3 years in, 12 releases and Sapphire.

I joined SuccessFactors just before Sapphire in 2013. The 1305 release was pretty much baked, and I spent the first few weeks getting to know my new colleagues, and reconnect with those that I had known from my earlier times at SAP. Moving from talking about software as an analyst to being responsible for making sure SAP SuccessFactors built the right stuff was a steep learning curve, and one that I’m still on. I learn new stuff every day, and my curiosity has not been sated. I continue to make lots of mistakes, but hopefully not the same ones. I’m lucky to be surrounded by clever, determined and open minded people. That makes my job a lot easier.

At times it feels like yesterday, sometimes it feels like a century ago. Since the 1305 release, we have shipped the best part of 6000 enhancements. Some large, some small. Most of what we have built, we built it by listening to customers. This week, before Sapphire, we finalizing the 1608 build plan. The scope and scale of the build plan is far bigger than it was 3 years,ago and we continue to Kaizen (is that allowed as a verb?) the process, but we ask ourselves the same questions. Who are we building this for? Why? How can we simplify it, how can we make it easy to deploy?

As I was writing this post, I reflected back on what I wrote when I left Gartner, and I’m pleased to report that my expectations have been met. Over the last three years there have been many highlights. I think of sharing the stage with Plan, one of the world’s leading charities, or EC hitting the 1000 customer mark, the Brook Brothers moment, or seeing the next generation of leaders develop in product management team.

This year at Sapphire I’m looking forward to meeting partners,colleagues and prospects. We have a number of exciting announcements on the product side, and there is one in particular that I’m very excited about. More than that though, catching up with live customers is what makes these events worthwhile. Seeing Woolworths Australia, Timken, PepsiCo and several others on stage will make the trip to Florida all the more worthwhile.

There are many sessions going on, have a look here.

Some of the session descriptions a tad cryptic, but if you read the session details you will able to pick out the ones that work for you.

If you want to meet up at Sapphire, work through your account manager to set up a meeting, or ping me directly.

Employee Central Momentum

I had been meaning to write about EC momentum for a little while, and the press releases this week makes this week as good as any to do. Here is the juicy bit from today’s earnings announcement.

Human Capital Management Shows Strong Momentum

Customers are increasingly turning to SAP to manage their global workforce, both permanent and flexible. The customer count for SuccessFactorsEmployee Central, which is the core of our Human Capital Management offerings, surpassed 1,000 for the first time in the fourth quarter. SAP is winning against its key HCM competitors, especially in markets outside of the United States. For example, Lufthansa selected SAP SuccessFactors. SAP’s innovations in HCM will further increase SAP’s differentiation and drive market share gains.

Over a year ago, I wrote about the trajectory EC is on (Thank goodness for spellcheck, as trajectory remains a very awkward word to spell). 1000 customers. Sweet.

I’m writing this on way back from the sales kick off in Barcelona. It was fun meeting up with a bunch of happy and fired up sales folks and partners. I heard about successes in UK, Russia, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Portugal, Switzerland, and the UAE is totally rocking. Belgium too. It was especially nice to see the SAP South Africa gang. I’m expecting a gangbusters year from them.

The feedback on roadmap was gratifying, and it helped vindicate a couple of decisions we made last month. After a couple of days of tapas and sunshine, it is time to head back to Germany and focus back on the build plan for 1605 and 1608.

This morning on the plane, I thought about some of the EC customers that impacted my day in some way.

The coffee/s I drank, the toothpaste I used, my shaving stuff, the shower and sink manufacturer, my socks, my shoes, my jacket, the weather app I checked on, the phone network, the lenses in my glasses, the fridge in the hotel room, my briefcase, the elevator I took to the lobby, the tyres on the taxi that took me to the airport, the fizzy water I drank, the football boots worn by the dude that scored the goal in the Spanish league last night, the bolt holding up the roof in airport terminal, the yoghurt I had for breakfast, the shop I bought it in, airline that is flying me home, the satellite guiding it, the seat I’m sitting on, the publisher of the book I’ve just finished reading, and the maker of the guitar that David Bowie* played on the single I’m listening to as I write this. All of these companies run EC.

