HR application reality with some customers

In my little echozone here, I have perhaps been guilty of focusing too much on the Sapphire announcements and general SAP navel gazing.  I thought I'd redress that balance and blog about an HCM conference I attended this week. I  think I was the only blogger there, so no echo…

Thomas Cook, a conference organiser arranged conference focusing on SAP HCM (HR to most people) I was lucky enough to attend and get to kick things off.  I saw most of the presentations, except for the odd conf call interuption.

I talked about ERP 2004-2005 and life in general. I tested out the recent sapphire pitch on the audience and they seemed to survive, at least no-one left. The key themes I covered were the enhancements in talent management, BPO, shared services and Analytics. there is a big interest in upgrading, but users really want to see the FUNCTIONALITY ENHANCEMENTS before they push for it.  At SAP we need to be careful that we dont get too techie with all this SOA business and forget to mention the product. HR folks dont really get excited about how netweaver will change the world and whatever. But the new succession planning stuff seemed to go down particularly well. ( a comment in the coffee break was why did it take so long to build it if all this netweaver stuff is so easy to develop with? I didnt have an answer.)

Graham White, the Head of HR at Surrey County Council was up next.  I have known Graham for a couple of years now. He is passionate about HR and the need for it to change. He is not afraid to tell it like it is.  If you ever get the chance listen to him jump at it.  He is a fantastic speaker, witty, motivational and deeply knowledgeable. He is an HR guy who gets technology. We need more of those. I'm also amazed at the IT -HR innovation in the UK public sector. Over the past couple of years, they have done lots. I think in many cases, surpasing the private sector. (especially with e-HR and shared services) Surrey has a well-oiled self and shared services model.

Deutsche Telecom's t-com division has large implementation of SAP's Learning solution, for about 80,000 employees. Winfried Kohne, the project manager took us through the project. this is an ultra-competitive space, the the ability to get staff upto speed on new devices etc is key to success. The learning solution plays a big role in this at t-com. Winfried is not an IT guy, but a pyschologist. He said "this is an ideal background for an SAP project lead."  Everyone agreed.

At lunch I talked with some folks from GNER, a UK rail operator, I'm going to put them in touch with some other rail users, including the South African railways (spoornet) who have done some interesting stuff on staff rostering.  (Rail is really complex, and often fraught with legacy contracts and so on. I heard of one railway company who is stuck with some terms and conditions that include different salary rates for uphill and downhill journeys. This is a legacy from the days of steam, when the stokers had to work much harder on uphills. and yes, SAP handled it…..without new code)

Martyn Redfearn is from the West Yorkshire Fire Service. He is a former fireman, and spoke of how the HR system is supporting the fire brigade. The project has just gone live, so to be able to attend a conference implies that there were no go-live fires to be dealt with. The fire services are ungoing significant modernisation, and West Yorkshire is leading the UK, it seems. Managing people information is key to a better service. Serious business. They fitted 70,000 smoke alarms last year, and a lot of what they do is about prevention, not just putting out the fires.

The AA is the biggest car repair service in the UK, and Lewis Jones covered how the AA use SAP finance and HR in a tightly integrated fashion, he also discussed how vital knowledge management is for the customer care quality and for the job satisfaction of the mechanics. When a mechanic finds a new way to fis something, it gets posted on the KM system. There is a lot of peer recognition for this. Managing HR issues for people on the road is tough, but the AA have it well undercontrol it seems. Strong shared services model, supported by a world class call centre.

instead of going to the gym I had a beer with the guys from ADP. they are really lining up to push the globalview story, so the BPO space is in for a big shock. I also caught up with Sarah Nehring from Epiuse, she ran a major project at BMW till recently. Epi-use is a focused SAP HR partner, they stared in south Africa, and now have over 300 people globally focused on SAP HR. Check them out, they have some great add-on tools too.

the next day, I was planning to listen to a colleague present, but he had some lame excuse like a customer escalation, so he called me in a panic and asked me to present instead. I stupidly agreed before having seen the slides he was planning to use. Instead of using  110 slides he sent me I decided to present in more detail about SAP's HR BI offering and how to make the most out of analytical information. I showed the youtube clip about ABAP JEDIs to start the day. It is good to show that developers are people too. not sure that the onevoice police would agree though.

The analytics bit generated a lot of good discussion. There are greater demands now then ever before to do better BI, but lots of HR folks dont know where to start.

Siemens presented what they are doing with HR shared services. This is an awesome story. They have moved all the HR adminstrative processes for 170,000 employees to a shared service model, suppported by SAP HCM and SAP CRM (for the employee interaction center.) The really interesting bit is how they have broken down the HR activities into clearly defined service units. These can be priced and measured objectively. This makes for a strong process centric model of HR service delivery. I plan to go and see this in action soon, so more details will follow then.

In the afternoon, I unfortunately had to miss the session on BW at the BG group and the BW workshop, but it seems that analytics is on the minds of our customers at the moment. The message I get is that most customers have a solid core system in place, and they are now looking for ways to get more out of it. Analytics is a good place to start this. I have had quite a few emails today asking for more info on the HR analytics features in ERP 2005, and what can be done with earlier releases.

the conference finished off with a Duet presentation and Demo from an SAP colleague. I decided to slip out at that stage and dash to the airport to stock up on english children's books.

It is good to listen and talk to customers who are using our software. I learn lots from hearing about their issues and innovations. Often when I was asked a question I would answer it, and then some other customer would have a better answer.

Thanks again to Thomas for inviting me.

5 thoughts on “HR application reality with some customers”

  1. “why did it take so long to build it if all this netweaver stuff is so easy to develop with?”

    Because the developers were all busy supporting all of the releases back to 3.1i while simultaneously porting the new stuff to the latest NetWeaver stack.

    Something few customers or software professionals realize is that even as the main codebases stabilize, legal changes cause even the old releases still under support to be expensive to maintain. So, where an old CRM or supply chain module doesn’t need maintenance once it is stable, HR software often needs to be refactored due to legal changes over and over again. We call this “preload” – the customers call it slower and slower development cycles.

  2. I think he would have responded, “but that’s why I pay maintenance.”
    In sales we compete with nimble vendors with cool tools who dont have the “hassle” of lots of customers running their businesses on our applications. It is easy for those guys to seem “quick and responsive” for the reasons you pointed out, but what happens once they have 500 customers? They too get bogged down, but they often dont have the strategies in place to manage new developments and maintenance. Just look at the e-recruiting melt down of the last couple of years.

    We could always be better at getting the balance right, but that maintenance work is key for our long term growth.

    Doing global HR is a tough business.

  3. I would agree with the customer to a degree. To a degree.

    What is the definition of maintenance? I think that we call agree that compliance of existing applications should be covered under support. What happens, however, when new functionality is developed to address something which was previously out of scope? The question then becomes, is backporting new innovations maintenance? Every time the answer is “yes” it removes a feature from the current product under development.

  4. Pingback: cool site
  5. The best way to make the culture of SAP HCM is to be implemented smoothly is through successful education and advocating to stakeholders normal logical reason of having such system.Ot in other words, make them IT savvy. Be it in the HR deprtment themselves, Finance and everyone else who would be involved in the process. Well, at least thats what we deduct from our research.

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