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SAP Org Visualization by Nakisa (SOVN) OrgChart allows you to visualise the hierarchical structure of an organisation based on HCM data held in SAP.  It is the foundation of the SAP Org Visualization by Nakisa solution extension and can be installed for a variety of reasons.

In this blog post I'm going to take a look at the reasons why organisations decide to implement OrgChart and I'm going try to uncover what the real benefits can be to using OrgChart to visualise organisational structures.

Why do organisations implement SOVN OrgChart?

I think broadly speaking; the majority of OrgChart implementations take place because of one (or more) of the following situations arising:

1. Executive Order

At some point an issue comes to light whereby someone needs to understand some structure within the organisation and they are unable to quickly access an up to date organisational chart.  The issue is escalated until it reaches someone with enough authority to have the issue addressed.

2. I am ‘The Law’

On occasion factors external to an organisation may come into effect that requires the organisation to quickly develop a greater understanding of its workforce.  Typically these would be regulatory or compliance driven activities where access to the organisational structure and its demographic make-up enable the organisation to continue functioning as a legal entity within a geographic area.

3. “The next housemate to join/leave is...”

Understanding the structure of an organisation becomes particularly problematic when undergoing any former of merger, acquisition or radical restructuring.  The initial phase is typically rapid and they are probably the most difficult to manage scenarios.  Understanding existing structures in order to plan for the new ones is critical to the planning and OrgChart is ideally suited to helping managers understand the details.

4. Housekeeping

The HCM data held by the organisation is seen to be sub-standard to the needs of the organisation.  Ways to address this data deficiency are identified and one of them is to use OrgChart (and more forward thinking organisations will use DataQualityConsole to pro-actively identify errors).

5. Making Shelfware Worth-ware

Sometimes OrgChart licenses come bundled as part of an SAP licensing deal and were not something the organisation was intending to purchase outright.  At some point it may be decided that it is worthwhile taking a look at making the most of these unused licenses.

6. Another Cog in the Machine

Finally there are a number of processes (notably Talent Management related ones such as recruitment and career planning) where OrgChart is a natural fit.  It enables access to key information and provides and accessible discovery tool to help make connections and bridge knowledge gaps.

The Case for Benefits

At this point a project, work package or some other unit of work is initiated to get OrgChart implemented.  However this is a critical point in the work and is the point where the goals and aims must be clearly defined (should this not have been done earlier) in order to validate that OrgChart really can enable the organisation to achieve the goals.

I would posit that it is relatively straight forward to carry out a feature based analysis against the delivery requirements using information provided by Nakisa and a demonstration by Nakisa or one of their partners.  The activity is in essence one of ticking off check boxes to ensure that the product is capable of doing what is required.

Where it falls short is quantifying what the benefits of those features will be for your organisation.  The benefits case is the one that the key stakeholders will use to decide the viability of the work.  It may be that even if the product fell short on some features, the benefits of implementing SOVN OrgChart may be such that it is still worth selecting it as the desired solution.

To that end I've created a list of ten benefits (in no particular order of merit) of implementing SOVN OrgChart.

Ten Benefits

I’ve tried to give a bit of discourse around what I think each benefit is and I’ve posed some questions to help you understand how you might tailor and measure the potential impact for you and your organisation.

1. Clear identification of reporting lines

OrgChart first and foremost identifies the reporting lines between managers and their subordinates.  This gives everyone greater clarity around their responsibilities and to whom they report.  This is particularly valuable in organisations going through change or simply to any new starter.

Think about how effective staff can be if they do not fully understand their responsibilities or how they fit into the organisation?  What happens when there is a gap in responsibility?  How much time might you save across an organisation by clarifying these things and how much more confident and empowered are a workforce who know who they are, where they are and how the organisation expects them to contribute to its success?

2. The information is up to date

The information used to generate the OrgChart is read from SAP.  This could be via a periodic (e.g. nightly) feed, or direct in real-time.  Since the HCM data in SAP would typically be the most up to date data of this type in an organisation the information being used to display the OrgChart can be taken as being up to date.

