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It has been another very eventful year in HR Technology and last year at this time, a group of friends and I collaborated to write The Future of SAP HCM and SuccessFactors Consulting - 2015. This year we split the report into a three-part series with the Future of SAP HCM On Premise Consulting – 2016 (Part 1) and the Future of SuccessFactors Consulting – Employee Central, Payroll, Analytics, Concur (Part 2) released over the past this. This is the final installment and hopefully everyone has found them valuable.

I have no doubt we are we are still in the early innings of the multi year shift from client server OnPremise software (i.e. SAP HCM, Oracle EBS, PeopleSoft) to the next generation cloud based offerings (i.e. SuccessFactors, Workday, Oracle HCM Cloud). Some of called this a “Once in a Generation Land Grab” which is spot on and Bill Kutik has done a great job of comparing the major HR cloud vendors in this article. SAP has been very aggressive over the past 5 years spending over 17 billion on acquiring cloud companies such as SuccessFactors, Ariba, Fieldglass and Concur and is now predicting that cloud and support revenue will overtake software by 2018.

Given that, it should come as no surprise that SAP is leading with SuccessFactors HCM Suite for all new customers, in most regions worldwide. There has always been a delicate balance within the SAP HCM Consulting market and this major shift over the last few years of HR customers moving to the cloud (with SuccessFactors and to competitors) has had a huge impact on the traditional SAP HCM consulting market. In the SAP HCM market, I am seeing a very little opportunity, billable rate compression, layoffs and it is not a place you want to be longer term.

On the flip side virtually every consulting company is looking to add experienced SuccessFactors resources as well as re-train and certify their existing consultants on new technology. This was one of the reasons I recorded “Becoming and HCM SaaS Consultant and followed it up with “Becoming a SuccessFactors Consultant” with fellow SAP Mentor Alumni Jon Reed and Luke Marson to help people with the transition.For any customers or consultants reading this, the SuccessFactors consulting world is VERY different than the SAP consulting world and would high recommending watching the video below.

While there will continue to be some very small pockets of strength in the SAP HCM market in various regions and modules, the combination of the product roadmap being squarely focused on SuccessFactors, SAP sales teams leading with the Cloud (for HR), continued off-shoring, faster implementations, the buzz for cloud based HR technology and serious competitive threats from Workday, Oracle Fusion and others guarantee the OnPremise SAP HCM consulting market will continue its downward spiral.

I decided to reach out to a diverse group of individuals that I personally know and trust would give an honest opinion of what they are seeing on the ground in their respective areas. They include SAP HCM and SuccessFactors Industry Experts, SAP Mentors, SAP Press Authors, HR Expert authors, well-known conference speakers and some of the most knowledgeable individuals I know in the industry.  Here are their thoughts.

SuccessFactors Performance and Goals.

I spoke with Chris McNarney who is the owner of McNarney Consulting and who I profiled several years ago in How to Transition from a SAP HCM to SuccessFactors, and he told me:

I read what I wrote in this blog last year about PM/GM and thought to myself, “yeah that pretty much seems like good advice for this year too.”  Just like last year, a big part of the consulting world for PM/GM is understanding what the differences are between all the different flavors of PM/GM (v11, v12, v12 Acceleration, 360s).  On top of that you just have to keep up with the product releases.  Any lack of effort to keep up with enhancements each quarter will likely result in you giving your customer some amount invalid advice.  The last thing you want is your client alerting you of a new feature you told them didn’t exist.

Speaking of quarterly releases, I have always been interested at how the PM & GM modules are so heavily insulated from platform level enhancements.  While so much of SuccessFactors is being reborn on RBP, MDF or Intelligent Services; the world of PM/GM was somewhat independent with things like form specific permissions instead of RBP allowing consultants of this module to not have to follow enhancements at the platform level as closely as say an EC consultant might.  In recent releases though SuccessFactors has started exposing PM/GM to other platform level features so I believe 2016 will mean consultants need to start using those to provide added value.

Let’s look at an example.  Let’s say your client has a requirement to send completed PM form data to another system, or maybe even a PDF of an employee’s permanent record.  Previously you might handle that with scheduled ad hoc reports or manually run Archive & Print jobs.  In 2016 you could send an event via Intelligent Services to Boomi or some other endpoint when a form was completed that will then gather form data via the OData API and then construct that into data interfaced directly to the 3rd party system.

