Finishing what you start

For more than 10 years I have been vaguely doing a PhD. I think about it a lot, but then don’t actually do real work on it. It gnaws, mocks and taunts me. Something else always gets in the way. For the last 4 years I have been resolutely ignoring the PhD while I focused on leading Employee Central Product and then co-leading SuccessFactors product with Dave Ragones.

I’m proud of the last 4  years. They have been a blast. I’ve given the job my all. Having played a role in growing Employee Central from a handful of customers into a market leader, I feel an enormous sense of satisfaction.  I have repaid the trust and the bet that Lars and Dmitri took on me. My deep affection for our customers and my colleagues is undimmed.

About a month or so ago, SAP hired Amy Wilson to head all of Product at SAP Successfactors. I have known Amy since, gosh, my early Gartner days. She has a remarkable track record in our industry, she is wicked smart and generally a top notch human being.  She is already rocking the gig. Hiring her was a strong move by the SAP leadership.

Amy joining creates space for me to step out of the hurly burly of product management, and focus resolutely on the single KPI of how many words did you write today? I will be enmeshed in footnotes, citations, statistics and bibliography.

SAP’s enlightened HR policies help too.

If all things go to plan, I’ll be back in January. I’ll have finished what I started.

As that mega wise dude Seneca said.

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life.

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Product Management, Hopping and Localization.

(Taking some liberty with the facts).

Imagine for a moment you are the product manager for augmented /autonomous driving at Volvo.  You have got every different type of snow and ice covered.  You have figured out how to find parking at IKEA, at the back of the store where you collect the  Billy Bookcases on the mind of its own trolley. (You even have a stage two feature lined up with a robot that  manoeuvres the IKEA trolley and loads the car for you, but I digress).

You have figured out how to dodge elks, moose and even reindeer, with or without sleds.  Cyclists, well, your Danish colleague has had that figured for a while.

Then someone in head-office has the idea to do a pilot in Australia. So, you get the heat thing figured out, right hand drive,  how to overtake trucks bigger than trains, and you dial back the 14 types of snow requirement for the first release.  But one thing catches you by surprise.

Kangaroos.

Kangaroo

image via http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-40416606

Actually for the last few years Volvo have been filming and analysing Kangaroo movement and behaviour.  It causes havoc with the sensors as the hopping makes measuring distance really difficult.

Turns out that Kanagaroos account for roughly 80% of vehicle/animal collisions in Australia. See  https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/06/volvos-driverless-cars-cant-figure-out-kangaroos/ for more.

So what does this have to do with HR software product management? Well a bit.

  1. It is unlikely that you can gather all the requirements and design the perfect solution in isolation of customer reality. Some big requirement will come along and catch you on the hop. Agile or not, hopping is part of the gig.
  2. Localization requires people on the ground in the country to work out the real details.  I’m reminded of the sculpture of an elephant on the Basel Cathedral (google it).
  3. Australia is complicated. The leave rules and accruals there are the HR equivalent of kangaroos. If anyone ever says, “How hard can calculating leave rules be?”, send them to Australia or New Zealand.  Then wait.

 

 

 

 

 

Stoicism and Product Management

Tim Ferriss has made Stoicism hip and accessible. That is a good thing. I came across Ryan Holiday via Tim’s podcast, and it rekindled a long lost interest in things Greek philosophy. I have quoted liberally from Ryan’s Daily Stoic. Thanks Ryan and Tim. Buy Ryan’s books and read them.

I reckon Epictetus would have been a brilliant product manager.

He understood prioritization.

“Don’t set your heart on so many things,” says Epictetus. Prioritize. Train your mind to ask: Do I need this thing? What will happen if I do not get it? What if it all happens all at once?

He figured out constraints and not stressing about what you can’t control.

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”

He understood that you can’t build it in a day.

“No thing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. “

but he also grokked minimal viable product.

Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake, in little things; and thence proceed to greater.

the power of the open mind.

What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.

The buck stops with you

It is the act of an ill-instructed man to blame others for his own bad condition; it is the act of one who has begun to be instructed, to lay the blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another, nor himself.

And my favourites

And are all profited by what they hear, or only some among them? So that it seems that there is an art of hearing as well as one of speaking

 

Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the max.

Building product, once you get beyond the brain wave stage, really requires customer input. Not all customer input is made equal though. What makes a massive impact is when you find that customer that shares your goals, your vision,and brings that dose of realism and practicality to the party. Treasure those customers. They don’t come around often. I’m enormously grateful for those customers that have played that crucial role in our success to date.

Last year we announced the Klaus Tschira award. I’ve written about this a couple times. Klaus meant a great deal to me. He inspired me early in my career, and his wisdom, kindness, and humility have continued to influence me even today. He was a remarkable man in so many ways.

tschira

So it was really cool today to see Shakti Jauhar and PepsiCo to win the award. It is a pity that Shakti never met Klaus, I reckon they would have got on fabulously.

Our partnership with PepsiCo and Shakti goes back to early bet Shakti took with Lars and the team. Since then Shakti has collaborated, cajoled and coerced us to build Employee Central into a solution capable of handling the largest global processes. Without you and your team, our product would have not become what it is.

It seems appropriate to include a photo of Shakti with Murali. Murali is the lead Product manager on Employee Central, and his partnership with Shakti is the Leitfaden that runs through the heart of the product.
IMG_3418

To Shakti and all the team at PepsiCo, our deepest thanks and gratitude from all of us here at SAP SuccessFactors. We consider you a partner and a friend.

London here we come

Next week is SuccessConnect. I have been to a goodly number of these now. My first one was as an analyst. The event was in Amsterdam. I remember an excellent, if somewhat extended keynote from Lars.

