Sunday, September 29, 2013

Steal Like An Artist

I went to the Books Inc book shop in downtown Mountain View today and bought  the book "Steal Like An Artist" by Austin Kleon. Austin talks about the 10 things you could do to unlock your creativity. I highly recommend this book to every product person who is trying to build a new product, feature or a company. This book is also good career advice for all of us in the technology business.

Friday, September 27, 2013

HR Generalists Have A Friend In Employee Central

In the upcoming SuccessFactors Seminar series, there is a session on SuccessFactors Solution Overview. For that session, I have invited my colleagues Darrell Lew and Joe Chance to tell the Employee Central Story from the HR Generalist's point of view. Since I am a big fan of putting the person in the middle for all stories, we decided to tell the Employee Central Administration story from the point of view of a person. We will tell the story from the point of view of an HR Generalist, who sometimes plays the role of an administrator.

The HR Generalist gets requests to help on strategic projects as well as tactical tasks. He or she needs to juggle the tactical tasks while keeping an eye on strategic priorities. The designers of Employee Central and the SuccessFactors Talent Solutions Suite understand this and have built the system to meet these needs.

I sketched the trailer for the story today. Plan to build the scenes in the story in the coming days. I have seen Darrell tell the Employee Central story to HR Generalists. They usually like the product very much.

SAP HCM Functional Consultants Will Benefit From The Metadata Framework

My colleague and friend Darrell Lew and I are delivering a SuccessFactors product overview session as part of the SuccessFactors Seminar series. I called him yesterday to discuss part of the story. He was in Chicago attending a training session on Advanced Employee Central Configuration and the Metadata Framework, which is used to extend Employee Central. Employee Central is SAP's Core HR product in the cloud.

Darrell is an expert in SAP HCM and is also well trained in Employee Central. I respect his opinion a lot because he meets several current and potential Employee Central customers every week and has a good handle on the problems customers and partners are facing.

We were discussing how the metadata framework can be used by SuccessFactors consultants and SAP HCM Functional consultants. Since the MDF is user interface driven, SAP HCM functional consultants who are used to configuring SAP HCM using IMG will feel at home using the meta data framework to extend SuccessFactors Employee Central. The skill to extend Employee Central is a very crucial one for SAP ERP HCM customers who are moving human capital management to the cloud.

While I am excited about the metadata framework, I am even more excited about the fact that thousands of HCM domain experts from SAP and other software providers who are acquiring SuccessFactors knowledge and skills will be able to utilize their deep HCM domain expertise and do some hand-on work to help current SAP ERP HCM customers move their people management software to the cloud.

Where can you learn more about the meta data framework?
1. Read the blog post by my friend and fellow SAP Mentor Luke Marson.
2. Register for an Employee Central Advanced Configuration training program provided by SuccessFactors.
3. Attend the SuccessFactors Seminar series where Venki Krishnamoorthy will talk about and demo MDF
4. If you are the SAP TechEd 2013, there are sessions about Extensibility, covering MDF.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Those Who Like The Flexibility Of Infotypes Will Like the Metadata Framework

At a customer conversation recently, a colleague from a partner organization said that using the Metadata Framework, anyone can customize supported SuccessFactors applications the same way ABAP programmers customized Infotypes. It was nice to see his enthusiasm for the metadata framework. There is a small difference. You do not need to know programming of any sort to use the meta data framework and customize SuccessFactors applications.

Metadata framework provides the much needed flexibility that customers, particularly those who are used to SAP, want from cloud solutions.

Luke Marson wrote a detailed post on this topic recently. The Meta Data Framework will be covered in sessions at SAP TechEd 2013 and at the SuccessFactors Seminar series later this year.

Start Anywhere And Go Everywhere In The Cloud

I recently met a customer who wanted to move their human capital management software to the cloud. My normal recommendation for any such customer is that they move one or more talent management applications such as goals management and performance management to the cloud first and then move core HR and payroll to the cloud. However, this customer was keen on moving their Core HR to the cloud first because their current Core HR processes were not serving their needs well.

