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Ready to Embark on HR’s Journey to the Cloud? Beware the Snakes, Find the Ladders


Preparing for a recent keynote in front of a large HR crowd, it came to me that a good story always wins. And winning is the ultimate goal of moving to the cloud. So I invited the audience to come on a journey with me and play the game of “Snakes & Ladders” (or “Chutes and Ladders”  as many of you will remember it).

Why?  Looking to technology to support innovation puts us today in a constant journey. And like with a board game, not everyone moves at the same pace. Some roles land you on a square that moves you backward, while others land you on a square to catapult you forward and get you much closer to successfully completing the journey. 

I’d like to invite you to join me on this journey, and play the game for a few minutes. But before we start the game and roll the die, a quick disclaimer: in the real world, we don’t all start the game in the same place. Company’s paths to migration to the cloud have many different starting points, and it helps to choice wisely and know the expected outcomes.

Regardless of where you start your cloud journey, there are four common pitfalls — “snakes”– to avoid because they can sidetrack your investment and derail your cloud journey – and thus the innovation that cloud brings.

The Business Case Cobra

Without a business case that stands up to the CEO, CFO, and CIO, as the CHRO you are likely to fail. The inability to prove the cloud’s ultimate value results in misalignment and inconsistency in the vision for what you are ultimately trying to deliver. An encounter with the “Business Case Cobra”— an inability to obtain high-level support, will kill your business case before you know what hit you.

Taking a strategic approach rooted in business value helps built a cloud investment strategy that can stand the test of time and resources.

The Rip & Replace Vendor Viper

Once you’ve established a business case for a cloud investment, the vendor selection process becomes critical. But as you can imagine at SAP we believe that all vendors are not equal.

Of particular concern is the “Rip & Replace Vendor Viper,” who overpromises and under-delivers when it comes to their cloud solutions and implementation. Vipers often pitch for a full “rip and replace strategy,” overselling the importance of a single data model and architecture. Their promises of a global solution will hit you with the eventual reality that they lack the localization and depth to deliver on a worldwide scale. And they demand every customer start in the same place – by replacing your core HR system first before doing anything else, regardless of where your business case shows you need to start to get the greatest value for your company. The end result can be a costly transaction that leaves no budget for the components your business case showed had the greatest return on the cloud journey.

The best antidote to the bite of the this viper is to not adopt technology for technology’s sake in the first place. Remember the bigger picture and the ultimate value the cloud can deliver for you. At SAP, we see cloud as a system of engagement, not a system of record. A cloud solution should fit into an overall talent strategy that may include on-premise solutions – the broader benefit is an integrated approach that is rooted in business value.

The Complexity Copperhead

Taking a holistic approach to cloud helps combat broader complexities that exist in many of our organizations. In any technology migration, it’s not enough to simply automate process. You’ll never reduce the complexity the cloud has the power to eliminate. That’s the danger of our “Complexity Copperhead.” A snake that kills any chance at transformation by not rethinking and simplifying processes. Yesterday’s problems, now just in the cloud. Not a good way to go.

Avoiding complexity is not only just about the technology – it’s a cultural change as well. The cloud should be about standardization, driving simplicity and agility. But without the right understanding in place you won’t get there. Cloud solutions should be judged by extensibility, not customization. Extensibility can deliver you a deep and sophisticated HR solution, without the complexity that is a byproduct of customization.

The False Cloud Cost Constrictor

Once upon a time, there were ERP vendors that thought they could do it all. Not unlike the Rip & Replace Vendor Viper, they came with prerequisites, where core HR needed to be up and running before the more strategic solutions, such as compensation and learning can be brought in. The problem with a phased approach, without the business case mapping out the entire journey, is that many companies never make it to the next phase – the Cost Constrictor squeezes every last dollar out the budget, forcing you to look to point solutions to address other needs. You’re then left with a web of vendors, SLAs, support lines and release cycles – all to manage on your own, with no single point of contact.

At SAP, we’ve built a comprehensive HCM suite that’s designed to work with your current investments, allowing you to start anywhere, and go everywhere.

Regardless of which square you start on in the game of Snakes & Ladders, approaching your cloud migration as a journey is a game you can win.

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