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Did you miss the HR2014 in Orlando? Thankfully I made it to the conference as an attendee and an exhibitor. I attended with two mindsets.  One as a consultant looking at what new things I should know, but also as a customer looking at what is prevalent and key for HR operations. If you missed the conference then let me help draw a picture, and highlight some questions that you are may be asking. For those who attended, let me see if my summary captures what you gathered.

The buzzwords were out there from the get-go, starting with keynotes and probably most common words within the titles of a lot of sessions presented at the conference. What are/were the buzzwords? (in no specific order)

  1. Cloud
  2. SuccessFactors
  3. Employee Central and Employee Central Payroll (biggest investment)
  4. On-Premise/HR Renewal/HANA/Fiori

The keynotes gave an overview of what direction SAP is headed and yes they practically evangelized the buzzwords; yes we are all going to the cloud; if not now in the very near future. Market analysis and statistics certainly support this.

I can talk at lengths about the perks for each of the buzzwords but what remains as the common advantages are “usability” and “agility”; quite impressive if I may add.

Given most customers looking at this are running SAP landscapes, another word that immediately becomes a focus of attention is “Integration”. What does it mean now and what would it mean in future?

Thomas Otter in his session shed some light on the mindset when it comes to the term integration (not a slide in his presentation). SAP sold itself as fully integrated software where different modules talked to each other seamlessly. First and foremost came the integration aspects and then development and usability was last on their mind (things have changed since). There is a minor shift (or major depending on who you talk to) in this outlook now with SuccessFactors – usability comes first and that aspect will not compromised to accommodate integration. They want to stay away from complexity and that’s why they are providing options for extensibility and ease in customization using MDF (Meta Deta Framework).

Anyone fascinated by this? The “consultant” in me is excited about what’s ahead and solutions/advice that I can provide to my customers. The customer part of me wants to understand:

  • How mature is the solution?
  • What are the limitations?
  • What kind of change management am I looking at?
  • What would my IT team look like if I were to embrace the change?
  • What functions and features will I miss out on if I stay on-premise? Will I be all alone soon?

David Ludlow used the word “Virtual Integration” in a panel discussion that immediately drew attention. It’s not really a concept and just a term that he coined while answering a question. Virtual integration brings in a good perspective because how many businesses can actually say that they are running on a fully integrated environment? Businesses have outsourced functionality such as benefits, time entry, taxes, recruiting and others to reduce overhead or complexity. Within ECC, SAP has provided standard programs that write or transfer information between modules, the only difference being; field names are same (for the most part). So this is nothing new and in my opinion but a good attempt to reduce complexity within the same instance – Mapping will be the name of the game and SAP is set out to build and deliver predefined integrations, called iFlows(impressive stuff). The customer although should think about what is integrated now and what will be integrated in future before jumping on the bandwagon because there might be gaps. Below is what I saw and heard:

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For instance, if you are a business that manages US benefits in-house, maybe going to EC is not the best option yet unless you are already thinking about outsourcing/co-sourcing. I saw a few dotted lines in another session when it comes to integration and I think similar core requirements will be addressed.

Another word that we heard a lot of was “partners”. Partners that SAP has when it comes to integration/modules; partners that are helping them develop and partners who know about the functionality. In one of the session, someone said “Trust but verify” when it comes to partner. What should I verify? Should you get someone who knows about new tools & technology or someone who also has an in-depth and proven knowledge of SAP on-premise and has ability to think about usability, process and integration.

As an exhibitor for my company, I met with some old clients and some new curious ones. I asked them about what they thought about the buzzwords and whether they will go for it and I heard mixed responses; some were very impressed; some said its way too new and some said that they are too complex; some said it looks like we don’t have much of a choice.

Are any of these thoughts wrong? No, not at all. But these answers somehow explain the trend we are looking at and clearly indicate that although SAP is evangelizing the buzzwords, businesses seem cautious for valid business operational reasons.

As a customer what I would start thinking of is: (outside of getting wowed by the usability aspect)

  • What is SAP’s roadmap on development and enhancements? Where would I add this change in my roadmap? (And if I don’t have one, lets start working on it).
  • Should I go all cloud?
  • Should I think of a phased approach?
  • Should I go hybrid? Or Side by Side?
  • What would happen to my ROI for any option I chose?

To summarize my take on the conference, change is inevitable and yes it looks cloudy. Getting educated about the changes, understanding your own business from a change standpoint and getting a right partner to advice is the only way to answer any question. I’m sure that my peers, colleagues and I will be answering these questions for ourselves in a lot more detail as we go on, so stay tuned.

Here are some good reads that provide additional information on what is discussed above

1. HR2014 Takeaways – What a difference a year can make by Holger Mueller

2. Extending SuccessFactors with the Metadata Framework by Luke Marson

3. The Future of SAP HCM and SuccessFactors Consulting – 2014 by Jarret Pazahanick

4. Moving Your HR Processes to the Cloud-iFlows Help Ensure Seamless Integration of SAP and SuccessFactors Solutions by David Ludlow

5. What is the (Surprising) Future of Cloud ERP? by Eric Kimberling

6. The future of SAP HCM is cloudy by Steve Bogner

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4 Comments

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  1. Christopher Solomon

    Nice write up!!! Seems more than a few of us were motivated by the HR2014 conference want wanted to quickly get our thoughts out. Nice to see many of us seeing the same thing and having the same questions/concerns. Thanks for blogging it!

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