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HR2013 was – predictably – a great conference. It didn’t quite live up to the US conference for me, but it was still very good and gave me a lot of value. This year was more about speaking to customers and partners rather than attending sessions. Much of the content was not that different from the US conference so I decided to make a different use of my time for sessions I had already seen.

SuccessFactors Hybrid Integration

During the jump-start day Margit Bauer spoke about the planned innovations for integration between SAP HCM and SuccessFactors BizX suite. The roadmap for the remainder of 2013 and first half of 2014 includes:

  • “Define-to-hire” process integration for Recruiting
  • Skills & Competencies integration
  • “Qualified for Success” process integration for Learning in 3 deliveries:
    • Learner history and competencies (integration with SAP ERP HCM)
    • Cost allocation (integration with SAP ERP FI/CO)
    • Compliance controlling (integration with SAP ERP EHSM)

Skills and Competencies are a core of a lot of the talent management processes so this will help cover a lot of what is missing right now for processes such as Learning, Development, and Succession.

SaaS concerns

jeremy.masters did a great job on delivering his jump-start session on Cloud and on-premise Talent Management options. For me it was interesting to see the top concerns about SaaS software from a Forrester report. Interestingly, only security and lack of customization really came up as a barrier over the conference and even integration didn’t feature as much as expected (more on that topic later).


Tuesday started with the Keynote by David Ludlow, with a focus on SuccessFactors Onboarding and UI/UX improvements with Employee Central and HR Renewal. Thomas Otter made a cameo appearance in the keynote and made an important point about ensuring that Employee Central also reflected the requirements of the European market and not just the US market. I think the Keynote was an odd place to feature a demo of Employee Central, but in hindsight I think the timing was right to introduce Employee Central to the audience.

What customers were saying

One of the most important parts of the conference for me is talking with customers and discovering their thoughts, challenges, and pain points on SAP HCM topics. Naturally SuccessFactors was the main topic that I discussed with almost every customer and partner. I was lucky enough to deliver some interactive sessions with customers that helped give me an insight into some of the challenges faced by customers:

  • SuccessFactors debunked: Lessons from the Trenches
  • The Future of SAP HCM: Predictions by the experts [Panel discussion]
  • SuccessFactors Integration: Experts discussion [panel discussion]

Thomas Otter and prashanth.padmanabhan, both part of the Future of SAP HCM discussion panel joined my session on SuccessFactors debunked and came away with a number of gaps that customers were facing. Luckily I managed to connect a number of the customers with Steve Hunt from SuccessFactors who runs the Customer Value program at SuccessFactors. Interestingly some of the challenges seem related to the data model and lack of availability of the Metadata Framework (especially Position Management) across the suite – in particular in solutions such as Performance & Goals and Compensation.

In other conversations and sessions it became more obvious to me that many customers are not so concerned about standard integration. Many customers are pressing ahead with SuccessFactors irrespective of whether there is standard integration content available or not. Customers are largely moving their talent processes into the cloud – as expected – and Employee Central doesn’t appear to be on the radar of many customers. For many, BizX is the system of record for Talent (as predicted by brandon.toombs3 some time ago).

Configuration and flexibility were issues that came up in a few of my sessions and for me it seemed obvious that the Metadata Framework (MDF) would solve many customers' challenges once it is rolled out across the entire BizX suite. With the recent innovations in the MDF area it makes for a compelling framework to extend the SuccessFactors BizX suite data model, rules and validations, and UI. I will be publishing a blog on the MDF soon.

Having spent time with Thomas Otter in my session, in the Future of SAP HCM panel, and in brief discussions it is clear that he is out to listen to customers. His understanding of the market is already excellent, but on the ground he was very attentive in discussing and listening to customers when talking about Employee Central and related challenges such as Position Management. This not only gives me greater confidence that Employee Central will evolve to be one of the top core HR systems in the market, but also that cross-suite features that are core to Employee Central will become integrated in the other solutions in the BizX suite to enhance the data model and foundational configuration flexibility. Many of the consultants I spoke to seemed to feel very optimistic about Employee Central and Thomas’ appointment is definitely the key factor in this new optimism and excitement.

This was one of the first conferences where I have not been asked about or heard customers, partners, or SAP discussing Nakisa. SuccessFactors is not replacing Nakisa at many customers or markets within Europe, but the less-than-usual interest in Nakisa is slightly worrying. The Nakisa booth was still very busy, but I didn’t experience much interest elsewhere.

From a partner standpoint access to information and partnership is one of the biggest challenges and many of the independent consultants are struggling to get this access. Thomas Otter said he would try to influence change, but this is outside of his official remit and I would expect SuccessFactors to be looking at revising their partner model already. I am surprised that this has not already happened.

My Key Takeaways

So, now onto my key takeaways:

  • Customers are implementing  SuccessFactors irrespective of whether there is standard integration content available from SAP
  • Uptake of SuccessFactors is well underway in the Nordics and UK, but is weaker elsewhere in Europe
  • Interest in Nakisa seems to remain, although it has decreased significantly in the last year
  • HR Renewal looks great, but the UI/UX is still inferior to SuccessFactors
  • In general, customers are still confused about the options available to them and the direction of SAP
  • Customers felt that many of the SAP-run sessions were marketing sessions rather than information sessions
  • Thomas Otter’s appointment has bought a new optimism around Employee Central and by listening to customers he has shown why many believe this is a significant appointment

Overall I felt that the audience is generally where the US audience was with SuccessFactors and the SAP strategy at last year's HR2012 event. It seems that the message is not getting across as much and judging by the low level of Tweeting, many European customers are not making full use of the channels available to them to ensure that they stay well informed. I don't think this is particularly the fault of SAP, but it shows that there needs to be more infiltration of information to the customer ecosystem. Ralf Wagner, head of Solution Management HCM, told me that he felt there should be more focused topics at next year's event rather than covering a wide range of topics. In some way I agree with this and I think it would be good, especially from a SuccessFactors perspective, to focus on what the audience really wants:

  • Clarity on the strategy and roadmap of SAP and SuccessFactors
  • More information on the SuccessFactors solutions relevant to the market (Compensation, Recruiting, and Learning)
  • Further details on the integration content and roadmap

Further Reading

martin.gillet2 – as usual – starred as the paparazzi and has an excellent collection available here. Martin also created a Storify story for the jump-start day here and a Storifier story of the conference here.

Luke Marson HR2013 - SAPinsider Video series part 2 of 6 features an interview I did for hansegloekkegaard of Red Commerce live at HR2013.

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