Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Higher Education, 2013

Growing up in Switzerland and Italy, there has never been much of a doubt that I would complete my education at a higher education institution - and so did I, by chosing to read Architecture at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne. Now that I write this, I wonder if one is really suppose to read Architecture, or if a better word would be perhaps "design"?
Image credit:

After those years and a diploma, I moved out of the art-y side of the world, and wholeheartedly embraced IT, working with ERP providers and multiple customers; over the years, I've never wanted to go back to school for an MBA, and certainly not a second degree.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Internal costs of a reorg

All companies need to re-organize internally, it is a logical part of growing and changing; I am a strong believer that life IS change, and what we can't prevent we must embrace. Change is the world's only constant; its opposite isn't stability... rather immobility, or death.

That being now out of the way, every change come with a price tag, and we have to carefully evaluate if the cost is something we want to pay now, if it is better postponed, and how it should be prepared for, communicated and managed.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The lithany of a travel prisoner

Having loaded my beloved mini ipad with books to kill a full day of enslavement in planes, airports and other means of public transportation, I usually manage to transcend the mundane situation and place myself on a different planet, yet some recent rather uncomfortable business- and personal-related flight have made me think.
(Image from

Really, isn't modern air travel just a modern version of a XIX century Orient Express in 3rd class cattle train? 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Uh-oh, are we almost ready to get all off Linked-In???

Technically, it is quite a wonder.

The newest brain-child of our rolodex provider is called Intro. Read here the details of this seemingly little app. LOOK in this picture how it innocently adds details about the senders of your mails INTO the emails themselves? how does that magic works? well, it seems to work by becoming the middle man for all your mails.

Another interesting read is here, looking at the potential consequences of this app, legally and regarding privacy. I am particularly fond of a couple of the questions proposed by this article.

  • In position number one, we find "Attorney-client privilege", but in fact what is questioned here is the focus on sensitive material that you may be exchanging through your mail - with your insurance, with your bank, with doctors, with your lawyers. Yes. For instance "Hospitals and health systems are responsible for protecting the privacy and confidentiality of their patients and patient information" (HIPAA Guidelines), and it is a good thing. Doctors cannot disclose any part of conversations you have with them, unless you specifically request them to, and sign a release. Discussing your condition by email now could make a leak possible, and your health provider could not be blamed.
  • Toward the end, point number 9. The understanding of what is private to each of us is, well, a private matter. LinkedIn, nor anybody else, should take this decision on your behalf. 
The saving grace of all this is that Intro is (so far) an additional app that you have to volontarily install on your Iphone and/or Ipad. Once installed, it creates a security profile and a special email, ready for syphoning. 
So the solution is quite clear - just don't even think to install this wonderful new product, and lets all keep an eye on how it all proceed... after having been an early adopter, I am ready to quit LinkedIn if a tool like Intro makes its way into the main app. 

It ties in quite nicely in my previous blogs about Data Privacy HERE and HERE

As BishopFox says, If I were the NSA, and I hear mobile phones were routing their emails through LinkedIn…well I know where I’m having my next birthday party.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The international POV on Data Privacy laws

I promised back in July that I would provide some notes about data privacy legal impacts in the cloud. I started writing down such notes - but I came to realize very fast that I could not do so without gaining a better view on where there are specific provisions about data privacy and how these can be in conflict.
That took me some time. I guess it is a work in progress; every day new content is published, new questions seem to arise; but I feel it is a good start, and a necessary one before talking about the cloud.

I am sharing an overview of my findings here, always please bear in mind that this is personal research and I have no claim to any legal title - if in doubt, please do yourself a favor and seek legal counseling.

International law coverage

Lets start by looking at this map. It is based on what I know, and I just updated it with my most recent readings... but even if (IF) it should be complete now, readers beware: it will not be tomorrow, so lets consider it a starting point.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Did you know that the 28th of January is Data Privacy Day?*

Ever since I have been working with HRIS in the context of global companies, I’ve been collecting notes on how the HR data, sensitive and private as it is, can be protected. I’ve decided to publish this blog, but here goes the DISCLAIMER: these notes are of a general nature, and share my personal ramblings and thoughts on the matter. It should not be construed as an attempt to offer or render legal opinion or engage in the practice of law. Please consult the advice of a licensed professional if you require it. 

