SAP SuccessFactors Then and Now: Driving a Human Revolution
On the plane ride home from SuccessConnect, our annual SAP SuccessFactors conference, I was thinking about the conversations I had with our customers. I spent nearly all my time telling and retelling the SuccessFactors story from the beginning.
Why we got into the market — un-kept promises of talent functionality by Peoplesoft; why we created our first application as a solution licensed to all employees in a company — to increase business performance and make people, well, better people.
I listened to customers tell their stories of what their businesses had accomplished that they had not been able to do before the implementation of SAP SuccessFactors Performance & Goals, SAP SuccessFactors Compensation, SAP SuccessFactors Succession & Development, etc. The heroes in these stories were often not the HR practitioners who implemented the solutions but the managers and employees who embraced these new tools and communication methods to make the company and themselves more successful. Trust was a byproduct of this new alignment. When the employee understood the organization’s business objectives and purpose and what the business expected of them to deliver on that mission, trust was built.
As I listened to customer after customer, I asked about trust and many added, “Yep, trust and engagement.”
I didn’t hear any stories about how core HRIS accelerated a company’s growth. It still has me scratching my head why some HR leaders are surprised that they are not taken seriously by the rest of the c-suite. Then in the next breath they are arguing that the organization take on an expensive project to effectively manage HR data. Nothing is mentioned about business performance, except more promises, when challenged.
“They are planning on building talent out” is what I imagine those leaders say to their executive peers. Let’s focus on a two percent spend instead of a tool designed to align and engage all workers — usually a 60 to 70 percent spend.
Don’t get me wrong, a strong foundation is critical, but an architect spends two percent of her time on the foundation of a building since it is largely the same from dwelling to dwelling and mostly dictated by the laws of physics, or compliance in our case. The art is in the design of what sits on top of that foundation. It is what creates value in a building and value through people in an organization.
As the plane was making its way over the Sierra mountains, these stories reminded me that only SAP SuccessFactors could claim that DNA. We are the only enterprise HCM company that started by licensing all of a customer’s employees as users. We were also the first to do it in the cloud. We were the only HCM company that started with the express purpose to increase business performance through the alignment of the worker’s purpose to the organization’s purpose.
I have heard our co-founder Aaron Au say it many times: “We did not start SuccessFactors to solve an HR problem. We started this company to solve a business performance problem.” If we could create a tool that enabled leaders to have their intent understood and committed to by those chartered to carry out the mission, we could change the world.
So our genesis is remarkably different from our contemporary competitors and our purpose holds true today after 17 years of aiming at a different target than the rest of the HCM market. We were not trying to get the HR department home early as a primary objective. Practitioners tell me different stories about how SAP SuccessFactors made them indispensable by enabling them with talent management to unlock the value within their people.
I was proud to hear SAP CEO Bill McDermott say on the SuccessConnect stage, “People have a deep, human need to understand what piece of the puzzle belongs to them and the role they play leading their company to greatness.”
We are still true to our unique DNA and just as uniquely our customers are those that understand the value of alignment, trust, engagement, and purpose connected to business execution.
We were blazing a trail back in 2005 by focusing on impacting people and organizations through cascading performance discussions. There were many insights and innovations that allowed companies using SAP SuccessFactors to gain a competitive edge over those that didn’t. We even had a stock index that tracked those customers with world-class deployments of SAP SuccessFactors. It beat the market by a wide margin. We were the only enterprise cloud company doing this well at the time.
Fast forward 13 years and we have stayed true to our purpose. Augmentative intelligence is my favorite term for all the buzz around machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA), bots, and conversational HR. How we will learn to incorporate these new technologies into how we align individual and team performance in a more agile and proactive way will lead to the next level of human performance.
We are spending all of our time at SAP SuccessFactors giving leaders better visibility and access to their top performers with our organic tools like continuous performance management and intelligent mentoring coupled with the world’s strongest analytics engine in SAP Analytics Cloud. We are not training and enabling HR practitioners to move people around org charts; ee are enabling them to make the right decisions that increase business performance and agility.
The iPhone had not been released when we started this wave of innovation back then and now the new digital economy means organizations need to be ready to embrace smaller and more agile cross functional teams, gig projects, and the pervasive use of mobile. Social is the new normal at work and augmenting our human intelligence at work with new technologies is how we drive and push our way to relevance as part of the Human Revolution.
The technology part is the revolution and the human part is where the outcomes from a talent focus bring alignment.
When I am in alignment with my leader at work and I know where I fit in the organization’s goals, I don’t feel the stress and disconnect of wondering what my piece of the puzzle is.
The underlying theme of the stories I heard was simply that core HRIS is great but it is like the character Biff in “Back to the Future” — you have to have a Biff in every good story but Biff is not the hero. Marty McFly would be proud of what we help our customers accomplish.
Our customers use our technology to replace fear or stress caused by that “deep human need” of each worker to understand their role in the company. Without fear and stress and with a feeling of purpose, they go home as better mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sisters, and brothers. By creating and feeding the connection between the purpose people need to feel and their place in the puzzle, we really are making the world a better place. This is where all the cool technology and human empathy come together to drive the Human Revolution.
As the plane started descending, I had one very simple conclusion from the customer stories I’d heard all week. We are the obvious choice when an HR leader is focused on business performance over HR performance. Do you think about harnessing the single spend in your organization — around 65 percent of your organizational spend on people — or do you think about how to get that extra .02 percent efficiency in your back office HR processes?
If you want to be taken seriously by your peers in the c-suite, you had better be focused on managing that talent — that spend is “the BIG HR.” That is where SAP SuccessFactors started; it is our DNA uniquely.
Don’t take my word for it: For the sixth year in a row, we are ranked in the leaders quadrant in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Talent Management Suites, and eight years running for the IDC Integrated Talent Management MarketScape report. Appropriately, the core HRIS-focused vendors are not even listed. Don’t take the analysts’ word either? Just spend a day talking to our customers that have embraced the big HR spend on people as the engine to drive the organization forward. I was honored to hear their brave stories and I am equally sure their c-suite peers hold them in the same esteem we do. Don’t be Biff!