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Many Hands Make Talent Work: Partners Enhance Talent Management with New and Innovative SAP ERP Offerings

by Harry West | SAPinsider

April 1, 2008

SAP has long supported companies’ evolving talent management needs. But SAP ERP HCM’s open technology platform also gives companies the flexibility they need to take advantage of new, exciting offerings from SAP partners — check out three of the latest and greatest here.

What's the best way to educate my staff? How can I ensure that my employees retain the information and insights they learn in training sessions? Who are my company's next leaders? Let's face it: SAP can't answer your most pressing talent-related questions for you. But what we can — and do — offer is a set of groundbreaking human capital management (HCM) tools to help you answer these critical talent management questions for yourself.

SAP has made numerous enhancements to its core talent management offerings in SAP ERP with the goal of providing customers a single, integrated platform for all talent-related processes. We've also continued to add new features, Web services, and user interfaces (UIs) — delivered through regular functionality updates, or enhancement packages — to this strategic piece of the SAP ERP HCM solution (see Figure 1).

Enhancement package
Enhancement package 1
(available as of December 2006)
The Talent Development Specialist role, which combines the maintenance of competencies, organizational structures, analytics, and talent-related dashboard functionality in one portal role
New talent management analytics in SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence
The Job Family object, which defines the talent-related structure of your organization
Integration to job families from performance management for better successor search capabilities
Enhancement package 2
(available as of July 2007)
The Instructor/Tutor role; using the Web-based portal, instructors and tutors can manage the preparation, delivery, and follow-up of their training activities
SAP Enterprise Learning with Adobe Connect, offering virtual learning room capabilities for synchronous training sessions integrated into the SAP Learning Solution offering


Enhancement package 3
(available as of
December 2007)
New partner service integration capabilities for resume parsing and background checking
Enhanced search capabilities, including nested Boolean searches
New candidate services like Hot Jobs and Tell a Friend
Updated Manager role, including new requisition form and delegation capabilities
Many more enhancements to e-recruiting functionality
Please visit for a complete list of all enhancement package deliverables.
Figure 1
New talent-related capabilities delivered through enhancement packages for SAP ERP

Talent management functionality delivered with SAP ERP HCM benefits as much from being open for partner and customer innovations as it does from its own ongoing development. In the talent management arena, our partners are creating lots of buzz; I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce you to three partner solutions that add significant value to SAP ERP HCM.

Manage Virtual Education with Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional and SAP Enterprise Learning

As noted in Figure 1, enhancement package 2 for SAP ERP contains a new Instructor/Tutor role for managing typical training-related activities — such as course enrollments — and follow-up activities, like confirming participation and competency attainment. Customers also have the option to license a new offering, SAP Enterprise Learning, which pre-integrates the virtual learning room capabilities of Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional with the Instructor role and the learner portal.

Before we delve into Adobe's solution, a quick note about SAP Enterprise Learning: This is our newest, most complete learning offering — it's the SAP Learning Solution plus Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional.

Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional's easy setup and use make scheduling and running live, virtual training sessions simpler than ever.

Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional is a state-of-the-art online collaboration tool that provides instructors with an ideal platform for managing content, conducting online discussions, and hosting synchronous learning sessions. One of the most valuable characteristics of an Adobe Connect room is its persistence: Instructors can prepare a room with slides, quizzes, and any other virtual materials they will need for the classroom experience they are creating (see Figure 2). The room can then be assigned in the training catalog within SAP to the particular courses an instructor is teaching. This way, instructors can ensure their rooms are always prepared for any scheduled session of the course. Plus, they don't need to worry about configuring a room more than once; it'll remain set up just the way they like it.

Figure 2
Setting up a virtual learning room for a real-time classroom session in Adobe Acrobat Connect

Figure 3 shows the Instructor role's work center. Here the instructor is managing virtual learning rooms and assigning a specific room to a scheduled course. With the portal integration to SAP available in the SAP Enterprise Learning offering, it's easy for an instructor to check his or her upcoming courses, then manage and prepare virtual learning rooms all from one place.

