SAP-Insider HR2015 conference in Nice: For Whom the Bell Tolls
This is my personal summary of the SAP HR conference HR2015 in Nice. I was busy with my own sessions and talking to so many brilliant people (Customers, Partners, SAP employees) all day about SuccessFactors, Concur Travel&Expense, SAP HCM, SAP Payroll and the overall SAP strategy that there was barely time to attend any sessions. But I’m not unhappy about it at all, because I probably learned more this way. So, I want to share 3 messages for each of the 3 products I’m interested in: SAP HCM, SuccessFactors and Concur. Plus one overall observation to making it 10.
1) The general observation is, what allows me to continue with my endeavour to make the SCN a place of culture by referring to this excellent novel from Earnest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls: It’s old news that most solutions inside SAP HCM on-premise do now come with a use-by date – currently set at 2025. On-Premise Travelmanagement is also set to be replaced by Concur, and SAP’s cloud travel solution has already been taken off the shelf (but is still supported). That’s a lot of bells tolling, even though from afar in most cases.
The interesting point was to observe, how customers respond to the official end-of-support date (something that has been known to be extended in the past, but you can’t count on this). Talking to one client’s SAP HCM lead, I pointed out that 10 years is a very long time and that they are probably using software today, which will run out of support earlier even though the respective vendors haven’t announced it yet. The reply probably reflects, what many are thinking: “Yes, but I think I would prefer to not know it yet. That would make current planning easier. It doesn’t sound logical at first, but the dilemma is the same for many organisations: a software going out of support in10 years’ time is not a strong argument to drive changes now. And yet it makes decision makers look bad, if they still invest in “obsolete” solutions, because they think it’s their best option for the next few years.
The much stronger argument for a change imo (just looking at the SAP roadmap and leaving today’s actual product features aside) is the fact that only little investment and innovation will go into the on-premise solutions for the rest of their lifetime.
It’s also interesting to see, that some products are already set up for artificial life support: Employee Central Payroll, as hosted by SAP, will not include Time Evaluation (the choice for customers to be between a 3rd party solution integration and a new Employee Central Time Evaluation). However, I’ve been told by one customer that a large system integrator is already offering to host EC payroll with time evaluation. If that happens, it’s not a large step to offering vendor-independent support for that solution beyond 2025. Whether this is desirable, is a different question.
A) SAP HCM
2) in Talent Management, SuccessFactors has been SAP’s “go forward solution” for some time now. But many customers are still investing in there on-premise solutions, as they are not ready for SaaS yet. They are probably right imo: This is not a field, where going without investment for several years looks like a good idea and when you eventually make the cloud transition, you don’t want to be on outdated processes 2 generations back to make the change effort even more difficult.
3) in the context of it’s likely future demise, I discussed Time Evaluation in some depths. And it opened my eyes for some facts: there hasn’t been any significant change for many years and one reason is that it’s design is ancient. Thinking about it: configuration should be much easier and whilst it’s perfectly geared towards payroll integration, it’s often getting into your way of managing the time of your people effectively. So, shift planning / resource planning usually need a 3rd party tool anyway. It’s had its time, but I agree with some insiders that the world wouldn’t be a poorer place, if RPTIME00 had gone by 2025.
4) There is still a huge appetite for rolling out SAP HCM into further countries and projects still achieve far below their potential, because of the usual old factors: – lacking a global definition of basic structures and global data – neglecting cultural impact – using a one-size fits all approach for subsidiaries of very different sizes – lack of vision: what is it supposed to achieve on the corporate level and what’s in it for local entities Well, before you go ahead with this rollout, what’s the reason you can’t go for a side-by-side integration scenario with SuccessFactors instead?
5) There are still SAP customers on decision maker or influencer level, you don’t understand the basics of the Software as a Service concept and are therefore at risk of making very wrong decisions based on on-premise thinking
6) Quite a few customers are not happy with performance. This looks like a temporary problem caused by the very strong recent demand. It also seems to depend on the data centre the customer is using.
