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Watching Mike Ettling, President of HR Line of Business at SAP/SuccessFactors, during his keynote at the SAPInsider HR 2015 Conference in (almost warm) Las Vegas this week, I was struck by how captivated the audience was as he detailed the ideal transformational journey to Human Resources (HR) cloud. Maybe it’s because he used made the journey analogous to one of the best-loved childhood games – Snakes and Ladders – which everyone related to immediately. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I heard a collective wave of anticipation sweep through the audience with each roll of his (virtual) dice.

When Ettling landed on the “snakes”, AKA the pitfalls to avoid when going to the cloud, there were bursts of knowing laughter as the HR professionals recognized a number of all-too familiar challenges. Indeed, one of Ettling’s main points was that although HR is one of the biggest consumers of cloud solutions, they’re not exempt from the many questions it brings. Audience members seemed almost relieved as Ettling ran through the list of potential gotchas, and how to keep things simple:

Steering clear of vendor vipers preaching rip and replace; lurking behind all the happy talk are islands of the disconnected

Avoiding the dreaded missing business case by aligning cloud HR benefits to tangible outcomes that matter to the C-suite

Heading off the complexity copperhead that threatens to bring the organization backwards; it doesn’t make sense to re-implement the old processes with the new software

Don’t get squeezed by cost constrictors that drain away the budget with multiple release cycles and complex integration demands your organization suddenly owns

One of Ettling’s main points was that HR success is not about the technology, but rather using cloud to engage employees in the workforce of the future, one that encompasses every generation across the company’s ecosystem from full-time to contingent. And as for that business case, he reminded the audience that research findings consistently correlate high engagement to shareholder value. SAP Human Capital Management software customers are beginning to agree with that reasoning. Based on a show of hands, Ettling garnered much applause when he remarked that the number of companies now using SAP HR cloud solutions had increased 700 percent since last year’s event.

The ladders to cloud success are many, from scoping out change management requirements to making sure best practices content is available and choosing experienced partners. Ettling captured this audience’s attention with a thoughtful gamified message, but everyone is well aware that getting to cloud is serious business for the future of strategic HR.

Follow me @smgaler

Related content:

HR Transformation: Beware the Cloud Vipers