Many organisational charts are hand crafted and so go out of date much more quickly than the ones presented in OrgChart.  The automation of the OrgChart generation is a key strength – particularly in dynamic and complex organisations.  It is available immediately with the latest information.

How much time is lost each day to information, approvals, etc. being sent to the wrong person or simply to no one at all if a person can’t be identified?  How much of this time could you claw back if people had easy access to this information?  What percentage improvement might you get in the turnaround of some of your key processes?

3. Single source

Many organisational charts are not only hand crafted, but also created from different sources.  Be they spreadsheets, databases or even just crafted from memory there can often be variations in how the structures are derived and how they are presented.

OrgChart provides a common standard to the way the structure can be presented and uses a single agreed source from which to produce it.  This ensures that everyone is working with the same organisational charts at any moment in time.

How long does it take someone to create an org chart from what they think to be true?  In fact how long does it take them to draw out the org chart of 100 people in PowerPoint?  Then double or treble that as other people do the same.  Add to that some additional time for the amendments they each make.  Next add on the time it takes for them to realise they have entirely different charts and the hours of meetings and general frustration it takes for them to agree a chart and re-draw it. Now imagine that with a few clicks and only seconds of effort everyone sees the same org chart.

4. Simplification

OrgChart is a powerful tool.  Using the intuitive browser-based interface a user can navigate levels, expand particular hierarchical branches, display dotted reporting lines, and even change what information is displayed on screen and how it is arranged.  This allows a user to take a complex organisational structure and focus the display to just what they require.  This in turn gives greater opportunity for understanding and is particularly beneficial when working to redesign an organisational structure.

What sort of model does your organisation conform to?  Is it a strict hierarchy?  Is it more a distributed network model?  Do you have a pooled and dynamically allocated work force?  Do you employ matrix management and if so is it the same across the whole organisation?  Is there any organisational unit that historically is structured 'a bit differently'?  Does it vary geographically or by division (or geographically by division)? Is there any dotted line reporting structure?  Does anyone fulfil dual or split roles?  Do you need to ensure that your workforce adheres to any local demographic requirements (e.g. a proportion of the workforce is from the host nation)? If you had to explain your organisation's structure to someone, could you?  How long would it take?  Would they understand it?  How long would it take if you used a tool that displayed any part of your organisation in a simple intuitive graphical way?

5. Improved Communications

As well as indicating lines of reporting, OrgChart also allows people to see what lines of communication and escalation might be available.  For example if trying to escalate an issue with an IT support team whose manager is on leave it might be prudent to give a courtesy call to a senior analyst in the team before escalating to their manager’s manager.  Internal communication will always be a difficult thing to manage in any significantly sized (or geographically dispersed) organisation.

On your last staff satisfaction survey how did “Communications” fair?  How often are issues left unresolved until someone returns from leave because people had no way to identify where to escalate an issue?  How much time do employees spend on the phone, e-mail and instant messaging with each other each year trying to work out who they should actually be speaking to?  How much time would each employee save if they didn’t have to randomly call people to ask these questions and of course if they didn’t have to answer these questions?

6. Improved Liaising

As well as allowing staff to be able to see points of contact it also improves their ability to liaise appropriately with people.  Having an understanding of people’s position with the organisation coupled with knowledge of their specific job title and those of their peers can help staff engage in the right way with others in the organisation by setting expectations for what protocols to use.

For example a middle-level manager calling up the ‘Sales Support Manager’ for a casual chat about an account manager’s attitude might be appropriate … but perhaps not if they are actually the ‘Sales Support Manager (Southern Hemisphere)’ and situated ten levels above the account manager.

SocialLink™ is a feature that can provide additional information and context about an employee.  Employees using this feature can elect to pull in profile information from an external source (LinkedIn) for their OrgChart personal profile.   This can include details about skill sets, previous roles and even education.  It enables employees to build ‘better’ relationships and collaborate more effectively by surfacing more of the things the employees have in common.

