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SAP HANA Cloud Platform @ SuccessConnect 2016


So I’m back in the office from SuccessConnect 2016 in Las Vegas and about to blog about my experience, which means one thing, I didn’t hit any jackpots that will allow me to retire as an independently wealthy individual. All kidding aside, we once again, were welcomed back to Venetian/Palazzo Convention center for this event.

What is SuccessConnect?

For those who are unfamiliar with SuccessConnect, it is SuccessFactor’s version of Sapphire, with a strict focus around the HR line of business and the SucessFactors solution.  This was actually my first time attending SuccessConnect, so I was pretty excited to represent SAP HANA Cloud Platform.  SAP HANA Cloud Platform is a key strategic part of SuccessFactors being SAP’s cloud extension platform.  There were many partners that were already familiar with the platform and some were already building some neat solutions upon and helping tell the story of why SAP’s PaaS strategy is the right one.  I heard more than a few partners say this when I had introduced myself to them as being an HCP Product Manager – it was like being the popular kid on the block – very cool indeed.

So why I was there

IMG_1286_edited.jpgI was there to help evangelize the story of SAP HANA Cloud Platform as well to co-present addressing the topic of SuccessFactors extensibility.  Customers are mostly familiar about customizations, and what we wanted to share with them that extending solutions on SAP HANA Cloud Platform was not customization.  In our session, they learned about how extensions can be done using the SuccessFactors in-app capabilities, better known as meta-data framework, or now, it will be called “Extension Center”.  My co-presenter was Abhijit Salvi, a Senior Director of Product Management from SuccessFactors, who demonstrated how Extension Center could be used to codelessly build out objects using a configuration-like tool.  For my part, I shared how with SAP HANA Cloud Platform, they could build solutions that further extended the functionality of SuccessFactors.  HCP was/is a complete infrastructure + tools & services that would help them solve end-to-end business requirements that went beyond what MDF would allow them to do.

I must give full credit as I had heard the term “tailor” being used before from my colleague Jeramy Ivener to describe extensions.  So I thought about how this story could be told.  For the first time, I used the analogy of buying a suit.  If you’re an average person who goes and buys a suit off the rack, it probably fits you fine, on the other hand if you’re not “average”, then you’re probably going to need a tailor to help you make adjustments.  Even then, this may only address part of your needs, so what do you. Perhaps getting you to 80% or even 90%.  This is when you go to have a tailor actually take your measurements and cut up a suit from scratch for you.  SAP HANA Cloud Platform was that tailor who provides you with the thread, the sewing machine, the needle, & the fabric (i.e. SuccessFactors) to create a suit/solution that fits you/your business.  Futhermore, aside from talking about the technologies behind our platform (the services etc.), we were happy to share some of the potential use cases of how these services could be used in their enterprise to create solutions that gave their employees an edge through simplicity of consuming complex information i.e. survey results, or increasing employee engagement (rewards and recognition).  All of these of which can be found on the which all extensions built on HCP could be found.  Additionally, we talked about how this was the common platform that will be used to extend all SAP solutions, so that they learn how to do it once, and they can apply it to all the solutions in the SAP family, as well as non-SAP products. What was really awesome was at least a handful of customers and partners came up after the session was up to stop by and ask some clarifying questions about the platform, questions that led me to believe that they now understood the value proposition of the SAP HANA Cloud Platform.  Some sample questions were, “so do I have to buy cloud connector to connect my back-end system to HCP”, “I have some thoughts on use-cases, is there someone who can help me validate”- a partner.

I’m not sure what the actual crowd size was, perhaps more than 100 people, but definitely there were some people who were standing (could also have been because they had just been sitting from the keynote).  It was absolutely exciting however that people did stay behind to chat and talk.  Aside from this presentation, there were also a couple of other opportunities for customers and partners to learn about SAP HANA Cloud Platform, one was on the show floor where we had a booth that was attended by a few colleagues, the other was an area where partners could learn about the platform which was managed by our partner organization.

What were some of the other things that happened

IMG_1260_edited.jpgWell let me talk a little bit about the various activities on the 3 packed days.  On Monday, there were some partner invited sessions, that unfortunately I was not aware of, so did not have a chance to engage until later in the afternoon where there were a couple of receptions.  These were again well attended sessions and I had some great opportunities to hear from partners who were already using the platform and had some great feedback upon it.  Some of that was hearing, “we are so excited about HANA Cloud Platform and absolutely think this is the right approach,” others were also asking about how to get more involved and details, to which definitely they were directed to our partner programs.  I did meet one partner who was going to do a direct integration with SuccessFactors because right now, they were just focused in on SuccessFactors scenarios as they’ve historically been solely an “HR shop”.  But we began to discuss further, and by the end of the conversation, we left it at, that he would keep an open mind should other opportunities comes up.

Tuesday was the first full day of general sessions, including the “un-keynote” address by SuccessFactors President, Mike Ettling.  There was a live band that provided the entertainment and transition music.  It was a little unorthodox and the timing was little off but the way the “un-keynote” was done with having SAP’s Media expert, Megan Meany conduct a sort of show interview with Mike and a few guests – happy birthday to her on that day by the way.  It started with Mike talking about some of the challenges that HR organizations face in business today: the generation gaps within the workforce today; the rise of contingent workers; a need to follow standardize HR processes in order to help simplify; how to manage your talent, making sure people are in the right roles, closely related is making sure you’re looking in the right places for talent, is your talent pool large enough; digitization should not just be about technology, but how technology can help people.  This is when Mike introduced the tagline for the conference in that, “Success is simply Human”.

