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. 

Good timing for the presentation, as the 4th joined SuccessFactors/SAP regular product release was due Friday 17th of May - 2 days after Joachim made the presentation; and we were able to review the upcoming features. Of course, it was an overview rather than an in-depth evaluation, but I believe it was enough to peak quite a few interests.

It has been a labor of love for many developers in the last two years, and after being involved in the integration pieces and the go-to-market, checking on the status is a bit like taking the temperature of a favorite child. I have to say it is really nice to see how it is coming along.

Joachim started with a short demo, to highlight the User Interface provided, that remains aligned to SuccessFactors' winning tool. 

In particular some of the global features look and feel very "21st century". To someone having worked across borders and in a virtual world with a name like Chiara (KEE-AH-RAH), the option of being able to record the way to pronounce my name sounds pretty cool; it is also possible to upload a video -to facilitate person-to-person long distance relationships; I guess this would come in handy when integrating a new person in a team. 

Beyond the look and feel, that continue to be aligned to SuccessFactors', there are some additional features and announcements, that would deserve being looked at in detail. 

Among them:

  • The new position management is a lighter approach to Organizational Management in SAP. Positions are optional objects, so to reduce the "positions graveyard" that has been weighting down many long-living HCM systems. A position can be used for many employees, with a predetermined number of FTEs - I can imagine this option to be extremely useful in cases of seasonal hires. This includes re-organization capabilities, allowing to move an employee with or without the related position across the organization. 
  • Global payroll. Including the May 17th release, the Employee Central Payroll is available for 22 countries (new countries becoming available are: France, Italy, Japan and Russia).  The tool is the powerful engine of the SAP payroll, made available in the cloud by single-tenant hosting. Eventually, the full availability of such payroll will be global, with all 51 countries covered by the SAP standard in general availability. In order to make available each additional country, data entry screens are reviewed and adapted. This makes them useable within SuccessFactors' UI, providing the required information directly to the hosted payroll and avoiding data replication. In addition, the payroll slip is rendered in the UI, so to be made available to employees through the ESS features.
  • Absence management - covers the classic Negative Time management, allowing recording of exceptions, including all mobile options. Positive time recording is covered through partners (WorkForce as well as recent partner Kronos).
  • Flexibility of customization. As part of configuration, it was already possible to adapt labels, picklists and custom fields. In addition, the same Metadata Framework (used by developers to design functionalities) is being made available to customers to define additional custom objects and business rules; and by leveraging the HANA cloud platform, it becomes possible to add whole pieces of functionality, with a similar flexibility to an User Exit in HCM. This last piece is a game-changer, providing opportunities for an application's close fit, unusual in a SaaS product. 
Beyond May 17th release, there is still a busy roadmap. Looking at supporting global and modern organizations, there is a focus on global and organizational capabilities, on Integration within the suite and to 3rd parties and SAP, plus the continued addition of actionable analytics.

Stay tuned!