Another example would be the Continuous Performance functionality being released in early 2016.  This is a larger foray of PM into the mobile arena (but it also has a web component) to facilitate touch points and 1:1 discussions. This is my opinion alone as I am obviously not part of the product management team nor do I have my finger on the pulse of every customer but I don’t believe consultants will see a ton of traffic on this feature in 2016.

One final note – keep an eye on the ever growing list of provisioning features moving to Admin Center as PM/GM is definitely a benefactor.  This is an effort of SuccessFactors being more client friendly, but it stands to benefit consultants as well (especially those of us who are independent) and certainly any consultant who has waited 2 weeks to get a provisioning request completed.

SuccessFactors Compensation

I reached out to Atif Siddiqui, a Certified Professional in SuccessFactors Compensation, with over 25+ Compensation Projects under his belt. He is currently leading the SuccessFactors Practice at GroupeX Solutions and he told me:

For 2015, customers benefitted from key enhancements such as the Enhanced UI Worksheets and Field Based Permissions delivered in the Compensation & Variable Pay modules. Going forward, the increasing adoption of Employee Central by both new and existing Talent customers is increasing demand for the EC & Comp/VarPay implementations to be tightly integrated. While SuccessFactors product management team have done an excellent job of moving majority of the integration away from XML to the Compensation Admin UI, implementation consultants definitely need to have a solid knowledge of key EC functionality and how data setup/changes impact the Compensation cycle. Having a firm grasp on how data should flow between these two modules will definitely make the implementation process much easier.

Another area consultants need to keep an eye on is the increasing trend of breaking the link between Performance Management and Total Rewards. While not the norm today, I expect this trend to impact business processes as there is still a need to collect quantitative business measures and individual performance results (be it continuous or annual) before one’s salary increase or bonus amounts are determined. Compensation consultants will be tasked in coming up with creative solutions leveraging the existing toolsets available in the product. SuccessFactors has also started to deliver on this trend by introducing functionality such as Spot Awards. Expect more innovation to come in this area in 2016.

Compensation consultants are also being asked to deliver additional reports and analytics using the SuccessFactors Platform/Foundation toolsets such as Online Report Designer and YouCalc/Dashboards 2.0. While not a skill legacy consultants needed, proficiency in delivery a solution to a customer’s requirement by leveraging these foundational products can make a key difference in an implementation. SuccessFactors has also delivered key enhancements in the area by enhancing modelling capabilities in the Compensation/Variable Pay modules.

Lastly, I would advise consultants to be on top of the Product Roadmap and the quarterly IRRs. There is tremendous amount of information available to make informed decisions impacting customer’s implementation projects. From what I can gather, there is a lot more planned innovation coming in 2016 that should keep us on our toes. This year, I foresee an increasing demand for Compensation & Variable Pay Consultants with hands-on integration experience with Employee Central across the globe as some large EC implementations started in 2015 move to the Talent phase of their implementations.

SuccessFactors Talent

I spoke to Amy Grubb is the CEO of Cloud Consulting Partners who has been in the HR consulting space since 1997 and holds three SuccessFactors certifications: Talent Management, Talent Sourcing and Align and Perform. She has been implementing SuccessFactors solutions since 2007 and has implemented hundreds of modules for clients. She is also co-author of SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM, both the first and second editions, and she teaches several SuccessFactors Mastery courses for SAP Education who told me:

Talent management has long been an area of stable maturity in terms of process and systems. SuccessFactors’ Succession and Development modules have long reflected best practice for managing key talent, identifying HiPo’s and managing development opportunities for those with successor nominations. With the addition of the Meta Data Framework (MDF) now regularly used on the Succession Org Chart, customers have much greater ability to define information on their key positions than ever before.

A few newer features over the last 2 years are enabling customers to better manage their talent review process by taking the data and making it even more accessible and user-friendly. A favorite feature is Presentations, which allows you to present the data in a Power Point view. Since many customers managed their talent data in spreadsheets and Power Point prior to having a “system,” this feature provides the best of both worlds. You can quickly and easily design a Presentation template that includes all of the key data stored in SuccessFactors.

Another lesser-used feature is utilizing Calibration to calibrate succession data across the organization. This offers the opportunity to not only view talent on a performance-potential matrix, but to actually move their position in one view rather than updating each individual’s performance/potential ratings on the Scorecard. Finally, Career Worksheet in Development continues to be a very powerful tool for companies to truly engage employees in their own development. The data required to support this feature often keeps companies from taking advantage of it. But for those with a robust library of roles/profiles, it can be a differentiator with key talent. 

