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Photo Courtesy of Martin Gillet

I felt compelled to blog about what I experienced at HR2013 while it was fresh on my mind.  I have attended this conference since 2005, and I believe  this was the best one yet in terms of content both in terms of actionable content and as well as the engagement of the attendees.  Kudos to Amy Thistle and the rest of the WIS team!

A few quick points:

  • The headline continues to be the SuccessFactors acquisition and the move to the cloud.  As you’d expect there is a lot of anxiety from clients who have invested heavily in their on premise SAP.  This especially true of those companies with On Premise talent management.   Some of the anxiety is valid as it was clear that the amount of improvements to on premise will be minimal. 
  • For Core HCM the future is a lot brighter.  The user interface enhancements debuted at last year’s conference titled “HR Renewal” are now in general availability.  A number of improvements and enhancements were made to the product since ramp-up and improvements are still planned on a quarterly basis.  Customers seem most ready to move on an updated version of HCM Processes and Forms now that the requirement for Adobe has been eliminated.  I anticipate we’ll see a lot of HCM Forms projects over the next year.
  • While SAP went to great lengths to say that there would be no forced migrations, it is clear  that SAP intends to position Employee Central as a viable option–even for existing SAP HCM customers.  During David Ludlow’s keynote the demo of Employee Central took place before a demo of core HCM improvements , and I don’t think this was by accident.  SAP is trying to begin the long “change  management” process necessary to get it’s core HCM customers to consider Employee Central.  They know that getting some of their loyal customers to move to Employee Cenral is essential to creating momentum
  • Most people I talked to thought SAP HANA looks interesting but that they want to see what functionality is developed for HCM before they start lobbying their companies to put HANA on their roadmaps.
  • It’s clear that the messaging from last year and from the SAP sales team has gotten through to customers as there were a lot of attendees whose organizations are beginning SuccessFactors talent projects.  Even those not starting projects right away seemed to be considering SuccessFactors over the next 2-3 years.  Accordingly, the most heavily attended sessions were either demos of SuccessFactors or those that discussed integration.  Since very few customers are live on the SAP standard integration (especially the PI integration) there are probably more questions than answers in this area.
  • The session at the conference that I think that everyone should have attended was by Prashanth Padmanabhan from SAP who went through several examples of how social and mobile are transforming the way that SAP works internally RIGHT NOW.  Most of the examples involve SAP Jam and its corresponding analytics.  This is one area of HR technology that can transform businesses that the SAP HCM community needs to be championing within their organizaitons.  For those of you not familiar Prashanth’s work, you should check out his blog at http://productdesignjournal.blogspot.com/ and follow him on twitter at @@sprabu.
  • Call me biased, but my favorite session at the conference was the panel I was lucky enough to participate in where the future of SAP HCM was discussed.  A group of 6 independent or small-company consultants lead a packed-house discussion of where SAP would be heading in the next 4-5 years.  What made the session unique was that the unsanctioned nature of the discussion allowed for opinions that do not necessarily line up with the SAP company line.  To their credit, the SAP personnel we talked with after the session were very positive in their reception of the discussion. The panelists were Jarret Pazanhick (@sap_jarret) , Martin Gillet(@mgillet), Luke Marson(@lukemarson), Sharon Newton(@sharonnewton), Mark Ingram(@ingramtalent), and myself(@brandontoombs).  The moderator was Steve Bogner(@stevebogner).
  • For those of you that did not attend, I would encourage you to search twitter for hastag #HR2013 to see lots of great tweets about the conference.

For those of you that did attend, I’d love to hear your impressions in the comments below.

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13 Comments

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  1. Steve Bogner

    Great wrap-up Brandon. Most of the customers I spoke with who had licensed SuccessFactors for Talent Management purposes had an ah-ha moment this week. They started to realize they have a significant amount of work, in most cases, to clean up business processes/data and develop some good practices *before* starting their implementation. That part is so often not mentioned when people talk about implementations.

    The enthusiasm around SuccessFactors, and the maturity of the Employee Central product, remind me so much of the early days of SAP HR: lots of change, enthusiasm, and a rush to do something with it all. I hope that we all collectively avoid those old mistakes though – where we had tech/IT driven projects that struggled and under-delivered on the business value.

    I spent a bit more time on getting a clearer picture of what HANA means for HCM, and I’m excited about that. As I said before, HANA for HCM will be like the iPad: didnt know we needed it until we got it.

    One last point – for on-premise customers, HR Renewal is a big deal and will provide so much good stuff. We didnt hear enough about that – but I think it is a big deal for customers.

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    1. Brandon Toombs Post author

      Sage points Steve.  It’s going to be a big change for some customers/consultants as we will be able to focus more on business  processes rather than just trying to deal with techincal setup issues as so often happens on premise. 

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  2. Sameer Patel

    Brandon, really good write up. Thanks for the kind words about SAP Jam. From all the feedback, Prashanth and Petra really did a great job communicating the value of social to core HR and Talent both from a thought leadership perspective as well as how Jam executes against this. Wish i could have made it but next time for sure.

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    1. Brandon Toombs Post author

      Sameer-

      I’m so sold on Jam that I’m trying to figure out how to set one up for my family and have single sign-on from the X-Box 🙂

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  3. Jarret Pazahanick

    Very good article and impressed that you found time to write it given the busy schedule of the week.

    It was great to see Robert M and his team get a lot of positive buzz as the HR Renewal (Landing Pages, HCM P&F and other enhancements) are both customer friendly from a cost perspective (free) and real help give SAP HCM Premise the face lift it has needed for many years now.