At the end of the work session with them we recommended that they start with Core HR in the cloud first and then add talent management solutions when they are ready to do so. It was nice to see the "Start Anywhere and Go Everywhere in the cloud" approach work for this customer.

I think this flexibility is important for customers because conditions are never ideal.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How The Economic Machine Works

A good video for technology product managers to watch. Technology plays a very important role in productivity increase, which is the only way to grow the economy in the long run.


Monday, September 23, 2013

SuccessFactors Seminars - The CXO Stories

When I shared my design ideas for the session on SuccessFactors Solutions Overview Vijay Nachimuthu suggested that I add a story from a CXOs point of view. I checked back at the CXO use cases I had written for SuccessFactors a few months back. Many of those use cases are about using instant insight into your talent to make important business decisions.

One of the key differentiation of SuccessFactors solutions is the ability of senior leaders to dig into talent data in near real time, even when they are in the middle of a discussion. In the near future SuccessFactors Analytics will be running on HANA. HANA technology takes analytics to the next level, where executives will be able to ask more questions based on standard reports and get instant insight. Vijay Vijayasankar explained this in detail in his recent post.

Here is an example of a use case from a CXO's point of view.

I plan to add a section for the Chief People Officer where she provides instant insight to business leaders to help them take important business decisions based on talent data.

I appreciate all the feedback from everyone. Your feedback is helping me shape the content of this important session. Some of you asked me how customers who are not able to attend this seminar can get the content. The best way is to ask your SAP Account Executive or SuccessFactors regional sales manager to contact me. You can also ask @AmyHThistle on twitter. She is the conference producer.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

SuccessFactors Solutions Overview - Stories Of Three People

One out of the three sessions that I am delivering at the SuccessFactors seminar series is titled SuccessFactors Solution Overview. The purpose is to give the audience an overview of how SuccessFactors solutions impact people everyday at work. I was wondering about how to highlight the key features in all the talent solution modules and the employee central area. I discussed this with Darrell Lew, my very experienced solution consulting colleague. He suggested that we tell the story from the point of view of three people.

1. A millennial employee entering the workforce and experiencing the social and mobile tools.
2. A Manager having clear visibility of her team's performance and having deep insight into their talent.
3. A HR Generalist providing tools that appeal to a multi-generational workforce.

I sketched a trailer for the first story. The images here are place holders, which I will replace with illustrations in the next few days.

These are the seven take-aways from the session that will have two to three stories split into about twenty scenes and several demos of the product.

  1. Learn how employees are attracted and on-boarded using social and mobile solutions
  2. Learn how employees are empowered with feedback via performance management solutions
  3. Understand how managers can align individuals to company strategy
  4. Learn how managers can get clear visibility into their teams
  5. Learn how managers can get deep insight into the performance & compensation of their teams
  6. Learn how managers can develop their teams while making succession plans.
  7. Learn how HR Generalists can empower a multi-generational workforce with powerful tools.

This presentation is my first attempt to bring together content from the entire SuccessFactors suite into a single cohesive story. I am sure it will go through multiple revisions. Any thoughts on what I should do. Let me know.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

SuccessFactors - Where We Are And The Road Ahead...

I am doing some heads down work gathering the roadmap information from several product management and product marketing colleagues and putting them together in a one hour presentation format. I am doing this work so that I can share the information with the few hundred customers and partners we expect to attend the SuccessFactors Seminar Series in Las Vegas, Orlando and Copenhagen in November and December 2013.

I worked with my colleague Will Doolittle to design the roadmap presentation. He suggested that we could combine the trends we are monitoring, our high level response, recent features and the future direction into a single presentation. So I spent a few days on it and put it together.  +Kouros Behzad helped me with the Workforce Analytics roadmap. Eva Woo shared the Employee Central direction with me. Enric Gili shared the mobility direction.

The session is only an hour long. But to listen to the entire product direction in one hour will be very interesting, I think. We might be able to go a bit deeper and a bit broader than what we normally do at HR Insider and SuccessConnect. These are the seven things I plan to share in that session.

