The below list is in no particular order but reflects some important themes, questions, and comments:
Integration is still a main concern. Integration has always been central to SAP’s value proposition. The recent focus on cloud cannot derail this. I was fortunate to spend these sessions with fellow speakers from SAP. From the messaging and interactions with them, I can confirm that SAP / SuccessFactors is committed to continued investment in integration (they term them “iFlows”). This is a very good thing for customers, to ease the transition for using cloud technologies where practical. Prashanth Padmanabhan, SAP’s Senior Director, has written a recent blog on the topics for talent hybrid and full cloud integrations. Revisiting my list of concerns from nearly two years ago,many of these items are being addressed. (That blog post alone has gathered over 3,000 unique page views since June 2012).
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) will be the differentiator. Like other functional areas, the HANA Cloud Platform will be a critical piece for HCM to make the suite competitive in a very competitive cloud space (Workday, Oracle Fusion, Infor). The HANA Cloud Development environment is key to SAP’s eco-system. Worklogix is actively developing applications and excited about the opportunities here with the future HANA marketplace (think Apple’s App Store but for SAP).
In my opnion, HANA (as a database) is a distraction to HCM customers. Yes, SuccessFactors would like to dump its Oracle databases (and soon will), but we need to focus on the platform HANA so that customers and partners can develop apps on. This has been articulated by Vishal and Hasso as well, but hasn’t reached most customers yet. My hope is that this eco-system ramps up like salesforce.com has done.
Can we crack the User Experience nut? Most hybrid customers have two (if not three or four) portals by the time they implement SuccessFactors. How will we truly make the user experience seamless? This is an area I have a lot passion in, as I have worked with employee, manager and HR self service since 1998 when I was a wee lad at Price Waterhouse. We cannot be in the business of building and supporting “Frankenstein” portals (my term). However, the reality is that we need to support customers with their own internal realities. (For example, many customers will have to make sense of how their intranet, SharePoint, NetWeaver, and SuccessFactors sites/portals all come together). This isn’t new but is becoming a pervasive issue as we venture into hybrid customers adding SuccessFactors into the mix. Putting simple (and single) sign on aside, we still need to team together to figure out how this all will be transparent to the end user.
Access control (security authorizations) is a major pain point for hybrid customers. Since authorizations won’t (and can’t) magically port over from SAP to SuccessFactors (or vice versa), we need to put this at the top of our list during design sessions. Especially with customers using complex structural authorizations (including context-sensitive structural authorizations). This will be – GULP – a big area for SIs and customers to work out together.
Mobility, mobility, mobility! Should I say it again: mobility! I don’t need to mention how important this area is for SAP HCM / SuccessFactors in order to keep up with customer demand as well as the competition’s offerings. How to offer one customer-facing (i.e., employee-facing) mobile app (or apps?) will be a challenge, and will be huge over the next 5 years. If/when SuccessFactors will go device-agnostic (e.g., HTML5) is to be determined. (Secondary question: how does SAP Fiori come into play here – if it even does?). Mobility is another passion of mine, and one that I will speak on during next year’s HR2014 conference. Here are the session details.
Proxy functionality needs to be killer. In fact, I will call proxy (or delegation) management the third (or fourth?) killer app (this is self-proclaimed, but where can I copyright this???). SuccessFactors has done a nice job with proxy management. You can both manage proxy assignments, as well as use the proxy functionality easily within the tool. Compared to SAP HCM functionality, customers will be enthused. On premise SAP HCM has always struggled with transactional and approval authorization (in part why Worklogix built the Proxy Manager product).
Social collaboration is great, but its benefits are not yet well understood. SAP Jam is a great tool (we use it internally, during our SuccessFactors trainings, as well as to share knowledge within the SAP/ SuccessFactors eco-system), but many customers don’t understand its context in the (corporate) world. They ask: “Why do I need a LinkedIn / Facebook for the enterprise if I have access to LinkedIn and Facebook?” We need to evangelize on the importance and power of team collaboration, especially with video at our disposal. (Can you imagine what the internet would be without YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare, MOOCs, Khan Academy?). SAP has a huge asset with Sameer Patel who I think is doing a great job in this area. You should follow him on Twitter you are not already: @SameerPatel
Being clear with messaging around on premise and cloud innovation will be important for SAP/SuccessFactors. We need to be clear with customers that there is HCM innovation happening in both SAP’s on premise (e.g., SAP Fiori and HR Renewal) and cloud offerings (SuccessFactors, HCP, Jam). This is a good thing for customers, as they move to cloud at their own pace but are still looking for continuous improvement with their current HRIS investment. We know where massive innovation is happening, but we do need to remember that some customers will either never have an option to go to the cloud, or won’t have the opportunity to get there sooner than they wish.
I want to thank SAPInsider for supporting my idea back in February 2013 for this SuccessFactors seminar. It was a huge success and, as always, the events in all three cities were interactive, engaging, and educational for all involved.
Please follow me on Twitter @jeremymasters
Until next time!