Figure 3
Managing virtual learning rooms in the new Instructor role of SAP Enterprise Learning

The Adobe Connect rooms offer instructors a number of great capabilities for setting up effective online learning sessions. Adobe Connect is a market-leading collaboration platform, and its benefits are easily apparent to instructors and learners as soon as they interact with the system:

  • Its UI is designed to quickly allow learners to enter the room without having to remember a lot of passwords or codes — learners simply launch the course from the learner portal as with any other e-learning activities in SAP solutions.
  • The pre-integrated offering authenticates learners into their scheduled session based on their registration for the event in the SAP system. Unregistered attendees cannot access the room.
  • Instructors can take advantage of many different areas of the virtual learning room, which is organized into discrete visual blocks of content known as pods, to make a session as effective as possible. For example, there is a share pod that allows instructors to share their desktops, applications, e-learning content and presentations, or interactive whiteboards. Other pods handle file-sharing capabilities, chat sessions, Web browsing tools, camera and microphone connections to help personalize the instruction, and other valuable functions. There is even an instructor-only area where instructors can manage behind-the-scenes tasks, such as facilitating a Q&A during a session in real-time by feeding answers directly into a live chat forum1.
  • What's more, a virtual learning room can have separate areas for real-time instruction and discussion (or for other purposes), where different types of pods, such as online polls or quizzes, are available for the participants.

Both instructors and learners benefit from the addition of Adobe's virtual learning room capability to the SAP Enterprise Learning environment. Its easy setup and use make scheduling and running live sessions simpler than ever. The SAP Enterprise Learning environment can truly become an organizational hub for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Integrate Assessments into Your Training with Questionmark Perception and SAP Enterprise Learning

Many companies make extensive use of assessments (namely quizzes and tests); they're a tried-and-true method of verifying how well students retain knowledge after training sessions, particularly when course participants will receive certifications.

Questionmark Perception is a leading product on the market today for managing the creation, delivery, and evaluation of online assessments linked to enterprise learning. Perception is a powerful tool for tests — it supports up to 22 different question types (including multiple choice and fill in the blank, for example), efficiently manages large question banks, and offers extensive workflow and reporting capabilities. And many SAP customers already use it.

With the SAP Connector from Questionmark, Perception users will be able to deliver high-quality test content
to all learners in SAP solutions, providing a real-time link between demonstrated knowledge retention and competency updates in SAP ERP HCM.

Questionmark has released a Connector for SAP Enterprise Learning that allows companies using Perception to link their assessments directly with the SAP Learning Solution. Users need only sign in to the SAP system; they can then directly access their assigned tests from the learner portal. The Connector leverages SOAP-based Web services from SAP Learning Solution and integrates to SAP Learning Solution 3.0 (offered with the mySAP ERP 2004 release), as well as SAP Enterprise Learning (available in enhancement package 2 for SAP ERP).

Figure 4 shows how users interact with Questionmark Perception content integrated into the learner portal in SAP.

Figure 4
Launching a test in Questionmark Perception from SAP Enterprise Learning

Through the open Web services from SAP Enterprise Learning, a student's test score and other participation data can be sent directly to the SAP system to update the employee's training history and qualifications. The system tracks the number of times a student accesses the test, how much time the student spends taking the test, and his or her test scores.

With the SAP Connector from Questionmark, Perception users will be able to deliver high-quality test content to all learners in SAP, providing a real-time link between demonstrated knowledge retention and competency and certifications updates in SAP ERP HCM. This valuable integration between two leading learning applications highlights the value of open Web services in the SAP ERP HCM solution. And it delivers a real benefit to customers seeking easy-to-integrate offerings for their training organizations.

Focus on Your Organization and its Talent with SAP Talent Visualization by Nakisa

Ask any consultant, "What is the first thing you set up when implementing any SAP system?" and you'll get a unanimous answer: the enterprise's organizational structure (I'll call it the org structure for short). This structure plays a pivotal role in all SAP ERP solutions, but is especially important in SAP ERP HCM. The org structure coordinates all information about an enterprise, including cost centers, reporting relationships, position details, and more.

Because it is so highly integrated with workflow and business processes throughout SAP, the data represented by the org structure is both voluminous and very dynamic. Integrating non-SAP systems with SAP ones — in the area of talent management, for example — often requires duplicating data from the org structure or duplicating other Personnel Development (PD) objects, like qualifications. This duplication, or any attempts to directly integrate the data between systems, is usually very time consuming, error prone, and difficult to maintain over the medium and long term as you implement new releases of point solutions.