While it is great that the SAP press department has called out EC’s success in the press release and EC has featured prominently in the last couple of earnings calls, I’d like the mention the successes we are having with the other SuccessFactors products.

Onboarding is the fastest growing product in the portfolio, and has smashed every expectation. The feedback from the early adopters of intelligent services and the integration center is very encouraging. The multiposting acquisition is already gelling. I’m fired up to work with Simon and his team. More than ever, I’m convinced that we have the right approach and mix of organic and acquired innovation.

In the hotel in Barcelona last night I caught up with a start up partner, Enterprise Jungle. The CEO took a very early big bet on SuccessFactors extensibility with MDF and the HANA Cloud Platform, it was lovely to hear how that is now paying off. He explained how they are building a specialized offline and mobile performance management application with HCP for airline pilots to use, it enables them to rate the crew and other colleagues, then automatically syncs up with EC, Talent and even CRM. I also heard from Benefitfocus, Workforce Software and Docusign about the strong progress we are making together.

A few years ago, the early adopter customers helped us get this product off the ground. To all my colleagues, whether at SAP Successfactors or in the partner community, thanks for your dedication. You should be proud of what you have accomplished. More than anything, it is by listening to and learning from customers that we have achieved this milestone. There is still lots to do, but the trajectory remains on track.

 

*So long Ziggy Stardust, you made the world a better place. For Bowie fans, have a listen to this.

All Blacks, Presence and Kaizen.

At SuccessConnect in Rome this week, I got to see an excellent presentation by the Harvard Prof, Amy Cuddy. Check out a version of the talk here . Fascinating stuff about the body language and how to use the postive reinforcement of good posture. I learnt loads. thanks Amy.

Amy showed a video of the All Black Haka from the 2011 World Cup final. It is  a very powerful expression of barely controlled aggression.

The Haka is delivered with precision, prowess,  power and passion. It feels as if the might and will of the whole New Zealand nation is channeled through the dance.  It seems seeped in a deep tradition.

Let’s step back 4o years or so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment I’ll cherish.

Loyal readers of my personal blog may remember in my distant past I ran a fashion blog called DFOF (dedicated followers of fashion) with a couple of friends. As with many blogs, it was fun while it lasted.

This week at SuccessConnect my interest in fashion and my day job came to together in a rather special way.

I moderated a panel with 4 live, happy Employee Central customers discussing global HR. They discussed their projects and implementations, successes and so on, answering questions from the audience. Having Nitin from Boston Scientific, Judith from Amway, Justin from Brooks Brothers and Jermaine from Edgewell (Energizer) showcasing EC and other SF products was pretty neat.  We had a full room of over 200 people. I asked  questions, and passed a microphone around, and just listened to them saying great things about our products. Seeing the genuine belief that these customers have in our solutions was simply lovely. There is nothing better than customers telling their stories.

But the magic moment for me was not in the panel, it was just afterwards.

The day before flying to Vegas I went into the Brooks Brothers shop in Philly on Walnut street, and bought a shirt to wear on the panel, partly to help open the discussion, but also because I like an excuse for a bit of retail therapy, state of the Euro notwithstanding. Justin from Brooks Brothers was rather pleased that I had splashed out, and asked me how the shopping experience was. I had brilliant service in the store, in fact, I bought two shirts, not one. He then asked me to remember who had served me. I couldn’t remember his name, as I’m rubbish at remembering names, but quick as a flash, Justin clicked on the SF app on his phone, opened the org chart and drilled down to the photo and found the store employee. He gave him kudos immediately, almost before I finished my sentence.

With 2 or 3 clicks, probably without realising it, Justin had proven, in action, precisely what we are trying to achieve with our products. This wasn’t just about EC, it was about mobile, EC, platform and talent all working together. Without our software that feedback would have been lost. Without the mobile org chart, Justin wouldn’t have been able to get to the info. Without EC, he wouldn’t have known precisely who was working the store. Without Talent  he wouldn’t have been able to do the kudos, and quickly let the store manager and regional manager know.

