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Our SAP HCM Insights Podcast has become an institution in recent years (at least for myself) and not being able to join the discussion due to other commitments always makes me feel a bit lonely out there (yes guys, like it or not: you’re family now 😛 )

Missing this one was particularly annoying, as it does touch upon a few topics I’ve been known to get passionate about.

Well, listen to ca. 40 minutes of Steve Bogner, Mark Ingram, Luke Marson and Brandon Toombs discussing

– how do Fiori and HR renewal compete with or complement each other

– how could they fit into an overall SAP UI strategy

– and does such a thing exist at all and if so: how does SuccessFactors fit in?

– impact reduced freedom to change the system

– changing consulting models and what customers need to watch out for

Link to HCM Insights Podcast

or search for “SAP HCM Insights” on iTunes.

my 2p:

On Part 1 (UI strategy):

I do agree that customers are left with far too little tangible guidance from SAP to decide which way to go and how likely they are to lose their investment, when the next big trend kicks in. The reason for this probably is that SAP don’t have a clear picture of the future themselves and I don’t mean this as a negative point. They’ve been known before for offering options and then watch what customers do before carving anything in stone. This approach comes with benefits as well as problems for customers, but in any case, this is my guess of what’s happening.

However, it seems to me they make it very clear that the future is Fiori – not necessarily in terms of the current apps, but in terms of technology. And that includes HR Renewal.

On part 2 (less freedom to change the system):

I do agree with Steve here. There is a risk indeed, that the HRIS community drives their cloud solutions into a similar mess like the one they wanted to escape from: over-customized systems lacking agility.

It’s very early days and we can already see a switch from the pure SaaS model to a PaaS model: platform as a service, which provides a cloud platform, but allows custom coding to thrive on it. That’s exactly what the SAP HANA cloud development platform is. Sure, it’s beneficial, when used in moderation and well managed. I’m not saying it’s got to be messy, but there is a risk.

There is another factor driving that risk: integration – so far the holly grail of SAP software.
Cloud solutions have been compared to speed boats beating on-premise ERP systems, looking more like big oil tankers, in speed as well as maneuverability. Well, so far most cloud solutions were stand alone applications for one or few processes with lean interfaces to some other systems. The broad, tight and fully automated integration we’ve become adicted to from the on-premise world certainly adds some value, but it can also act like a bunch of chains. So, it’s now no longer a speed boat racing an oil tanker, but a few dozens of different speed boats chained together. It may seem unlikely and we can certainly make use of cutting edge integration technology to allow for more agile models, but even with a perfect technology: to make process changes in a highly integrated environment always requires a host of people to be consulted. Thinking back to the early 1990s: back then the (on-premise) client-server model was praised as the new leanand agile world of enterprise computing liberating organisations from the chunky, slow host model.

Well, now to the fun part: Changing consulting models, middle men and consultant selection.


I will try not to make this another rant.

One change my HCM Insights friends addressed is more than welcome to me: working with various customers at a time rather than full time with one for a longer period.

Personally, this was always “consultancy” for me as opposed to “contracting”. I don’t claim to be more intelligent then the next guy, who’s a perm employee at one of my customers. So, how do I justify rates, which look high compared to a perm salary (apart from being such a jolly and nice chap to spend time with 😉 ): providing best practise (and recognising poor practise early) from the many customers I work with and doing what I’m really good at – bringing in colleagues for tasks I’m not. Having various customers at a time just makes it easier to learn fast, if your brain capacity is closer to average than to Alan Turing (by the way: seen the film already? You really should!) Of course I appreciate that some projects require full time assignments. I’m just glad I don’t usually have to do them and really look forward to the model changing towards what I love anyway.


And then the subject of the middle-men. Yes, a consultancy working with independents to an extend can and should add value. But that doesn’t justify more than one contractual layer between the consultant and the customer.I’ve discussed this a year ago on “Full time culture and the non-value adding middleman“.

Customers should challenge each layer to prove their value (being able to search for “SuccessFactors” on Linkedin doesn’t qualify as value-add). Remember: the consultant on the ground usually has the strongest intrinsic motivation to do a good job. The more contractual layers they are wrapped into, the more their loyalties are split and the more things they are not allowed to say aloud.

And finally: there’s still a need for on-site consultants and whilst I do love reducing travel time, there is a minimum level of face2face engagement, which imo is currently being pushed down a bit far.

There’s a risk of large players in the market establishing implementation models, which suit them rather than customers:

– pushing back towards full time resources

– maximising remote time

This allows them to sell a maximum of resources at the highest level of flexibility and lowest cost. It’s not evil – it’s business. But customers need to be aware of it and do their due dilligence.

Think about contractual and deployment models to suit your organisation.

Anyway: great Podcast, guys! And special thanks to Steve for putting it all together. One day, there will be an Oscar for Podcast directors and it’ll be yours for sure. I do look forward to recording the final session of this year with you on Friday – huddled around the virtual fireplace and looking into the 2015 SAP HCM world 🙂

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  1. Christopher Solomon

    First off…THANKS for the blog!….second, can I join you on the docks for the boat we missed? haha I had NO idea of the podcast but glad I do now….so for that…THANKS! I will be checking them out in the future!

