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.