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HR 2013 Keynote Sets the Right Tone

by Lauren Bonneau, Managing Editor

February 28, 2013

by Lauren Bonneau

After attending the HR 2013 keynote on Tuesday, I have to say, I felt good about the vibe for this week’s event. If yesterday morning’s crowd was any indication, it’s going to be a fun-filled conference – there were lots of smiles and genuine enthusiasm with this group.

10 years of SAP HR learning

To introduce Day 1’s keynote speakers, Rizal Ahmed – Executive Vice President at Wellesley Information Services, the producer of the SAPinsider conference – took the stage and jokingly asked the crowd if they wanted to sing “Happy Birthday” to the HR2013 conference, as this marks the HR event’s 10th year. Ahmed also made a point to acknowledge SAP mentor and tweeter extraordinaire Martin Gillet @mgillet who -- true to form - was busy tweeting away already.

Ahmed also announced that for the first time, this year the event would borrow from the dating world and offer “Speed Networking.” I had the chance this morning to see this in action, and the turnout was great considering that it was at 7:30 in the morning … in VEGAS! What a group of troopers.

Data points and trends for HR in a global economy: Social, cloud, mobility and analytics

From there, Debra D’Agostino, Editorial Director for Oxford Economics, took the keynote stage to discuss  important trends around HR talent and diversity based on their findings from a 2012 online report surveying  250 HR directors, vice presidents, and C-level folks.

Some of the findings include:

  • 67% of respondents claim that the head of HR reports directly to the CEO (evidence that HR is getting a stronger voice at the table).
  • 84% of respondents expect analytics usage in HR operations will significantly increase over the next three years. (Important to SAP users, for sure).
  • More than 80% of executives say that their HR department is open to adopting new technology.
  • 77% say that the need to measure and track employee intake will increase over the next three years.
  • 70% expect to have the proper analytics tools in place to accomplish this within three years.

D’Agostino also mentioned several times that the emerging markets tend to continually be ahead of the learning and adoption curve for HR analytics and technology. For example, she cited a study finding that the expected spend in the US for mobility is lower than four other regions.

D’Agostino acknowledged that in response to globalization, mobility is a hot topic and one that brings with it various levels of concern, challenges, and adoption rates. She cited time entry and leave requests as two of the top HR processes that are widely available on mobile devices – and that the rest of the processes behind the curve need to catch up.

She revealed some interesting challenges and anxieties: Currently, 35% of respondents were using cloud solutions in HR. But more than half of the HR executives surveyed admitted they were nervous about the security implications for both mobile and cloud technology and a third cited concern about the use of deeper analytics.

Also of note, the survey clearly found that brand representation on social media is a big concern and challenge for HR executives.

SAP’s HR Roadmap: Cloud? Hybrid? What about On-Prem?

David Ludlow, Group Vice President, Line of Business Solutions, HR, for SAP then took the stage to describe SAP’s latest offerings in response to the current HR market demands. His initial focus was solely on hybrid (on-premise and cloud) offerings as well as cloud-only HR offerings – resulting in much Twitter chatter questioning if the omission of on-premise solutions was intentional or not.

The general tone seemed one of encouraging folks to move to cloud, with SAP and SuccessFactors ready to help customers on their journey to the cloud. When discussing SAP’s approach to helping businesses integrate cloud solutions to their existing environments, he said that it’s not only about software but also about installation guidance, which is where SAP and SuccessFactors can bring additional value.

Ludlow also shared some insights into SAP’s plan for HR, talking of a “loosely coupled suite” that would integrate with the core SAP ERP version 6.0 or above.  These “go forward” solutions, as SAP is calling them, will be the focus of SAP’s investment in the future.  The R&D emphasis, Ludlow said, will concentrate on Talent Management, reminding the audience of the reasons for the SuccessFactors acquisition in the first place. He quoted an estimate that 60% of all talent management is currently being delivered in the cloud, and that number is expected to continue to increase.

Ludlow also reminded attendees that maintenance for SAP Business Suite 7 will be good through 2020, and no successor release is defined as of yet.

Demos: Employee Central and Portal for on-premise HR

A demo of recent advances to Employee Central, the core HR system of record in the cloud, highlighted the ability to look up team members, change job or compensation information, and instantly create a historical record in the cloud. Ludlow then got around to talking about SAP ERP HCM on-premise solutions, now supported in 52 countries.

Ludlow revealed that SAP is continuing to invest in this solution with a focus on improving the user experience. Another demo of the HCM Portal followed where attendees saw new capabilities including the ability to now do a random search for an employee name, access a quick card from which they can drill down directly into employee info, and view a short profile that displays a summary of all employee info that is editable.

Ludlow quickly concluded his presentation by touching on how SAP HANA will soon improve HR analytics by allowing users to run payroll reports without having to do it in a reporting warehouse. Before he ended the address, he encouraged folks to stop by the Nakisa booth to see a demo from Nakisa on its enhancement to organizational modeling, which gets rid of some manual entry that previously slowed the process.

 What’s different at HR 2013?

It feels like this year the vibe is special. Maybe it’s because of the special emphasis on networking, with speed networking and panel discussions. Maybe it’s the dynamic discussions driven by the SuccessFactors acquisition. Or  maybe it’s simply because this year, for the first time, the HR event is on its own and not co-located with SAPinsider’s GRC and Financials conferences, as it has been in the past.  

In any case, these HR attendees I’ve talked to are psyched. They’re networking. And they seem to be enjoying the learning!

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