    Being my first HR Insider event I have nothing to compare it to previous but I thought I was extremely well run with many great sessions.  Like you I am partial to that great panel of “rebels with a cause” that are the picture above 🙂 but most of the sessions I attended were very well done. I have to give a shout out to Jeremy Masters of Worklogix who did one of the better sessions I have seen in a long time on called “Best Practice for Developing ESS/MSS on Mobile Devices”

    What could be done better is the keynote really need to have a customer on stage ideally a SAP HCM and SuccessFactors customer to help tell the story. It was obvious at the conference that customers wanted to hear from other customers. The other things is SAP legal needs to understand that this is a big event for SAP to help communicate their messages as I know several big & positive pieces of news that did NOT get announced because they hadnt been blessed yet. SAP missed a real opportunity with a captive audience of customers.

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    1. Jeremy Masters

      Jarret, thanks for the shout out on my mobility session. It was great to have you there at the conference this year.

      Brandon, nice summary. I also had the same idea and just posted some thoughts that are fresh from my head. Check them out here.

      It was great to see all my friends and customers at the show this year. See you all in May at SAPPHIRE, if not before.

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      1. Brandon Toombs Post author

        Thanks Jarret and Jeremy

        @Jarret- In addition to your point, SAP definitely could do a better job of “telegraphing” new information that is coming so that we could know and publicize this to a greater degree.  For example I am pretty confident that this is the first conference where the details/mockups of the 2.0 integration (new hire from SFSF into SAP HR) was presented.  It would be great to know when a “world premiere” of a piece of information is happening so that we could really work to let everyone know.  Instead we are left to wonder if it’s really new information or if it’s just the first that we’re hearing of it.

        @Jeremy- I also attended the session that Jarret was referencing.  As someone else who presented at the conference, I resent your ability to blend multiple demonstrations across iphones, ipads, and laptops and make it look so effortless.  Please take your game down a notch next year so the rest of us won’t look so bad 🙂

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  4. Luke Marson

    Hi Brandon,

    Great blogs and some great points. I for sure thought this was a great conference and improved on a great conference last year.

    I loved the panel sessions that I attended and participated in – I really like this format and it allows customers to drive the content. I also enjoyed Prashant’s passionate session on SAP Jam, Joachim Foerder’s “last man standing” post-session question time after the Employee Central session on Thursday, and Kouros Behzad and Mick Collins’ tag-team session on the Workforce Planning and Workforce Analytics demo session. The obvious link between them is that they are all SAP folks and this shows how engaging SAP is becoming with the community, its customers and its partners.

    I’m looking forward to HR2014 already.

    Best regards,

    Luke

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  5. Alexander Sperling

    Hi Brandon,

    very nice write-up, especially for someone who wasn’t able to attend (like me 😉 ).

    Two comments:

    • I’ve seen a couple of things fro the upcoming release of HR Renewal directly from SAP colleagues within the CEI format. Truly amazing and can’t wait to get my fingers on this. I wanted to write a blog about this but didn’t find the time yet.
    • Regarding the WDA UI for Process & Forms: cannot see the big benefit with this. To me the biggest benefit of P&F compared to WDA development is the Adobe Form as a front-end which will a) be very familiar compared to paper-based forms for employees and b) provides a print version for archiving (by the employee and in a digital archive) without additional effort. From my experience P&F compared to WDA development has a higher effort, so if I choose to use WDA as the front-end for P&F I cannot really see a benefit. But maybe it’s just me … 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    Regards,

    Alex

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    1. Brandon Toombs Post author

      Alex-

      Thanks for taking the time to write. First off, before I get into my preference and why, let me state that the good news is that we can both be right because SAP has stated that they’re going to support both methods for the foreseeable future. 

      Most of the clients I have worked with have not been big fans of the Adobe front end.  This was for 2 major reasons: 1) Additional license cost of the forms themselves 2) The requirement that the end users have Adobe Reader.  When the end-user’s Adobe Reader version gets “out of whack” with the stack level of the Adobe Document Services, you can run into support issues.  Neither of these issues occur with a purely WDA approach.  For a lot of customers, those drawbacks  outweigh the benefits that come from the Adobe Front end (better printing, server-side scripting, expanded layouts, etc.) I actually delivered a presentation on the new UI at HR2013.  Hopefully I’ll have time one of these days to summarize some of the key points in a blog and post it here. 

      Again, we can both be right as SAP will support either path.

      Regards,

      Brandon

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    2. Robert Moeller

      Am I wrong or is there some confusion here?  We are not talking about WDA vs. P&F.  What we have done here is to provide an additional UI for option P&F based on a Web Dynpro for ABAP (WDA) runtime.  Brandon may have the better name here as he refers to them as FPM forms.  In the past, some customers have coded their front end directly in WDA (and it sounds like you may be referring to this) but what we have done is to provide a new design time based on Floor Plan Manager (FPM) and the runtime is based on WDA.  So, with the same (actually less configuration than Adobe since ISR is eliminated), you get an FPM editor with a list of repository fields that you can drag onto your form such that it is possible to build a form/process without any ABAP coding on the customer side.  That said, we still provide a generic service (GS) hook where it is possible to code in ABAP for more sophisticated requirements (e.g., we don’t have the same scripting capabilities so that can be done in the GS).  Furthermore, we service enabled P&F so that if you don’t like either of the provided interfaces (i.e., Adobe or FPM Forms/P&F for Web Dynpro ABAP), it is now easier to plug in your own or to make it easier for partners to build it and plug it in.

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