    Looks like you covered everything well, so no need for me to restate. I will say, however, on your last point…PREACH ON BROTHER! PREACH ON!!!! haha

    I am an independent and have been since about 2001 or so, and prior to that, worked for a consulting firm for 4 years. I have “seen it all” like you I am sure, but am really enjoying the changes/shift “lately”. For the past 3 years or so now, I have been lucky to either work 100% remote on each project or at least work up a relationship with my clients so that there is a mix of on-site and remote (more leaning to the latter). And adding to this, in the past 2 years, I have seen more (and done more) remote work on multiple projects for multiple clients (as well as building up “support” agreements for some past clients). It has worked well for them and myself. There is a benefit (many you mentioned) in that model. Oddly enough, I think it is likely the “offshore” outsourcing craze of the 2000-2010 period that has made clients more comfortable with this arrangement (even to the point of allowing their own employees the flexibility to work from home…some even 100% as well!).

    Lastly, your “middleman” point really nailed it! I have made an effort to always either go with a client directly (usually by “word of mouth” referral) or with a direct partner/vendor. I actively avoid the “layers” (aka. middlemen doing little more than taking a chunk of money from both sides with no value added). And when I say “actively”, if I receive a “cold call” email from a “recruiter” which list their need for a resource with knowledge and experience in everything under the sun including the most bleeding edge stuff and they will “do me a favor” with the very generous offer of $55/hour, I will troll the hell out of them with a series of emails before finally telling them how awful their offer is and how loathsome I find them. Too much? haha It sure makes for a fun break during the day to fire one of those replies off! 😛

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    1. Sven Ringling Post author

      Thanks a lot for your comments Chris!

      seems we share a similar history. I was 4 years with a larger consultancy as well. Not sole trader then, but co-running a smal firm since 2000, where we also avoid subcontracting with very few exceptions. Love your approach to unreasonable recruiters 😆

      Best wishes to wherever you are writing from (your “accent” suggests somewhere between Ireland and Japan?)
      Sven

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        1. Sven Ringling Post author

          …which is exactly, what you’d find blocking your way, if you tried to sail West from Ireland to Japan, init? (Well: with some help from Canada) 😉

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  2. Brandon Toombs

    Sven-

    Wish you had been on the podcast!  Your insights are always welcome.  I agree with you that Bogner deserves an Oscar for his work.  He’s a great moderator and he edits in such a way to make us sound almost competent.  Almost.

    Hope my rantings on lack of clear direction from SAP weren’t off-putting.  I just hate having to tell customers “I don’t know, let’s wait and see”.

    On the subject of the consulting business, this seems to be going through the same rate of change as the software itself.  Everyone is trying to figure it out and no one quite has. Your points are spot-on and are noted for the record.

    Chris- I am not sure your experience really fits in any consulting model.  You’re tops in your area so whatever model you want customers are going to do.  Just keep sending out the blogs so that the rest of us can catch up!

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    1. Sven Ringling Post author

      Thanks for your comments, Brandon.

      Nothing off-putting at all. It’s reflecting the general frustration very well. If I’m suggesting it may in the long run be right for SAP to keep things open and watch a bit, that doesn’t mean it’s nice for customers to be watched like lab rats in a maze, knowing it  is not even decided yet, which path will eventually lead to the food – if you excuse the drastic picture 😉

      I remember my own frustration spending time and money on a SAP “Workplace” training – that long-forgotten thing supposed to kill off the ITS in 2000 – only to find it’s a still born thing and was replaced by the portal later (we were actually part of the rebels setting the first customer life on the “no longer available” ITS-based ESS in 4.6c thanks to technical insider info out of a Walldorf leak – one example where SAP toppled their own strategy based on where customers went).

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      1. Christopher Solomon

        Oh Sven!!! You have me getting all nostalgic!!!! Workplace? ahhhh yes…I spent long hours with it. 🙁 ITS? Even more hours spent. And then, the “portal” came along (via Top Tier)…and of course, you MUST remember SAP’s brilliant spin off company “SAP Portals” (yes, with an S) that did nothing but confuse the hell outta customers! haha But I digress….if you are talking ESS on ITS back then, then surely you also remember SAP’s partnership with HOT(sp?) software for an ESS solution too! 😆 I LOVE going to this site (soon to be gone!) and checking out the old screens/pages….

        SAP Design Guild — Short History of SAP’s Web Applications

        …and example of the “SAP Portals” ESS solution (and I forgot the short lived Yahoo partnership too! haha)….

        http://www.sapdesignguild.org/editions/edition3/images/ess_im1.gif

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        1. Sven Ringling Post author

          almost the kind of memories you have when reading a Commodore C64 OS Assembler listing 🙂

          Ah – need to stop this now and leave it for Xmas holiday. Just doing my training in the shiny new world of SuccessFactors 😎

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  3. Steve Bogner

    Hi Sven – thanks for you comments on the podcast; very ‘Insight’-ful 🙂

    And I’m thankful for you and the rest of the team for contributing your time to this podcast endeavor!

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  4. Stephen Burr

    Enjoyable read and some valid points Sven.

    I must say this made me laugh (should I??):

    So, it’s now no longer a speed boat racing an oil tanker, but a few dozens of different speed boats chained together.

    Good to see you recently,

    Stephen

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