IMG_1263_edited.jpgWith a focus on the “Human” there were a couple of programs that SuccessFactors that were supporting. The first is the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) from NAF ( helping students in under privileged communities have opportunities to attend college and professional development.  One of the campaigns launched would be that SuccessFactors would do a $1 donation for every tweet that contained hashtags #BeFutureReady and #SConnect16. They also talked about “Business beyond Bias” which is an initiative to leverage technology to remove bias in the workplace.  An example of how that can be achieved was using SAP technology to analyze job postings to assure that words and phrases used would be gender neutral to attract the largest possible talent pool.  Intelligent services was also spoken about – this is technology offered by SuccessFactors that essentially creates an event in the system that triggers other actions that may need be performed as a result of an HR action, i.e. taking a leave of absence triggering out of office notifications, calendar rescheduling, or even just message re-routing. Look for how HCP could help companies with some of these complex scenarios.  SuccessFactors performance management now has the option of supporting continuous performance management. The last two introductions were the new Learning Marketplace for enterprise learning & the SuccessFactors appcenter.  Closing it off with Klaus Tschira Innovation award to honor the SAP founder who was a great philanthropist and innovator, so they are accepting nominations.

The customers who were invited onstage talked about their experiences. Corning spoke about the challenge of figuring out where to start, but they eventually realized that what they wanted to achieve was they needed to bring what people do in their personal lives into the HR world – making things simplier.  Accenture’s CIO advised the audience who were about to take the journey to not be afraid, to not be afraid about taking risks or moving too fast, and that there was an importance on fostering better communication between the CIO & CHRO, of which the SuccessFactors integration with S/4 HANA would facilitate.

The rest of the day was the breakout sessions and I attended the ones that were of interest to me, which covered Intelligent Services and other stories around the SuccessFactors platform. The end of this day was marked by another set of keynotes with Mike Ettling & SAP CEO, Bill McDermott.  The conversation between Bill & Mike were great as it offered many inspirational moments such as, “be in the moment with people”, “The best part of you, is you” which he shared as something that his mother had always said. Bill’s message was clearly focused on the theme of being human and focusing on each of us as people through our interactions with each other. As great as these moments were, they were just the beginning as then came on Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a basketball great of the Los Angeles Lakers.IMG_1272_edited.jpg

I guess what is lesser known to those who don’t follow him, is that he is not only a basketball legend and hall of famer, but he is also a successful business man.  He started out by telling the story of a young man who all he wanted to do was win.  When people said that it was going to be difficult or not possible, he pushed further and worked harder for those achievements.  During his time in the game, this was his philosophy.  He also shared that perhaps one of the greatest moments in his career as a player was the opportunity to play with the other greats of that time, Michael Jordan & Larry Bird when they played together representing America as the first “Dream Team”.  Hearing him talk about his work ethic and how he respected his opponents was such an inspiration.  Once the game ended for him, he discovered that there was a new chapter in his life that dealt with business. He focused on bringing business and opportunities to the most challenged neighborhoods in a America and finding opportunities there.  He faced the adversities in business the same way he had faced them in the game, head-on and working harder and focused on the people.  One of the things he said was to “over deliver”.  This has great meaning as it should, but this is something that I’ve always thought and believed myself.  People often times think that customer satisfaction is just as simple as meeting their needs, it’s not, achieving satisfaction is to exceed their expectations, and this is what Magic said when he says to “over deliver”, do more than what is expected.

The evening was marked by a reception at Tao, but I called it an early evening as my big day was only coming the following day which I mentioned earlier.

Wednesday’s opening keynote was with started with a new initiative where customers would have the opportunity share their use case, and through audience voting, would have the opportunity to have it incorporated into standard SuccessFactors products.  The first was removing duplicate candidates from the system. The second, making it easier to update employee’s profiles so that it is more accurate.  The last was to have a way to be able record ratings for when a candidate goes through several rounds of interviews.  By popular vote of the customer audience (using the event application), the proposal to have a way to easily remove duplicate candidates won.  While not all these functionality won this, these are still great use cases for why SAP HANA Cloud Platform as a part of cloud strategy, because they still could be achieved in the platform. I hope that there are partners and customers out there, reading this post will understand this opportunity and help us know how the platform can help.  This keynote session ended on a more technical note with Thomas Otter & David Ragones demo’ing some of the new features of SuccessFactors, such as the Intelligent Services, the SuccessFactors Learning Marketplace, as well as the new UI that takes more advantage of Fiori.

Some last thoughts

HR is an area that’s near to my hear as it is one of the areas that I got started in a long time ago, developing what I call rogue applications, that was, these UI’s on R/3 data.  While the technologies and approaches have evolved, as you would expect them to, there is a common element that doesn’t, which reflected the message of the event, this is the Human element.  The technologies we use should not take away from this approach.  I find it very exciting that SAP HANA Cloud Platform has a very important enabling role in all of these conversations as a way to help achieve the goals the business and the people of that business. Whether it’s trying to help standardize basic HR processes, or tailor the processes that makes each company as unique as the people that make them up, SAP HANA Cloud Platform and its components would help customers and partners attain this goal.

Thank you for reading and until next time, keep on engaging with us and shaping the solutions that help solve your needs.


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      Author's profile photo Matthias Steiner
      Matthias Steiner

      Very infotaining report from Success Connect Michael. Love it!

      I like the tailor-fit analogy for HCP and SuccessFactors extension. Well played!

      AFAIK you'll hit Vegas again in a few days for sapteched - so maybe you'll have more luck gambling then! Oh wait... that would mean you'd leave the team, right? Oh well, then I take that back and instead wish you being "lucky in love"...

      (In Germany we have a saying that goes along the lines of "If you're lucky in love, you have bad luck in gambling!" - "Glück in der Liebe, Pech im Spiel!")