One company that has been successful in building applications that read directly from the SAP org
structure is Nakisa. Nakisa has a series of applications that visualize enterprise data in the context of organizational structures. SAP is now offering a suite of these applications — under the name of SAP Talent Visualization by Nakisa — directly to its HCM customers.

SAP Talent Visualization by Nakisa nicely plugs in to all different areas of SAP (including SAP ERP HCM, SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence, and SAP NetWeaver Portal), pulls out talent data in real time, and presents it in a truly easy-to-understand way. It's a great value-add to SAP's talent management application.

These Talent Visualization applications allow users to gain insight into the makeup of the workforce
by navigating through it in the easiest way possible — by clicking through the org structure itself. They also facilitate HCM master data cleansing by offering visibility into errors or inaccuracies within employee data or the org structure. Because the applications are certified for SAP's standard interfaces for HR and organizational data, they always represent organizations, people, and positions with real-time accuracy. The applications are ideally suited for executives, managers, or anyone who needs to know more about how a company is structured and how deep the organization's talent pool is.

Succession planning is a critical, high-level concern, so let's use it as an example. What executives want for succession planning is not a complex collection of screens where they have to manually enter data and do detailed searches. Rather they simply want to look at the workforce and know: What skills do our employees have? Who are we grooming to move into high-level positions? And are they good enough?

SAP is including these kinds of succession-planning capabilities in the Talent Visualization offering. With SAP Talent Visualization, users can review any organization's bench strength simply by looking at it in the org structure and drilling down to view designated successors (see Figure 5). They can review details about the people who hold key positions with just a few clicks of the mouse — and can even designate new potential successors or compare potential successors to assess their fit for a position.

Figure 5
Users can easily navigate, review, and even update successor data from the
SAP Talent Visualization application

The application is also useful for delivering analytics to power users who are evaluating a company or its divisions. Analytics from SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI) can be delivered on an organizational unit basis through the offering's HCM dashboard capability. And all employees will benefit from being able to search for teams or employees quickly and easily using the Web-based UI from Nakisa. I encourage you to check out a Webcast with a compelling customer case study available at

With this new offering, companies can finally deliver detailed, actionable information to decision makers who need quick, accurate answers about the company's talent. The application is another example of partner innovation that drives the SAP ERP HCM offering forward by taking advantage of the platform's openness and adding innovative UI technology. It leverages a customer's investment in SAP with no duplication of system data.


SAP remains committed to adding ongoing innovations to SAP ERP through its enhancement package strategy and enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA). In fact, customers can expect to see the results of further investment in talent management functionality, including new capabilities for SAP Talent Visualization by Nakisa, with the next enhancement package for SAP ERP (enhancement package 4, slated for release in late 2008).

Customers will also continue to benefit from partner innovation based on SAP ERP — and talent management is an area where many partners are making valuable contributions to the SAP solution. Applications from Adobe, Questionmark, and Nakisa represent some of the newest and most exciting offerings to make use of SAP's open technology platform and rich workforce data to deliver compelling solutions for companies running SAP. As SAP expands its partner ecosystem even further in 2008, SAP ERP HCM users will continue to benefit from the openness of the platform and the creativity of our many partners.

Additional Resources

"New Enhancements Pave the Way for a Comprehensive Talent Management Strategy" (SAP Insider, October-December 2006,

"Building and Retaining an Innovative Workforce Using Talent Management in mySAP ERP" (SAP Insider, April-June 2005,

SAP ERP HCM Performance Management by Christos Kotsakis and Jeremy Masters (SAP PRESS,

Harry West ( is the Director of Market Development for SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM). An SAP employee for 13 years, Harry has held positions in Walldorf and Palo Alto. Harry has contributed to many areas of SAP ERP HCM, including US payroll, tax reporting, talent management, HR business process outsourcing (BPO), and SAP xApps. Harry holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Scranton and an MBA from the University of Washington.

1 Participants can interact with the content in any pod based on how the instructor configures and designates access to the room. For example, if the instructor wants participants to focus on a PowerPoint presentation, he or she can sync all participants so they cannot skip forward and backward during the presentation. Presenters can also turn off or suppress pods until the appropriate time for their use, such as activating a Q&A pod only at the conclusion of a presentation.


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