What is what?
One of the modern-age most compelling frauds includes one form or another of identity theft (identity cloning, financial ID theft, medical ID theft); we have seen first-hand phishing attempts received by mail and e-mail, and are careful in shredding personal documents rather than just throwing them on the recycling pile. As HR professionals, working with HR information, we are aware of the sensitivity of the data entrusted upon us by our company; and as employees, we expect that our information will be appropriately protected and remain private. 
Governments have produced laws and guidelines, and since 1981, groups of countries have entered agreements to decide how data (and in particular, HR data) can be shared across borders.

Image from HERE

Plenty of information is available, often fairly indigestible and written in “legalese”. Several terms appear to be used in alternance, are they really synonyms? Not quite.

·       Data integrity addresses the concern that data should be correct and complete for the use we want to make. As a simple example, if the address held about your employee is not updated, correspondence will fail to reach him/her, and consequently data is trash.
·       Data security is focused in keeping information safe, seeking protection from access by unauthorized entities. The idea is to avoid hacking and intruders; both to prevent theft of ideas or valuable information and to protect the integrity of the data (as above) against corruption (either accidental or willful). To date, it relies as much on technical hacking prevention and on the strength of individual passwords... and that is a weak link, see below.
·       Data privacy is often confused with data security, but actually starts from data security,  spanning a wider area. Its concern is to ensure legal compliance with the multiple international regulations controlling and protecting the individuals’ rights to keep their data safe and private; it isn’t merely protecting against external intrusions, but supervising the way HR data is shared internationally, where it is stored, how it is accessed. It means providing adherence to data privacy guidelines and regulations, all around the world where your organization is active.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Graduation day and Leaning In

Woaaah, how time flies. Yes, June was busy. What happened? well, its personal stuff, but all happy: I have a high school grad in the family now!

I've decided to go ahead and write a post about graduation day, mostly because it has been an impressive day. Anna has been attending Sequoia High School in Redwood City since our arrival in the Bay Area (sounds forever, but it is only 2 years!). It is one of the largest public high schools, and the oldest on the Peninsula; I have always been a strong advocate of the solidity of public education (when done right); we have chosen where to live based on the proximity of Sequoia and on the type of education this school offers - at the same time the option of an International Baccalaureat diploma (for free!), and the cultural experience of a large school, exposure to difference, strong support of equal opportunities.

Graduation at Sequoia is a big affair, as every year 400 new grads are ready to move on with their lives, to college for most. Some are the first grads in their families, more grads will be the first to attend college. 400 grads means a football stadium full of hope, cheering families (under a blasting sun), and a ceremony lasting a half-day. Not easy to find good speakers who will be willing to be present for the whole event...

Well. This year, Sequoia HS didn't even have to look for a speaker, because Ms. Sheryl Sandberg's office called asking if a speaker would be welcome. A strong advocate of education, supporting public high schools and their diversity, Ms. Sandberg offered freely her time, and not only delivered an interesting speech (you can listen in here about it), but also insisted to shake the hand of every grad. It is a cool grad pic if you ask me:

Some pictures about Ms. Sandberg's intervention at Sequoia HS are also available on the Lean In group on - you guessed - Facebook.

So, now that June and graduations are over, summer is starting, and we go on - and of course, Ms. Sandberg, we are ready to lean in.

What would you do if YOU weren't afraid? please add your comments.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Carla Grant, the legend

Who is Carla Grant? well, if you have ever seen a SuccessFactors' demo, you would not ask. She is a fictional figure, part of every demonstration scenario... and has several profiles on LinkedIn, as well as in other professional networking sites. :) A legend, really. 

Speaking of Carla, while recently attending SAPPHIRE I was eager to get updates on multiple areas of interest, not unlike many other participants - check also this summary blog by Jeremy Masters.

