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It was once said that “golf is a good walk spoiled”. In contrast, with the million square feet of space on offer to SAP at the Orange County Convention Center, I found my SAPPHIRE walks, while long, to be both productive and enjoyable. Following a well-trodden path from the Media & Analyst Center to the HR LoB demo pods, I spent three intensive days meeting with customers, prospects, analysts, partners, and staff.

Here then, and with the assistance of the photographic memory (and photographs) provided by Tony Ashton, SuccessFactors’VP of Product Management for Workforce Analytics & Planning, are a couple of takeaways from the event.

  1. The Event Matched the Message: Simplicity First – From Bill’s opening keynote, SAP is stressing the concept of simplicity in both internal organizational design and external relationships with customers. As an event, SAPPHIRE can be overwhelming but, as a rookie attendee, I was pleasantly surprised by how simple I found the agenda and layout to be – with all of the major sessions in a single room, there was no need – as with other technology conferences – to take a taxi between auditoriums. Kudos to the organizers.
  2. Prospective Customers are Excited by the Vision of Workforce Analytics, Yet Share Similar Challenges – Tony ran two Microforums (benchmarking and predictive analytics), with strong levels of engagement and interaction. Pressure is most certainly ramping up on HR to deliver data analysis beyond the simple facts found in transactional reports, yet common hurdles remain: translating executive urgency for analytics into resources on the ground, handling data quality issues, building capability and capacity to deliver insights to leaders, etc. It’s a similar story to one we’ve heard over the last ten years.
  3. Applications Offer “Analytics for All” – From the standpoint of SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics & Planning, SAPPHIRE was an opportunity to share more on how we’re extending our purpose-built analytics for HR application, joining forces with SAP HANA, KXEN’s predictive modeling, and Lumira. It does truly offer the potential of analytics for all – pre-built content for managers and ad-hoc analytics for data scientists.
  4. Consulting and Data Asset Partners are Investing Heavily in Capabilities for Workforce Analytics & Planning – I had the opportunity to spend time with a couple of Workforce Analytics & Planning certified partners (3D Results, Deloitte, and PwC to name but three) and firms who have completed our mastery training. Additionally, Tony and I met with several firms that have invested in building data assets (surveys, etc.) and unique workforce models. I love how passionate the ecosystem has become about workforce analytics and the level of insight into how we support HR leaders needing to tell a more powerful story about the ROI of talent decisions. The trick will be determining how to prioritize among a wealth of opportunities.
  5. Analysts are Cautiously Optimistic About HR as a Data-Driven Function – Across the board, the analysts that we spoke with are reasonably optimistic about how analytics can secure a stronger foothold in the strategic HR agenda. Still, the prevailing message from analysts (which we share) is that analytics will not be successful until the data is actually used for decision-making – going live with an application doesn’t signal the end of the journey.

Finally, I really enjoyed presentations from Rob Delmarco (Comcast) and Rob Arborgast (Timken), both of which featured stories on the importance of workforce analytics to their organizations.  Here are a couple of photos of Rob and Rob onstage, as well as Steve Gregory, Senior Solutions Consultant for SuccessFactors, presenting SuccessFactors Headlines for Workforce Analytics.

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What Lies Ahead: SuccessConnect 2014

With a successful SAPPHIRE behind us, our team is now preparing for the upcoming SuccessConnect North America conference on September 10 and 11 in Las Vegas. We already have six sessions confirmed for Workforce Analytics & Planning, including presentations from Royal Bank of Canada, Travelers, and Wawa.

You can read more about the sessions here: http://successconnect2014.com/breakouts. I look forward to sharing some good walks with you there.

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