  1. Learn about the key trends affecting human capital management
  2. Learn how SuccessFactors is responding to those trends
  3. Understand the major investment areas of SuccessFactors
  4. Learn about recent and planned innovations in the Talent Solutions area
  5. Learn about recent and planned innovations in the Employee Central area
  6. Learn about recent and planned innovations in Analytics, Mobile and SAP Jam
  7. Understand the integration and extensibility strategy of SAP and SuccessFactors

The content might not only be useful for customers but also be useful for my own colleagues. Since many of us are neck deep in our own products every day, it might be interesting to see the entire roadmap including Talent Solutions, Employee Central, Payroll, SAP Jam, Analytics, Integration and HANA Cloud Platform, all in one swoop. It might throw some light on what we are doing and what we need to do. 

The content might undergo changes in the next few days. I might fine tune the content over the next several weeks. This is an interesting assignment for me because this is a broader topic, compared to the SAP SuccessFactors Hybrid topic that people normally associate me with,

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Connecting Your Blog With LinkedIn Is Valuable

In my early days of blogging, I never shared the links anywhere. All traffic to my blog were from friends who know me and those who found my blog via organic Google search. Then twitter came along and I started sharing my posts on twitter. Several followers started reading my posts and those who read my posts started following me on twitter sometimes. The next best source of traffic was YouTube because I posted videos there and pointed viewers to my blog for additional information.

I rarely shared my post on LinkedIn. Last year, while I was researching simple integration tools, I used the IFTTT technology to integrate blogger with LinkedIn. Since then LinkedIn has become the third important source of visitors for my blog. It also turned out to be a highly valuable source of visits for me. Several of my customers, colleagues and partners reach out to me for very specific requests directly because of the kind of information I share in my blog. They are better informed about what I can do and what I am doing. That is a benefit for them. They reach out to me with precise and clear requests. That is useful for me.

If you have not connected your blog to LinkedIn, consider doing so. I wrote more about how that works here

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Today afternoon, my friend and colleague Kouros told me that I must check out the book, PersepolisThe Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi. Kouros knows about my approach of story telling to design products, and educate customers about enterprise software products.

In her book Persepolis, the author tells the story of her childhood in Iran through stories and pictures. It is fascinating to see how she conveys powerful concepts and interesting perspectives via stories and pictures. I have not gone through the entire book. I plan to.

Kouros and I were wondering if we can communicate all product information via stories and pictures to make it easy for colleagues and customers to understand the details of complex enterprise software.

Imagine that with every quarterly release from SuccessFactors you get a story book rather than release notes. A story that tells you all the details of the release. Informative and even fun to read.

It is a lofty goal. I know. However we have had some success with the story telling approach to educate colleagues and partners in the SAP SuccessFactors integration strategy. Emboldened by that success, I am going to try the approach on my session on integration strategy at the  SuccessFactors customer Seminars in November and December this year.

Sample from

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How Might Wearable Computing Influence People Management Software

I got a  Fitbit as a gift sometime back and have started tracking my daily exercise routine. I wear a wrist band which syncs my activities such as walking and sleep patterns to an app on my phone and laptop. This device significantly changed the way I exercise. I like the simple goals and the clear tracking which is always available on my mobile device. Having instant insight into my daily routine helps me make simple decisions like should I walk to the store to get milk or should I take the car.

It got me thinking about how this information can be used by my company, with my permission, to provide me with some benefits. If I give my company's HR system access to this information, will my health insurance premium go down? Will my premium be adjusted every month based on my activities that month?

I wondered how hard it might be for SuccessFactors Employee Central to connect with Fitbit and get the information for every employee and provide a clear benefit for those who have healthy habits.

Should this information be tracked in the annual performance management system, if I agree to share this information.

Can such information for a group of employees in a campus affect the menu of the cafeteria in that campus?

If my ergonomics team has access to this information, can they intervene and make recommendations about my work habits. For example, can they suggest that I not sit at my desk continuously for a long time?

I also wondered if my primary care physician can access my information, with my permission, and advise me on what I could do differently.

Very interesting possibilities.

After I posted this, my colleague and friend +Eduardo Salamanca de Diego,  who leads co-innovation at SuccessFactors, pointed out that FitBit does have a coporate welness programs. We discussed that it might be worthwhile to explore the possibility of an integration with SuccessFactors Employee Central. Show the activity details of a person as part of their profile. May be pull the fitness data into SuccessFactors Analytics and look for correlation between physical activities and performance at work among other things.