In particular, I was determined to review the current status of the Cloud Core of HR, the SuccessFactors Employee Central tool. For this, I made my way to the third floor, where Joachim Foerderer was holding ASUG session 1809, Take HCM to the Cloud with Employee Central. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

High heels and SAP

I confess having been to many SAPPHIREs, in the last 23 years - by no means to all, but enough to spot something very different. During last week at the Orlando event at the megalomanic Convention Center (it could literally host a whole city, and it did with 20'000 participants), I've seen an unusual booth. If you were there as well, perhaps you've noticed it: named Lucia+Daniel, it looked and felt like a fun high-end boutique in Milano. But you could not purchase anything - rather, it was showcasing MyRunway app - an SAP solution offering enterprises to engage with consumers in innovative ways, leveraging new powerful analytics and data extractions on HANA cloud.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Happy 25th birthday, SAPPHIRE!

My, you have grown. From 120 participants in a New Jersey hotel, to the Orlando Convention Center, filled to capacity at some 20'000 experts, over three days, fed, watered, co-hosted with ASUG. During the first day keynote, co-CEO Bill McDermott mentioned that the online statistics where showing an attendance of about 80k online! 

People always ask what SAP stands for, but a similar question is never asked about the event. And, no, it isn't about hiring (SAP-P-hire). The acronym has outgrown its own meaning (SAP's Perennial Highly Integrated R2 Event). Now, there is so much more, and so many options. Back in 1989, R3 was only a dream still. R/2 was our bread-and-butter, and we had to memorize infotypes numbers and table codes.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Struggling with SAPPHIRE agenda, again

Yes!!! You have nagged and begged, and have found budget to attend SAPPHIRE.

You have registered, booked a plane ticket (or several), and figured out which hotel makes most sense (hopefully it is not going to be undergoing renovations). You have verified it isn't far from the convention center, that it is on the I-Drive route, and that you can get to the outlets. You may even have booked Disneyland tickets for the family (disclosure: I didn't. I try to keep a healthy distance from Mickey).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

One trip, two UserGroups and three countries later.

I am back, if still jet-lagged.

Three days spent at the HRGUG annual meeting in Walldorf always are deeply satisfying and informative. SAP  provided us with a backbone of updates and presentations with, among others, the below screenshot sporting the most recent development for the Core of HR in the Cloud - Employee Central and its spiffy looks. Of course, Carla Grant was there... can there be BizX without Carla, ever?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

User groups – the prequel

I have always been adamant about the value of sharing experience, of discussing how things happen, should happen, may happen or may fail. In support of such sharing, I have had the privilege of working (if one can call such fun “working”) at the makings of HRGUG. I have also avidly participated at ASUG, and most recently I have added a new star in my firmament – HERUG.

What do these barbaric-sounding acronyms stand for?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The little blog that could.

Proud to say that my previous posts on Human Capital Sustainability have been highlighted in SCN welcome page during the week from April 5th to April 12th.

The blog, a consolidation of my three pieces:

  • Social Accountability in Human Capital Management
  • Global Cost (or Value) of a Human Being
  • Human Capital as an Investment
can be read in its entirety here.

It is also going to be published on the SAP Innovation blogs on the 17th of April!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Where is the picture????

This isn't meant to be a travel blog, so I am refraining from nostalgic waxing over locations where I have been or I want to go, but having been asked several times where is the blog's forefront picture taken, I realize that I have been inflicting on you a picture without sharing a location.

It was a stunning day in the Lavaux, overlooking lake Geneva. Niched up on the corniche, there is a little wine bar (locally known as a "caveau"), dedicated to Corto Maltese - the cartoon creation by Hugo Pratt.

What is remarquable of this place? so many things. The view of course; the approach to the wine bar, more a community of small wine producers getting together to give a better access to little-known wines, helping each other in the process. The sense of a community you get, when after a handful of times you stop by, you are on a first-name basis with everybody. Looking at the picture, I feel home. Priceless.

Here is another picture from the same area - the Swiss Lavaux is an amazing source of stunning pictures.

For more information
It is in French, but if you ask me nicely, I'll be happy to translate it for you!