7) Some of the perceived gaps between on-prem HCM and SuccessFactors are being worked on – most notably Time Management and Personnel Cost and Headcount Planning. In both cases it is difficult to say now, whether they’ll cover everything the old products did, but it will be driven by customer demand and there is no intention to try anything close to a 1:1 replacement. Good! The world has moved on and so should your software.
C) Concur Travel and Expense
8) The roadmap for improved and new integration between Concur and SAP HCM / Finance or SuccessFactors has been reviewed to deliver even faster now. The latest news was that everything would be delivered by Q3/2016 in 3 stages. Until then, Financial posting integration is available via Dell Boomi and IDOCs and HR data can be imported via (automated) flat files. Integration into the unified user interface with Fiori is also on the agenda, but not with a deadline yet.
9) The number of SAP customers interested in Concur is huge. Many of those, who started with implementations already, are disappointed. Not with the solution, but with support during the project. This is a typical misunderstanding: Whilst Concur do the technical implementation (nor service partner concept so far), this doesn’t include the comfort package customers are used to from their SAP on-premise implementation partner.
The service is pretty much focused on the technical deployment. Yes, project management and communication are mentioned, but that doesn’t comprise much more than a standard schedule, review of open issues on each conference call and some email templates. So, the workload left with the customer can be huge. To begin with, you have the expected elements of requirements definition, testing, communication, project management – points you may be used to deal with, but more likely than not, your implementation partner has taken at least 50% of that burden off your shoulders in the past. But then you have those side projects typically creeping up in a T&E project: re-defining or clarifying the travel policy, discussing reporting requirements, changing travel agencies, communication with vendors – signing up with many of them to begin with, credit card rollouts, changing processes in HR and finance, discussing audit and VAT reclaim processes,… you name it.
This workload seems to hit customers unprepared and the Concur implementation team can’t help much. Even, if they wanted too, resources in Europe are quite scarce. Then projects are delayed or even stall completely and the solution, sadly, gets a bad name. Well, the customers I talked to understood the source of the problem, so to their credit, they didn’t blame the product. But they said they would have expected a starker warning about the resource requirement.
Interestingly, this hasn’t changed much since my first Concur project 4 years ago: even back then, a customer had asked our team to re-vive a stalled Concur implementation by helping the client side project team, most notably with project management, coordination of all parties involved and communication. So, the message is: Concur can be deployed pretty fast. However, you need to have the resources available to follow a very high pace and the Concur implementation team does not cover the same broad range of tasks most SAP implementation partners usually would. Do not let this note let discourage you from implementing Concur. It’s a brilliant solution.
10) Customers embarking on a migration from SAP Travelmanagement to Concur usually focus far too much on their old processes – very much defined by the constraints of the old software.
To begin with, many aim at the Expense module only thus missing out on an excellent Travel planning/booking tool. Not only is it much, much easier to deploy that the on-premise equivalent, it also can easily make a business case, when replacing phone or email bookings with a travel agency (can be 20 pounds each) by Concur bookings (could be 7 pounds).
Customers migrating from SAP also often neglect the benefits they can get from a process very much based on mobile devices and on going paper-free. Quite often, you here one customers say that paper-free is not possible for legal reasons, while another customer from the same country has been paper-free for years. Definitely worth checking properly.
And the last point new Concur customers shouldn’t neglect is the large choice of extra apps and services offered by Concur or the eco-system. There are easy–to-integrate services to recover foreign VAT, apps to help travellers with automated itinerary and alerts, and the messaging service to help you track your travellers around the world and warn them proactively about adverse circumstances.
And finally: referring to the title, there’s no further analogy with Hemmingway’s novel assumed. Whilst the Bell definitely Tolls for many on-premise solutions (though still from afar), there is no need to take up the role of Jordan and sacrifice yourself. Cloud HRIS may not yet be right for some organisations, but it’s not the force of evil you need to hold back – and just as Jordan in the book: you wouldn’t succeed for long anyway.
But you must excuse my now comrades, I’m afraid. I have a book to read…