My Friend +Manoj Parthasarathy emailed me saying that his employer Accenture does have a corporate Wellness program and rewards employees with cash for reaching certain goals such as 10,000 steps everyday. He confirmed that the program changed his daily habits and improved his health.

FitBit does seem to use our addiction to mobile devices and numbers to improve our overall health.

Monday, September 09, 2013

SuccessFactors - Named A Top Learning Organization

The SuccessFactors Learning organization that trains my sales colleagues and partners has been named a top learning organization by E-Learning magazine. I work with several colleagues in that organization to deliver product training to sales teams, partners and customers on SAP SuccessFactors integration.

This very talented team uses SuccessFactors Learning and SAP Jam very efficiently. For example, they require all sales colleagues to record a video of their sales pitch for every product and assess their performance by watching that video. This is a simple example of how they use SAP and SuccessFactors technologies to not only deliver the training but also to ensure that the training is received and put to use by learners.

One of the good qualities of this team is that they are open to new ideas and embrace new ways of delivering training and designing training content. When I proposed that we deliver training as a story told from the point of view of a person, they embraced that idea and helped me execute it.

Congratulations guys.

To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink

In today's world information about any product or service is available to customers almost instantly. The role of traditional marketing and sales teams that tried to control the message is undergoing a sea change. In his book 'To Sell Is Human" Daniel Pink, talks about this change and how everyone in an organization is now a sales person, whether one recognizes it or now. Interesting book. I was very impressed with his earlier book, Drive, The Surprising truth about what motivates us. I used some of that insight while designing SAP Career OnDemand.

Daniel Pink says that selling is becoming less about solving a problem for customers with a product you have. Selling is increasingly becoming about identifying the customers problem and articulating it for them.

The SuccessFactors With SAP ERP HCM Book Is Out

The first ever book written on SuccessFactors solutions is out. This book titled SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM is a valuable book for all SAP customers, partners and colleagues. I have already ordered a copy.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Telling Your Product Story From A Person's Point Of View

I have been using a story telling approach to enable colleagues such as solution consultants, partners and regional sales managers at SuccessFactors. This story telling approach worked very well. So I now plan to expand that to customers as well. As a first step, I plan to use this approach in the upcoming SuccessFactors Seminar series.

One of the sessions I am delivering is about SAP SuccessFactors integration strategy and roadmap. I have made this presentation to tens of IT and business executives. This discussion is usually with a CIO or the head of HR IT and team. I wanted to capture the state of mind, their concerns and their anxieties in a character. I also wanted to articulate who they are working with in their organization and the person who normally supports them from SuccessFactors. The picture below is a rough cut from my initial sketches of this person.

I have worked with many such executives and the pressure on such executives is immense. They may have just made a large investment in their on-premise SAP ERP HCM. At the same time the chief people officer might be demanding that they provide all employees with the latest features, delightful user experiences and mobile apps. The chief executive of the company may at the same time be asking them to invest in technologies that generate revenue, not just cut cost.

How can this person face all these challenges and at the same time do not get left behind in the move to the cloud? This is where the SAP SuccessFactors solutions architect can step in an help Janet. The solution architect can explain the fact that she can make small investments in the cloud on applications that solve current problems without wiping out the investment she just made in on-premise software.

The second part of the session will cover information about how the solutions architect can help Janet move all her people management applications to the cloud and connect them with on-premise SAP applications such as SAP Finance, SAP Core Banking and SAP Plant Maintenance.

The final session will convey the key points about how this can happen. It will be delivered in two locations in the US and one location in Europe.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

SuccessFactors Seminar Series

I am currently preparing for a SuccessFactors Seminar series to cover the following three topics.

1. SuccessFactors product strategy and roadmap
2. A guided tour of SuccessFactors solutions
3. SAP SuccessFactors integration strategy and roadmap

SuccessFactors product strategy and road map

In the first session I want to talk about the trends we see affecting human capital management in the next decade and how SuccessFactors products are responding to these trends. We want to assure you and provide proof that our product teams are monitoring these trends closely and tailoring the overall suite as well as individual products to help you meet the challenges these changes will pose.