...and if you ever head out to the area, drop me a note...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Meaning of Being an Employer of Choice

It must be the season.

No, I am not thinking of baby lambs, kittens, nor of planting the garden... I am talking about the lists I am seeing touting "a Great Place To Work" or " Employer of Choice" top 10, 25, 100 lists. And seeing all this I cannot but wonder about 1. if such ranking have an interest whatsoever, 2. if so, how are the criteria used differently in each case, 3. is there any standardized approach?, 4. how to best leverage this information.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Winery visit

Easter week-end provides often a welcome opportunity for a short break. So we headed north, to the Napa Valley, where we had booked a blending session at a well-known winery - Monticello Vinyards. The incredible part of visiting a family-run vinyard is the passion that is the common trait of all the family members involved in the business.

While the wine-maker was leading us through the process of blending the 2011 single-varietal wines into a balanced product, that could then age gracefully (next step - taste before bottling, in some 9 months), he was also sharing his approach to creativity, and said one sentence that stuck with me.

"Art cannot be done by committee".

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Human Capital as an investment

[This post is a continuation of my previous posts "Social accountability in Human Capital Management" and "Global cost of a human being", posted on March 18th and 21st. You may want to read them in sequence]

Looking at the facts in this light, the Human Capital as an investment done by private citizens, but the true ROI is for society at large.

Hold that thought! As HR professionals, doesn’t that mean that we are ipso facto accountable for the sustainability and for the development of such a valuable resource?

When an investment is deemed valuable, it has to be protected, grown and developed. It is true for industries, for commerce, and it still holds true in regard to Human Capital.

A city, a country, a nation supports its people, educate its children, looks after their health. Some of the smartest and most skilled HR people are actually working in public office, and I don’t believe a public officer could or should be ignorant of HR practices.

Leveraging to the full the human capital, and managing it correctly in a civic, ethical sense, means giving to all the employees the opportunities they deserve. Not because we are being NICE, but because we want to capture the human and monetary value of the skills, experience and knowledge of diverse people, developed at high cost by our education system, families and life styles. In these terms, we have to look at employees as an asset to maximize, not as a mere cost that has to be minimized to increase revenues.[1]

As an example, I’ve always wondered why women who have been head of a households with multiple children and handled the challenges of managing a complex family life and budget, are suddenly handicapped by that role once they return (or start) on the work place. Worse, in most countries their earnings are dramatically lower than women without families and without children! [2] Of course, there are practical reasons while statistics show such a difference – part time, less investment in a career… but isn’t it time we find ways to value and leverage the skills they have gained? Would it really be different if women had gained those skills while being employed as an executive assistant or as a manager, rather than by supporting their own families?

Diversity programs are not a nice to have. I am making the case of women here, but diversity has multiple facets, each bringing in clear wins. The challenge of diversity isn’t any more to allow everybody to have a voice, but to leverage and recognize the value it brings. In fact, the relevancy and value of the human capital is closely tied to the multiplicity of voices, of ideas, of experiences it offers. Squandering it spoils the most valuable asset a nation has, and at the same time the nation’s ultimate reason for existence: its own citizens.

And it must all be a win,win,win. If society wins, if the company wins, the employee must win as well. The answer to the “what’s in it for me” question must stay at the forefront of our mind in order to put in place a successful program. If any of the three protagonists doesn’t get a cookie, their interest will wane.

Perhaps an example can help.

Let’s take a real example, rather than an abstract. Johnson Precision (NH) is a manufacturer of precision plastic injection components, where a special-needs workers program has been put in place to integrate them in the workplace, supporting non-traditional employees to work side-by-side with their co-workers in every department, with the same expectations as everybody else. The wins are on all sides. On the employees side, special-needs workers received training and a good pay, while “traditional” employees gain confidence and proficiency by training the new comers. The company gained not only tax benefits (yay), but also credibility with customers for its social responsibility, as well as long term, productive employees. And society? Ensuring integration of special needs citizens is a pain point, and such a program helps to make them productive and self-supported.  

