as experts, this wasn’t really necessary, but I would be interested to know. I’m also looking forward to understanding what benefits you’ve had over Workforce Analytics versus the solution(s) you were using previously.

    Best regards,


    1. Helen POITEVIN Post author

      Hi Luke – thanks for your response.  It points to an interesting impact of working with all of the pre-defined content of SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics.  We don’t have to spend all of our energy on getting the numbers together along the right cuts of data, but can focus more on asking the “so what” questions to interpret meaning and impact.  That is part of our ongoing journey and a transformation we are just embarking on.  Part of it will be on the job practice in asking questions and finding answers, testing hypotheses, working with the business and HR to see if our analyses are right or helpful.   Another part will be looking to the expertise of the SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics consultants and the kind of “Analytics 101” training that they do.   It is a change in mindset for us – instead of just knowing which infotype and data field to pull the data from, or which query is pre-configured to calculate a metric, we start to look more into how  the measures look together and what we find that is interesting in the data, and how that insight can support our business leaders.  Look for more on this topic in upcoming blogs – great comments!


  3. Regan Klein

    Great blog Helen!  Absolutely spot on describing the common challenges and hurdles clients must overcome when launching a WFA process.  Looking forward to more updates on your progress! 


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