We are seeing significant changes in workforce demographics. Employees are expecting consumer grade experiences and convenience from enterprise technology and knowledge work is becoming the foundation for economic growth. SuccessFactors product strategy and product management teams are working to create software solutions to help you address the above challenges. I am working with my colleagues in product management to highlight the recent features we have released, to share some plans we have in place for the next year and show some early design concepts.

I plan to high light the fact that customers can start with any application in SuccessFactors and expand their cloud foot print based on their current business challenges. I will talk about the mobile innovations that SuccessFactors is investing. I also plan to showcase some of the user experience innovations that we have done in the SuccessFactors home page.

A guided tour of SuccessFactors Solutions

This is a two hour session where I plan to talk about the top features in SuccessFactors solutions from the point of view of an employee, a manager and, to some extent, an administrator.

When an employee is solicited by a recruiter, the recruiter does so using recruitment marketing tools. The employee then collaborates with the recruiter and the hiring team via the applicant tracking software and SAP Jam. Once the employee is hired, the employee is on-boarded using SuccessFactors Onboarding. New on the job, the employee then receives her goals in the goals management system and continues work related collaboration via SAP Jam. She goes through mandatory training delivered via SuccessFactors Learning and seeks out experts and mentors using SAP Jam.

The employee's manager then conducts the mid year performance review via SuccessFactors Performance Management and gives her a promised raise using SuccessFactors Compensation. The employee gets to see the updated pay information in her employee profile in SuccessFactors Employee Central.

I plan to invite one of my experienced colleagues from Solution Consulting to demo some of the features and share some of the experiences and knowledge about customer challenges. Solution consulting colleagues work with several customers every month and can bring a wealth of knowledge to the table.

SAP SuccessFactors Integration Strategy and Road Map

In the integration session, I want to do something interesting and useful for those who want to understand how to go about implementing the various solutions from SuccessFactors, while keeping their current on-premise or 3rd party applications running in the interim. I plan to tell the story from the point of view of Janet Lee, an IT executive who starts her cloud journey by moving one talent management application to the cloud, deriving value out of it and them moving all her people management applications to the cloud step by step, culminating in the movement of employee administration and payroll to the cloud.

That is my grand plan. Many smart and talented colleagues such as Will Doolittle and Mark Brandau are contributing to this effort. If there are change in design plans, I will update this post.  Colleagues such as Kellie Fitzpatrick, Venki Krishnamoorthy and Jeremy Masters from SAP and SuccessFactors partner organizations will be there as well. I think it is going to be a useful and exciting session.

My fellow SAP Mentors Luke Marson and Jarret Pazahanick have already given me some valuable inputs on what I should cover. What specifically would you like me to cover? Any pressing challenges that I need to attempt to address? Please let me know. I would appreciate your thoughts and inputs.

This SuccessFactors Seminar series  is scheduled to be delivered from three locations in November and December 2013.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Urban Landscape - Hong Kong Shopping Mall

This is a shopping mall in Hong Kong. Visited this place a few years back. Interesting pattern on the ground with people, trees and buildings at the back.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Why Should We Connect An HR System To An Environmental Health And Safety System?

Jeremiah Stone stopped by my desk today to discuss a customer and I asked him why a people management system should be integrated with an Environment Health and Safety (EH&S) System . He explained the need to me succinctly in his usual enthusiastic manner. This is what he told me.

First, companies in the oil and gas, mining, mill products and utilities industries need to report safety incidents to a regulator. So when a safety incident happens, they need to capture it and report it to stay compliant. This report usually contains details about the injury and the person who got injured. This costs money. Connecting the people management system and the incident management system can make things efficient.

Second, companies can reduce cost by analyzing information about incidents. For example if there are a lot of eye injuries in a certain location or plant, which is costing a company millions of dollars in workers compensation or lost productivity, analytics on past incidents can provide insight into what can be done to prevent such injuries. A $30 eye glass can prevent a $ 30,000 workers compensation claim.