I’m looking forward to being on stage with Dave Ragones. Over the last year or so I have learned more about the management part of product management and getting things done from Dave than I have from anyone in my career.  James Harvey, our Engineering, Operations and Service Delivery head will join us in the keynote too.

We have an awesome line up of customers, and SAP colleagues. And we will be making a special award. The demos will rock, thanks to Abhijit, Martin and Gerald, and the cast supporting them.   A special thanks also to Helen Arnold, who now leads the SAP Data Network. We are working on some funky stuff with Helen’s team that we will chat about and show. There is a buzz at SAP about Leonardo, so we will look at how that will benefit SuccessFactors customers.  But I don’t want to give it all away here.

I will also get to spend time with our new leader of product management and product marketing,  Amy Wilson. I have known Amy for years. She helped build the Workday products into a formidable competitor, and having her lead our team will only make us stronger.  I’m biased, but I don’t think there is a better product team in the HR Tech industry than the one SAP SuccessFactors has assembled. Welcome Amy.

The day one keynote will be led by our own CHRO, Stefan Ries. He is of the staunchest supporters of our product, and he can be our fiercest but fairest critic  too. Our partnership with our own HR department has helped make better product. Thanks Stefan and team.  His keynote is packed to the brim with customers.

With a bit of luck I might even get to say hello to Richard Branson, but that would be a bonus.

The rest of the week will be filled with customer meetings. I think I have at least 14 meetings. The names that were prospects last time are live customers now. I get to hear from them what’s working well and what could be better. I’ll get to bump into many other customers and partners too. I’m especially curious to catch up with extension partners like James from Enterprise Jungle. Extensions are going mainstream. sweet.

My one disappointment is that I don’t get to see the breakout customer sessions. When customers get up and present what they do with our stuff, and we get to see how the software makes their organisations better, it is the best vindication.  My special thanks to those customers like Lionel Safar from Essilor that tell their stories.

The real reason I’m going to London though, is to watch the cricket. India v South Africa at the Oval. Now that will be magnificent. Watching  De Villiers dispatch Ashwin  nonchalantly over the Vauxhall end, or  Kohli’s off stump spiral in the air from a quicker Radaba ball will make my day.  Seeing my colleague and friend Murali’s face when that happens will make my year.

 

 

4 years in.

It was 4 years ago, give or take a day that I joined SuccessFactors to lead Employee Central Product Management.  At times it feels like yesterday, at times it feels like forever.   There are a few things I wish we could do over, but I feel a sense of pride, looking back at how far we have come.  EC now has close to 2000 customers over 16 million users, and is  localized for 82 countries.

I work with remarkable people, and I’m still learning something new everyday.

5 years ago, few people outside SAP SuccessFactors believed that SAP would dare to disrupt itself by building a cloud core HRMS, but we did. I remain emmensely grateful to those early customers that took the bet with us, and to the SAP leadership that backed us.

While we now have more go lives in a week than we did in our first year, I look back in gratitude to the work we did with companies like Timken, Amway, Densply and CEVA.  And telling your 12 year old that Man City uses the product scores lots of “my dad is cool” points.

Product management is picking from the infinite list of market, customer, prospect and executive demands, and applying a finite engineering capacity to that list. The build plan is where all those decisions come together and today is the build plan meeting for 1708. Dave Ragones and I now lead product for all of SuccessFactors, and thanks in the main to Dave’s precision and relentless Kaizen mindset, every build plan is tighter.  Doing this at scale is hard, but thrilling. If both sales and engineeting are equally unhappy, it means we are on the right track.

SAP’s ability to disrupt itself continues to impress me.  Yesterday I spoke to the German User Group, I was stunned how quickly the German SucccessFactors user group has grown. Customer after customer stood up and introduced their projects. From the middelstand to the big globals, I kept hearing we are live, or we are implementing this new feature.

This morning I had a breakfast session with the QA leadership. Quality engineers and testing experts are so vital to successful cloud computing.  This meeting reminded me that I need to spend more time listening to them.

I also caught up with the PM looking after our new org management solution. As a german colleague said, this thing is geil, saugeil.

We get to stand on stage at SuccessConnect in a couple of weeks to showcase our progress, but we stand on the shoulders of our customers, our colleagues and our partners.  It sounds corny, but it’s true.

Next week I’m at Sapphire, and I’m looking forward to catching up with customers, partners and colleagues. If you are there, and would to meet, ping my via your favourite communication mechanism, and I try and make a plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A conference, cupcakes, and a sprinkle of serendipity.

Last week I was at the HR Tech Europe Conference. A mighty fine event, although I spent most of it in a meeting room. I did escape for 20 minutes to present with Simon Bouchez on our new Work Connect solution, Business Beyond Bias, and the cool mobile stuff we are doing with Apple. As always, these events are an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and customers old and new.  Marc Coleman and team run a top notch show.

Having Serco and BAE Systems speak at the event was excellent. Customers make the best story tellers.  Seeing the digital boardroom in action on our stand was pretty neat too. Watching customers and prospects reactions to the product demos is illuminating.  Continous Performance Management, Mentoring, the New Org Chart all got lots of smiles. Our products have come a long way since I was last at this event in London.  I bumped into several partners, all eager to tell me about go lives, and things they need us to build. Our ecosystem is thriving. Thanks also to ATK for the after party.

Sometimes twitter has a lovely serendipitous juxtaposition of tweets. Other times it is plain weird. As I was boarding the flight back home, I noticed this pairing.

live

Shakti from PepsiCo and Chris Paine, a partner (Discovery)  in Australia celebrating go lives. Chris pinged me later, and we briefly chatted about how he took two Aussie companies live on EC and other modules, with deep SAP ERP integration. Chris, next time I’d like a cupcake too.

We hit another milestone the other day. We had 2 million log ons in a day. All in all, a good week.