SuccessFactors Recruiting

I spoke with Mark Ingram and Kim Lessley who are co-owners of Ingram Talent and in a past life both had product management roles at SAP and they told me:

2015 saw a continued trend of maturing functionality, increased integration to other modules and solid customer adoption. From an implementation perspective we have seen a lot more projects that involve parallel implementation of some combination of Recruiting Management, Recruiting Marketing, Onboarding and Employee Central. This adds additional effort in terms of integration mapping and project coordination, but enables customers to leverage the synergies of implementing on an integrated platform.

There has been a bit of a shift in Recruiting Marketing and Recruiting Management--from the focus on adding new standalone features to smartly enhancing and leveraging integration between the BizX Platform, Recruiting Management, Recruiting Marketing, Onboarding and Employee Central. Examples include, but are far from limited to, the replacement of Job Code Entity as a means of defaulting data on the job requisition with the Metadata Framework Job Classification Foundation Object and the ability to create requisitions directly from the position org chart. Additional cross-module enhancements include standardizing candidate data retention rules across Recruiting modules, introducing RCM to RMK redirects for Invite to Apply and Employee Referral notifications, the use of Intelligent Services to replace recruiting users on leave of absence with their managers, and many more. Now that RCM has achieved functional parity with a lot of competitors, leveraging a homogeneous platform and suite of modules is where it will shine.

Integration solves headaches, improves processes and creates a unified user experience. That doesn’t mean we don’t still crave the fun stuff. Long awaited features include Outlook integration for interview scheduling and Mobile Apply. Last year SAP acquired a company called Multiposting that enables cross-posting of jobs to hundreds of sites with the click of a button. Initially this service was restricted to Recruiting Marketing customers, but as of Q1 2016, the publishing of jobs through Multiposting is now also available to Recruiting Management customers without Recruiting Marketing.

SuccessFactors is shifting towards more administrative self service for clients, enabling greater self reliance. A great example of this, and a very welcome addition, is the Career Site Builder. This WYSIWYG tool allows consultants and clients to implement and maintain a client's Recruiting Marketing site, something previously restricted to a SuccessFactors shared services team. Career Site Builder will enable customer to easily maintain a site with fresh content since SuccessFactors will no longer need to be engaged for changes. Career Site Builder is currently in limited rollout with partners but expect widespread use by the end of 2016.

From a certification perspective, SAP Certified Application Associate will be made available for Recruiting Management and Recruiting Marketing in 2016.

SuccessFactors Onboarding

I reached out to Venki Krishnamoorthy, who has 5 SuccessFactors Certifications (wow) and is the co-author of multiple SAP Press Books who told me:

SuccessFactors Onboarding is gaining traction in the marketplace. More and more customers are becoming aware of the importance of Onboarding and the need for an Onboarding solution.   They are purchasing the ONB solution, along with other SuccessFactors talent modules, and do making plans for local and global rollouts. SuccessFactors onboarding is a relatively mature product, but has tremendous opportunity to improve.

In 2016, I expect more customers to implement Onboarding. Many of these implementations might have complex requirements, which may not be fully fulfilled at the current maturity level of SFSF ONB. For example, many customers do background verification / drug tests before an offer is made to the candidate. Some customers prefer to do this as part of the ONB process. Currently SFSF ONB does not provide the functionality to support background verification /drug tests as part of the ONB functionality. This is an important requirement for many customers, and depending on the experience of the implementation teams, this is either implemented or told, this is not supported.

In 2016, I expect customers to get more creative with their ONB requirements. Social Onboarding will go mainstream, and integrating JAM with ONB will be more common. Last year, I completed a SFSF RCM rollout, where Salesforce Chatter was used as social onboarding tool.  Moving forward, such inter-cloud integrations will become commonplace.

SAP has done a tremendous job in easing the integration between SFSF Recruiting and SFSF ONB, SFSF EC and SFSF EC. But, integration between ONB and SAP HCM or other third party systems is still a pain point. Customers are baffled, when they are told we can integrate SFSF ONB – SAP HCM or other third party HRIS by flat-files or using a middleware bus. Any integration strategy that does not involve flat-files is an investment and need to be budgeted. It will be helpful if SAP can invest more on the integrations.