How many people in your organisation know exactly what their job title is?  Does the ‘web services manager’ operate at the same level as the ‘head of risk management’?  Did you attend the same college as the customer services manager you’re meeting with later today? What difference would it make to you if you could look-up each attendee of an important meeting and match a name to each face before attending?  How would this help you interact with colleagues?  Would this build your confidence and make you feel better equipped to carry out your responsibilities?

7. Directory

One of the best features about OrgChart is arguably the directory.  This allows you to search for organisational units, positions and employees based on a range of criteria – not just the name.  The search results can be exported and you can further drill down into each result and see additional information about it (think a profile summary) and even view it in the organisational chart to get a better indication of where the unit/position/employee fits in.

Once again, the addition of SocialLink™ extends this further allowing information to be pulled in from an external source (LinkedIn).

Directory is far more than a simple address book replacement.  It gives you context around your searches as well.

Does knowing a bit of professional background on people and their roles make you any more confident in dealing with them?  If so how do you think they would respond and would it help you build stronger relationships more quickly?  What difference would it make to the way in which you work together?  If everyone in your organisation felt like this would it significantly improve the efficiency and/or productivity of your organisation?

8. Analytics

OrgChart includes a number of out of the box analytics.  These range from the obvious head, position and FTE counts to details about demographics within an organisational unit.  These are typically restricted access, but can be highly beneficial to executives and HR professionals who need to understand these metrics to ensure that the organisation is operating equitably and that any local laws (e.g. about ratios of local nation to external nation staff employment) are adhered to.

How does your organisation currently analyse demographic information about employees?  How much of any of these processes is manual?  How many requests does HR get from managers about this sort of information?  How many should HR get?  How much time and effort could be saved by having the very latest information available automatically to those with the authority to see it?  Would this make any difference to the way managers feel about HR (and vice versa)?

9. Data Cleansing

Systems can only work with the data they are given.  So if you put garbage in, you can expect to get garbage out.  Having correct up to date data in the system is essential, but if you don’t have it, OrgChart can help you get it.

OrgChart puts SAP data in the hands of those most able to identify issues.  One client indicated to a more senior colleague of mine that after OrgChart was implemented they saw a 10% increase in the number of HCM related issues being reported.

Whilst the SOVN product known as DataQualityConsole also provides a wealth of reports and analytics around HCM data issues, sometimes only a human can “see” something that’s wrong, and OrgChart is a tool to enable this.

How many requests does HR get each year about cleaning up HR data?  Are there peak periods?  What proportion of issues goes unnoticed until it is too late; and how much extra does it cost to fix at this point?  What difference would it make if you could have every employee verify their key HR information through a simple clean browser based interface?  How much time could be saved by managing the clean-up process in this way?  How much less would it cost for resolving issues before they become actual problems?

10. Cornerstone

As I’ve just mentioned another SOVN product I guess the final point should be that OrgChart is the foundation for so much more.  It is the first step on a path to more accurate higher value information that can feed many other processes, in particular those around talent management such as career development and succession planning. 

OrgChart isn’t the last piece of the puzzle.  It’s the first one.  The one with two straight edges that allows you to fit together all the other bits and give you the real big picture.

What is your HR strategy?  Does it revolve around using SAP?  Does it have any element of talent management to it? Does it use any form of self service?  What if delivering an org charting solution now could actually also be the first step to preparing for a future of increased talent management?  Would this improve the executive’s confidence in HR?  Would it improve people’s confidence in you to choose the right product?  Would it improve your confidence in choosing SOVN OrgChart to know that it is the product that SAP have implemented to allow them to visualise their own organisation?


Those are my ten top benefits.  I had a few more but I left some out to get down to a nice round ten.  That being said, I’d be interested in hearing what others have to say on what I’ve put forward here.  What benefits would you add? What benefits would you take out of the top ten? If you had to order them on merit – what order would you choose?  What other questions or methods might you add to evaluate and measure the impact of each benefit?

Finally a special thanks to stephen.burr (my mentor at ROC) who has helped me challenge many of my preconceptions about the ways in which SOVN OrgChart can be (and is) used.

Additional Resources

If you found this article interesting and want to discover more about the benefits of SOVN OrgChart you may find these additional resources useful:

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