The Roadmap – Or is it a mirage?
When I walked out of the SAP Insider HR 2014 conference last year, my experience was two headed – one as an exhibitor and the other as an SAP HR practitioner. As an exhibitor, it was probably the worst conference we had done (won’t use this blogpost to discuss the reasons but there were perhaps many). And as an HR practitioner, the conference was a bit deflating in some ways. The mixed message that was being sent left everyone a bit confused (putting it mildly). SAP reconfirmed that SuccessFactors was here to stay but they just couldn’t guide its customers in the most practical way to get them buy that message and also make sense of what that means for them.
Fast Forward One Year.
The SAP HR leadership came out all guns blazing this year (or so it seemed like) with the message that they have figured out a roadmap. And there indeed is one. And only one. Well sort of…And all customers should get on board with it and the final destination will be CLOUD. To me that was the best thing to have come out of the conference. A unified message. Unlike the previous year’s. I say that with a super script note that there was also this other message that floated around during the conference that the on-premise support is going to be available till 2025.
Yes. For another 10 years. Which has already been assured by SAP.
Even though this message sort of dilutes the potency of the former message in many regards, this is also reassuring to many large customers who haven’t looked at SuccessFactors as a potential HR system yet but have much rather treated SuccessFactors for what it originally was – a Talent Management system. So knowing that SAP is already promising them another 10 years of on-premise support, they are under no pressure to evaluate a cloud system, even though the supposed roadmap provided by SAP leads them to cloud at some point in future.
Ha. I see what you are thinking. A Roadmap shrouded in a cloud of ambiguity.
No pun intended.
Personally I was also keen to learn a thing or two about Employee Central Payroll which finally has taken some shape compared to where they were in 2014. I attended a session on Employee Central Payroll hosted by Graham Wong, CEO of HRFP, a leading HR focused SAP consulting firm. HRFP has had the unique opportunity to be one of the early adopters of ECP and they have implemented the solution internally.
Nothing better than a bunch of veteran, platinum SAP HR consultants getting their hands dirty and sharing their experiences. Right? The session was one of the very few unbiased and no-sales-pitchy sessions.
My biggest takeaway on this topic (and from this session) was that it is going to take more than a working product to convince customers to develop a business case to justify a switch from an on-premise SAP Payroll to ECP.
I personally don’t see this is as an easy task at all. It also is why SAP may be taking an extremely cautious approach in figuring out how to package their message for this solution in contrast to how they did for Employee Central. I don’t see SAP placing their bets fully on ECP as yet. If ECP is eventually successful, it will likely be with brand new clients, who buy Employee Central because they want a cloud HR cloud solution and they are the ones who would rather outsource their payroll to a cloud based provider. ECP fits right in as the perfect solution for such customers. But then we are talking about a totally different market. Non-SAP for all practical purposes.
The core of ECP is SAP’s payroll engine and hence should be reassuring to all those who want to question the robustness of ECP. But because it is a disjoint payroll system (not unified like SAP HR/Payroll) – there still are many loose ends to be tied, especially when it comes to Benefits and Time integration. May be they never will get tied, if SAP decides to target ECP to the above category of customers who are better fit for this product.
Cogent IBS didn’t have a booth this year, but we extended our support to Ingentis, who had a booth on the exhibition floor. Our overall experience as an exhibitor was much better than last year’s. To quote an Ingentis colleague, “100 times better”. The expo hall seemed to have shrunk in size (and in the number of exhibitors) and this may have helped us a bit. We were one of the very few (two or three) product companies on the floor. The real test on our ROI for the conference will be when we qualify the leads we got out of the conference.
As I sit on the plane typing this post and reminisce over the past few days at HR 2015, I have mixed thoughts..
As much as networking with past customers, colleagues, partners and friends was refreshing, energizing and rewarding, as it always is, I continue to wonder if SAP has managed to convince its customers what their HR solution roadmap should be?
Or is it a mirage?