Last year, SuccessFactors started a RIG (Regional Interest Group) to support EC implementations. This is a small team of 15 people, spread across the globe, supporting EC implementation in their designated geographies. This year, SAP will be expanding RIG to include (support) SFSF RCM and SFSF ONB implementations. This will be a great boon to implementation teams, and customers (especially customers), since they can turn to this team for any support (ticket escalations, inputs from the product teams, PMO support or in exception scenarios to jump in and complete the configurations).

Any customer, who is on an ONB journey, should encourage their implementation teams to attend the bi-weekly ONB PEPS calls. The PEPS lead and the solutions owner lead these calls to respond to the questions faced by the implementation teams. These calls are very helpful, and the implementation teams can learn from one another.

In 2016, consulting demand for experienced ONB implementation teams will grow exponentially. ONB can be implemented between 3 weeks – 6 months. An experienced consultant who specializes in ONB can bring value to the customer, as well to the product.

SuccessFactors Learning

I spoke with Sharon Newton, who was a co-author of SAP Enterprise Learning, a fellow SAP Mentor, and the CEO at hyperCision and she told me:

In 2016, for SAP Consultants, the future of learning is SuccessFactors Learning. And there is plenty of opportunity to leverage your skills across four different types of customers, all who will appreciate a qualified consultant’s support. 

1. The legacy SAP Learning Solution (LSO) customer – There are approximately 400 LSO customers globally (there are a lot of caveats around this number but assume at least half of them actively use the solution) and the majority of them are starting to plan their migration to/implementation of SuccessFactors learning.  My best guess is that there are at least a hundred customers who will need support to migrate and this support will be both in the areas of process re-engineering and data migration as well as implementation. For some customers, who leveraged minimal LSO functionality or who implemented for a small stakeholder group, the migration and implementation will be fairly clear cut and simple but for every simple implementation, there will be a complex legacy LSO implementation that requires change management, process optimization, governance guidance, data migration and data mapping, and solution configuration.   Consultants who focus here should understand both solutions to optimally support their customers and be able to discuss SAP and partner accelerators. 

2. Customers migrating from other Learning Management Systems Customers who are moving off other legacy LMS’s will require similar support to that required by LSO customers. Because other LMS’s are outside the SAP family, in terms of migrating, there will be fewer expectations for accelerators, although a similar quality of care will be expected.  

3. The legacy (Plateau) on-premise customer (I will not address legacy hosted customers as these migrations are managed by SuccessFactors) – There are still many customers who are on-premise but, with support for this solution scheduled to end soon, there is some urgency to their need to migrate.  For these customers, the migration may be mainly data migration, which is typically handled by SuccessFactors or by specialized consulting organizations with legacy expertise in migrating the Plateau database.  These customers may also need support with custom extensions and mapping these to current functionality or leveraging web services to implement similar solutions in the Cloud.  Another key point to consider is that many legacy Plateau customers are Life Sciences organizations, so consultants who focus on legacy-Plateau migrations should understand both SuccessFactors Learning and vSaaS (Validated SaaS) Learning. 

4. New LMS customers – A customer with no legacy LMS typically has fewer complex scenarios and will go with a best-practices implementation scaled for growth.  These implementations are often rapid as data migration and process realignment are not required; however, these customers still require change management support and may require more discussion on learning process best practices.

While the number of legacy LSO and on-premise SuccessFactors customers migrating will become fewer and fewer in the next few years, the other two categories of customer will continue to have strong growth and provide great opportunities for skilled consultants. 

Wrap Up

There is an excellent quote from Naomi Bloom who is a HR Technology thought leader that I like to share every year as I find it very relevant.

"Consultants, at least in my world view, are individuals who are able to study a business problem and, regardless of any particular technology choices, guide the client to the best possible approach to achieving the desired business results."

At the end of the day, if you are a consultant that is able to provide that type of value for your customers then it won't matter the HR technology, you will be have the head start at being successful. That said, it is very important whether you are a customer or consultant, that you are aware of where the technology is headed and in HR the future is the cloud. If you trying to break into HR Technology I don’t see any scenario where learning SAP HCM as a “fresher” in 2016 and beyond is going to serve you well in the long run.

I am a big believer that being a lifelong learner is a key competitive advantage given the rapid pace of change in HR Technology, and in order to stay current on all the major news and developments I would recommend joining the 26,000+ people in my Global SAP and SuccessFactors and Global SAP HCM and SuccessFactors groups.

Would love to get your comments, questions to the authors, and your individual point of view.

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