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.

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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HR Tech conference. In Vegas.

Hello all,

Yep, it will soon be time for that HR tech thing again, October 7-9. Vegas nochmals. I reckon I’ll be there, just not as a speaker, now that I’m on the vendor side of things. Bill runs a fine show, and as this is his last one before retirement, I’m looking forward to him buying me a drink for the first time ever. 

Just use the Promo Code OTTER13 (all caps) when you register online www.HRTechConference.com<http://www.HRTechConference.com> to get $500 off the rack rate of $1,895. The discount does not expire until the conference ends on Oct. 9.”

SuccessConnect starts directly after HR Tech, also in Vegas. So no excuses.

 

 

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Today is my last day at Gartner.

Today is my last day at Gartner.

The last 5 1/2 years have flown by. I have learnt more than I imagined I could, and probably forgotten more too. I’ve done over 3000 inquiries, written over 100 research notes, led several magic quadrants, attended 100s of Research communities, spoke at numerous conferences and strategy days.  I’ve worked with fascinating colleagues, users and vendors from around the world.  I consider many of them to be friends, even though we have met so rarely in person.

It has been a blast, and I will look upon my time at Gartner with a deep fondness.  The way Gartner has handled my departure only increases my respect for the organization.  I expect to see Gartner’s HCM research grow from strength to strength.

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5 years of conferences.
So if it has been so good, why change?  As an analyst, you advise, you can suggest and you may even influence markets. That influence gave me a tremendous sense of satisfaction and respect for the responsibility that the role brings. But for the past few months I’d begun to wonder whether I wanted to remain an analyst for the rest of my career or not. I wasn’t really sure, but I felt a nagging itch. It took a while, but I have figured out what that itch is. It is the itch to build something.
This weekend I will be getting on a plane to Sapphire, the SAP annual conference,  not as a Gartner analyst, but as a SuccessFactors employee. I’m going to be the product manager for Employee Central. You can see the welcoming press release here.
I’m nervous, as I will need to learn a whole new raft of skills. I’m excited for the very same reasons.
Some of you reading this will know that I worked for SAP before joining Gartner, so you may be wondering why join SuccessFactors, which is part of SAP?  Here are my reasons.
  1. I reckon this is the most exciting job at the most exciting company  in HCM technology today.
  2. More broadly, HCM technology is the most dynamic place in application software now. What happens in HCM today will shape enterprise applications for the next 20 years. The investment, focus and market landscape is fundamentally different from where it was 5 years ago.
  3. Successfactors very rapidly developed a market leadership position in Talent Management software, and they have the opportunity to do the same in cloud core HRMS. Combining SAP’s deep experience and massive presence  in core HRMS and Successfactors will make for a powerful combination.  I think I can help make them work better together.  I understand  some of SAP’s strengths and weaknesses, its culture and how to get things done.
  4. There is no better salesforce in enterprise software. When aligned, is remarkable.
  5. The leadership team at SuccessFactors and SAP have very clear idea of what they would like me to do. I have seen too many analysts be hired into strategy roles, and then whither on the vine of large vendor politics. It is crystal clear that my fundamental job is to lead the team building Employee Central. This will be a massive challenge. I look forward to the learning curve.
  6.  In the 1995 Klaus Tschira, one of the SAP founders, impressed me so much with his vision for HR technology that  I convinced my wife that we needed to move to Germany. There is much in that vision that still needs to be built, so in a sense I have unfinished business with SAP.
My day today is tinged with feelings of farewell, but I can’t wait to start my new role .
To my colleagues at Gartner, I’ll reiterate my thanks for 5 fabulous years.
To my new colleagues at SuccessFactors and  SAP, thanks for the lovely welcome.

Back to the Future.

Jim and I published a first take on the SuccessFactors deal with Siemens. Gartner clients see Siemens to Provide Important SaaS Talent Management Test Case (G00168920), 15-JUN-2009.

Last week I suddenly felt like one of those people you meet in IT who keep telling you that computing hasn’t really changed since punchcards or Fortran, and that everything just repeats itself. Either that, or I had stumbled upon the flux capacitor. I shuddered briefly.

Let me explain myself.

Just after I joined SAP in the mid-nineties, PeopleSoft won a significant deal at Siemens. This really shook SAP up, and led to significant investment in the HR part of R/3, especially for the global market.

Then PeopleSoft stumbled, sucked into the joyous complexity of German payroll.

A few years later, SAP won back large parts of the account. I didn’t really realise it at the time, but SAP was pretty agile in its response to the loss. It had long term positive benefits for SAP’s HR product.

At first sight this month’s win for SuccessFactors seems remarkably similar.

But history doesn’t always come around the same way. For history to repeat itself here, three things need to happen:

1. SuccessFactors stumbles.

2. SAP delivers a comparable offering via SaaS

3. SAP convinces Siemens to change back.

SuccessFactors today is more globally aware than PeopleSoft was in the mid-nineties, and it has the chance to learn from history. It has a broad European customer base, and well established operations here. It is also steering clear of German payroll.

In the mid-nineties, R/3 was already on the way to dominating the client/server ERP market. Today SAP is dabbling with SaaS in various forms, but I do wonder if it will react to this with the same agility and focus that it did back then. Also, the Siemens of today is different from the Siemens then.

Earlier this year I wrote a note about the SAP German HR congress ( Gartner clients see) Observations From SAP’s German HR Congress (G00165965), 06-MAR-2009 One of the things I said was.

“German organizations are in a good position. SAP perceives that it has significant competition in the talent management space and is strengthening its products, while best-of-breed vendors see an opportunity to gain an increased foothold in the market. There is nothing like a DAX 30 company selecting a best-of-breed vendor to focus the minds of SAP management and its development organization, as no organization likes to lose at home.

We will be watching with interest.