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This really made my day. I look forward to talking further with Justin, about how technology can make HR more human, but more importantly, I’d like to mourn the demise of the tie in corporate attire, and figure out to destroy the evil that is business casual.

A fitting farewell to a remarkable man.

Yesterday I attended the memorial for Klaus Tschira, the SAP founder, who died suddenly on the 21st March. It was a fitting tribute to a brilliant, modest and kind man. Thank you to the team that organized it. All the speeches were very moving, and the SAP Symphony performance was very fitting. The  local paper covered it here.

My thoughts are with his family.

Bill McDerrmott asked several of us to contribute our reminisces for his speech, and I thought I’d share what I sent him here. Thankyou Bill, for delivering them so poignantly.

When one reviews the press obituaries for Klaus, they rightly mention the enormous financial and personal investment he made into science and science education. My kids go to a school where the science lab is funded by his foundation and largesse. His impact on research over the last 20 years has been profound, spanning core math, computer science, life sciences, physics and astronomy research . Klaus has helped 1000s of children and adults understand our world better. That is an immense legacy, and he will be remembered as one of Germany’s greatest philanthropists.  As a parent, I’m grateful for what Klaus has done for science education.

My personal relationship with Klaus highlights a different side of the man. I first joined SAP in South Africa in 1995, working on the HR product, and I was  sent to Walldorf for training.   I met Klaus in a meeting and I was totally captivated by his vision for how SAP technology  could revolutionise HR and business, and he listened intently to my rather naive views on HR systems. He took me aside, and together with Steve Lamy, he suggested that I move to Germany.  Klaus’ vision for HR technology remains the lodestone upon which SAP built the leading HR solution in the world. It is as relevant then as it is today. He understood the power of globalisation, and more than anyone else, he grasped the power of integration. I remember him saying the goal of the HR system should be to help the business run better. Make plants safer, have the right people, with the right skills in the right place, and  use technology to help managers and employees do a better job.The payroll that he built still pays more people in the world in more countries than any other solution.

I worked for a short while as Klaus’ assistant before he retired. I stayed in contact with Klaus, occasionally visiting him in Villa Bosch.  He was a crime fiction fan, and I fondly remember introducing him to the works of Elizabeth George. Klaus had a wicked sense of humour and word play, and a whimsical taste in sculpture and ties. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of science,  he was fascinated by languages, and he was an avid collector of facts of all varieties. He had an insatiable curiosity, but he had no interest in cars, or sport.

Before his focus on HR technology, Klaus played a fundamental role in developing ABAP, so his impact is much broader than just as the inventor of SAP HR. Klaus was a mentor and friend to many. He inspired love and loyalty in those that worked with and for him. He will be missed by many, and the HR technology community has lost a giant, but his vision and ideals remain an inspiration.

My colleague, Andreas Elkeles, said it best, though. Here are some of his comments.

I met Klaus the first time in 1988. I was a young university graduate and went to CEBIT to look for a job. I knew that SAP was my favorite so I went to the SAP booth and asked to speak with a recruiter.  Luck meant, that Klaus was the recruiter in charge for the next available slot.  I introduced myself and found an easy connection with Klaus. No idea had I that I was talking with one of the company’s  founders. Klaus asked me whether I would mind to work in development for the HCM module (it was called RP in those days), and the rest became history. One of my first tasks was to take over a program Klaus had written in one of those weekend coding exercises. It was the program which managed the integration between payroll and financials, then called RPRIBU00. I was amazed how clearly the program was structured,  how elegantly it was programed. And Klaus was actually inserting practical jokes into the program documentation. I am using the analogy of Mozart composing  a piece of music with the same amount of time other people would take to play the same piece of  music. In a way Klaus was like a Mozart in software development.  I know that Klaus loved music, so he probably would like this analogy.