In return, the win, win, win results gained the program a top-down endorsement that is ensuring its continuation and potentially its expansion. [3]

That is the value that HR can bring. Know your employees, know your data and forecast the changes

Where else has this blog been published, or The little Blog that Could

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Global cost (or value) of a human being

[This post is a continuation of my previous post "Social accountability in Human Capital Management", posted on March 18th. You may want to read them in sequence]

When considering skilled labor a resource, I came up wondering – what is the cost of a resource? Is it simply, in this case, the salary? Or is it actually the cost of the employee providing the service? In other words, can we separate the individual from the service provided?

Typing “Cost of Human Being” in a Google Search Engine generates about 259’000’000 results in under 30 seconds. Most of these results are highly controversial, and bring in ethic debate about cost versus value, genetic research, buying human beings and ultimately, slavery.

There is only some marginal (and humoristic) information about the actual COST of raising an individual in nowadays society: after all, creating a baby is one of the (few) free acts in our modern world, but raising the same is anything but free. It has been calculated that the cost of bringing up a child in the US is close to 300’000 US, not including college (college tuition alone accounts to an average of 160’000 US for an average 4 years degree, College Board, 2011-2012 [4]).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Social Accountability in Human Capital Management

Recently, I seem to keep hearing(and saying myself) the word S-U-S-T-A-I-N-A-B-I-L-T-Y in the context of HR and talent. Looking for an actual definition of the word, I stumbled across multiple jokes and puns, such as:

“It is very hard to be against sustainability. In fact, the less you know about it, the better it sounds.” Robert M. Solow, Sustainability: An Economist’s Perspective [1]

What really is sustainability? 

I am striving for a simple definition, something that I could use to explain it to a young child (because then, I am sure I can understand it…). To me, something can be considered sustainable if the resources required to produce it can be continuously replaced. The Webster dictionary is somewhat aligned: using a resource so that the resource itself is not depleted or permanently damaged.

Sustainability can mean different things inside and outside an organization. In the HR internal context, it means taking a good, hard look at employees as an asset (or a commodity?). As we see more and more companies defining themselves as “knowledge companies” and their employees “Knowledge workers”, storing and exchanging experiences, knowledge and networks, being sustainable means being able to replace human resources in an economical and non-disruptive way – and the more specialized a company is, the more complex this task becomes.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Social medias and personality

We all live multiple lives, as a child, as a teen, as a grown up, as a student, as a family person. Reinventing ourselves is a required skill, and the more we apply it, the more we become proficient in it, the more change - when it comes our way - is not disruptive but constructive. Sometimes opportunities will generate change, and sometimes change will generate opportunities.

Something I love about our social media-connected world is how it is full of AH-HA! moments, at the least expected times and situations. Exactly this happened to me this morning, and for once, it is totally un-related to my daily work, or to my normal occupations in my daily life (mostly drab and boring). Rather it came as a reminder of other times and other passions in some of my previous lives...

While leafing (I love applying old words to new activities, forcing the language to adapt and morph) through Pinterest, I came across a post about ARCHETIZER. The specific Norman Foster's showcased project is IMHO quite stunning, but the website itself is a great time-waster. I would have loved it years back, while studying, living, breathing, reading architecture in College.

Spending some time on it this morning not only brought up some wonderful memories (made even sweeter by the time passed, as the inevitable stress at the end of each project is blurred as a cathartic moment), but it allowed me to feel more complete, by patching together several passions from present and past.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Work at home ban...

WOW. What news...

at a time when everybody is allowing telecommuting, YAHOO and its fab new CEO break the news and decide to put a (temporary?) ban on working remotely.

It makes me go hmmmm....

On one side, I am absolutely convinced of the value of "hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people and impromtu team meetings". The virtual world has long since deprived us of person-to-person relationships and interactions, and I for one welcome a reversal of the fashion.

I have to wonder however what will that imply for Yahoo travel budgets? can we really say that personal relationships are critical for close workers, but irrelevant for long distance?

Just sayin'.

Edit: the Newyorker splurges in an savory article on the subject. Enjoy.