Third, Analytics and big data technologies can provide insight into patterns based on incident data and demographic data. Such insight can lead to talent management that prevent injuries. For example, if workers on a certain job routinely injure their back when they turn 40 years old, steps can be taken to move people from such jobs before they turn 40 years old to prevent injuries and to prevent the loss of a good employee.

I wrote this quick post to capture our conversation and get other people's thoughts on this topic. I plan to elaborate on this more in the future. 

Monday, September 02, 2013

The Tim Cook And Jonathan Ive Manifesto

If Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive deliver on this promise, the world will be a better place.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Janet Lee Moves People Management Software To The Cloud

I am designing  the story line for the upcoming SuccessFactors seminar series scheduled for November and December. I am delivering sessions on integration, the SuccessFactors road map and a third session which is designed as an overview of SuccessFactors solutions.

In the third session, I want to do something interesting and useful for those who want to understand how to go about implementing the various solutions from SuccessFactors, while keeping their current on-premise or 3rd party applications running in the interim. I plan to tell the story from the point of view of Janet Lee, an IT executive who starts her cloud journey by moving one talent management application to the cloud, deriving value out of it and them moving all her people management applications to the cloud step by step, culminating in the movement of employee administration and payroll to the cloud.

I plan to split this story into multiple scenes. These scenes will be based on my experience working with customers and the experience of my colleagues. Every scene will correspond to an implementation phase of her 3 year project. In each stage I want to articulate the following.

1. The value of the software module she implemented to her organization.
2. The architecture of her solution at the end of that implementation phase.
3. The technologies options available to connect the module to other applications
4. The approximate duration, average expense and potential savings that phase brought.

I am not sure about the effort involved and the scope of this story. But I think it is worth trying. I may spend about 40 hours on preparing for this particular session. I wonder what you think. Any advice on what I should do? What would you like to get from these sessions if you were there?

Cloud Software Lets CIOs Make Little Bets

In the book 'Little Bets', author Peter Sims talks about how comedian Chris Rock prepares for his comedy shows. Mr. Rock does not try out new jokes in front of large audiences first. Instead he tries his jokes in front of small audiences in relatively obscure comedy clubs in unannounced sessions. He only picks the jokes that work for his subsequent shows in front of large audiences. I noticed similar behavior in a few CIOs and IT Directors that I worked with in the past months.

There is a set of very respected, talented and visionary CIOs who recognize the power of cloud software as a tool to solve current business problems, free up capital for strategic projects and plant the seeds for ongoing management innovation. Such CIOs are able to articulate the value of the cloud to their colleagues and get their support to make big bets in the cloud.

There is another set of experienced CIOs and IT Directors who are a bit more cautious and want proof before making large commitments. Such people  may have made big bets in other areas recently and may not be willing to make more bold moves once more.

While cloud software makes it easy for the CIO who wants to make a big bet to do so, the technology also enables the more cautious CIOs make little bets and test the waters without making large commitments. For example a CIO who wants to test cloud software for people management can start with an area such as performance management for all employees to see how cloud software works for his or her organization. Once his team and his business colleagues understand the advantages and disadvantages of the cloud, they can expand the cloud foot print of their people management software to solve immediate business problems facing their organization. For example a few of the CIOs I worked with decided to start with recruiting execution and learning software in the cloud because they were anticipating talent shortages in their industry. Another set of CIOs started with workforce planning and workforce analytics in the cloud because they wanted insight into their organizations before making investments in other people management software modules.

I personally prefer the little bets approach. Making a small bet, creating a small success and building on the success works for most organizations. Contrary to popular belief, I believe that even visionary CIOs make multiple little bets to test the waters in the cloud before making bold investments.

By the way,  these experiments can be conducted within weeks. Not months. Modules such as workforce analytics and performance management can be implemented and rolled out within weeks. My recommendation to all organizations big and small is to make a little bet quickly, learn from it and build on it. It is much better than demanding your software providers to prove that the cloud works for your organizations. Frankly, they are not in the best position to say what will work for your organization. Some unscrupulous ones may even say what you want to hear just to sell you their software. Go ahead. Make a little bet. Find out for yourself.

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