The Mozart clarinet concerto in A, 2nd Movement has always been one of my favourite pieces of music. Now, every time I hear it I will think of Klaus. Here it is, performed by Martin Fröst.

A charity ride for Autism.

Every couple of years I like to do something dumb on a bicycle. Ride over the Alps or the Rockies or similar, and I usually combine it with raising a bit of money for charity.  I have not figured out why me riding somewhere makes people reach for their wallets, but as it works, I don’t plan to knock it.

This year I signed up for the the Rapha Manchester to London ride on. It is rather long. 220 Miles, which is over 300 kms, in one day.  We are raising money for Ambitious about Autism.

Autism care and research could do with a lot more attention, so hopefully this helps.

Some background

Rapha’s Manchester to London Challenge is a unique one-day event travelling through the heart of the UK. Setting off at dawn from Manchester Velodrome, each rider will attempt to complete the 220-mile parcours before midnight, arriving at the Lee Valley VeloPark on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. A tough day out for even the most seasoned sportive riders, this will be a celebration of British cycling and culture.

Held on Sunday the 7th September, the route will travel along quiet roads through the Peak District, the Midlands, the Chiltern Hills and across to east London. There will be four feed stops along the route, positioned in quintessentially British villages serving local fare. There will also be roaming mechanical support, but self-sufficiency will be key.

After the success of the Bordeaux-Paris Challenge in 2013, the aim again is to raise money for Ambitious about Autism. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects 1 in 100 people and the charity is one close to Rapha CEO and founder Simon Mottram, whose son Oscar has autism.

I’ll be riding together with my wife’s cousin, James Hart.

Should be fun and pain. I would appreciate your hard earned cash. So head over here and sponsor me please.

I also need to get training. eek.

This also fits in rather nicely with what my employer, SAP,  is up to, with regards to employing people with Autism.

 

 

 

Bringing the Hack into HRMS

I’ve not blogged or written for a while, but I figured it was time to start again. No promises on the regularity of posting appearance. I’m not a comet. 

Deliberate, consistent customer engagement drives most product enhancements. There is a profound skill in listening to a specific customer need, and turning it into a design that solves not only that customer’s need, but that of other customers too.  This is why product managers should spend lots of time talking with and listening to customers and prospects.  This is partly why I’m on first name terms with most of Lufthansa.

However, it is important to remember customers are not the only source of ideas. Listening to your own engineers is fundamental too. In the rush to be customer centric, it is easy to ignore the innovative ideas from your engineers. 

 I’m looking forward to SAP D-Code. 

We need to celebrate the maker,  as my mate James Governor puts ii. That is in essence what the D-code event will be all about. I’ll be attending the German event, at the sport arena, and then on campus.  There are other events across the world. (Bangalore, Shanghai, Palo Alto…)

At FKOM in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, I renewed my respect for the scale of the SAP sales machine, but engineering is what makes SAP what it is.  

Some of the engineers I work with will be demoing stuff they are proud of to a massive audience of their peers.  While over the years I have grown comfortable and vaguely competent at talking to a large audience, I know it takes a lot of courage for those not used to it, often in a second or third language, to get up and present. 

Having played a bit with a PI Raspberry over the holidays, I saw the moment of magic when my kids actually figured out how a computer really works. That instant when the command line becomes a gateway to something special. Code is cool. 

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While D-code is about the broader SAP engineering community, I think it is also important to foster innovation and experimentation on a smaller scale. SuccessFactors has a strong tradition of internal Hack days and demo jams in our San Francisco office, and we are doing the same in a couple of weeks time in Heidelberg. We are bringing together the engineers from the cloud team and the on-prem team. I’m really looking forward to see what comes out of this. We are taking this seriously, as we have roped in the best demo jam MC in the world, Craig Cmehil, and are making use of the the new ultra-hip Apphaus in Heidelberg (I sense there is a subtle homage to Walter Gropius in the Apphaus name, but I’ll explore that another day). 

I hope to see many of my engineering colleagues at the event. It will be a lot of fun, and I fully expect that the ideas that emerge will be finding their way to customers soon. 

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