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HR Connections - Brandon Toombs discusses HR Renewal 2.0 and HR Professional Role

by Brandon Toombs

November 20, 2014

Brandon Toombs, Principal of Toombs Consulting, joins SAPinsider for an HR Connections podcast. Topics of this conversation include:

  • Next-generation functionality in HR Professional Role
  • User experience evolution in SAP's on-premise HCM solutions
  • Ease-of-use considerationswith unified search, roadmap forms, and dynamic actions in HR Renewal 2.0
  • SAP's ongoing investment in HR Renewal and reasons for adoption

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and you are listening to another edition of HR Connections, and SAPinsider exclusive podcast series that is focused on the latest developments and trends in the HR space. I’m pleased to be joined today by Brandon Toombs, the principal of Toombs Consulting and one of the authors of an upcoming book from SAP Press which is about self-services with SAP ERP HCM. Brandon, thank you for joining us.

Brandon Toombs: Thanks for having me, Ken.

KM: Brandon, there’s a lot of talk these days about HR Renewal 2.0 and one of the things you’re joining us to talk about today is new enhancements to HR Professional Role. I’m curious if you could give us some background on HR Renewal 2.0 and what some of those new features and enhancements are.

BT: I’m going to even take it a step further back than that, even. And really just first talk about probably one of the most under-appreciated elements in HR Renewal period. And that is the HR Professional Role. So we’re all familiar Employee Self-Service (ESS) and Manager Self-Service (MSS). Those have been around for a long time. They have varying degrees of adoption. ESS is really strongly adopted. MSS people are getting to the point where there processes can support it. But one thing that hasn’t really changed over the last 20 years really is the HR way of interacting with SAP. That is, through the good old GUI. Most people are used to and familiar with logging into something called the Windows GUI, or the JAVA GUI, however it is you get in. And going around with some obscure transaction code like PA 30 and PA 40. What SAP has done, when they surveyed the marketplace they saw that they did not have a core HCM offering really that was on par visually with what else is going on in the marketplace, particularly with Workday and especially with I think their new Employee Central offering, that’s their cloud offering from SuccessFactors.

And so they realized they needed to build out functionality that was web-based, that was next-generation that users could be accessing and could feel good about and was a little bit more consumer-grade. So that’s really the driver behind the HR Professional Role, and really when you get right down to it, most of the HR Renewal investment is really in taking what was there and what has been there for such a long time in the Windows GUI, and translating that into something that is more web-based, more intuitive, and makes it easier for the more casual user – the people that are in-between the heavy, heavy back-office users and the managers of the world – for them to have a role in the portal that they can call their own.

KM: How has that been received in the marketplace?

BT: Like many things from SAP, the adoption is really driven by where you’re at as an organization. And a lot of times, organizations one of the first things they put in of course is the core HCM environment. So that is stable, so there’s not as much of an impetus to change right away. And so what it takes is a few brave organizations to go out there and blaze a trail and to say, “I’m going to put this in, and see how it goes” to build out those cases and those success stories. And so that initial wave of success stories has happened now, and we’re starting to see online and at conferences people standing up and trumpeting the new HR Professional Role. So the bottom line Ken really is that we’re just now at the very early adopters of the learning curve, but we’re going to see more widespread adoption, I would say within the next year or two.

KM: And why is that, what are the highlights?

BT: So the adoption really is driven by the fact that the HR Professional Role makes it easier for HR professionals to do their job day-in-and-day-out; so things like unified search, so I can do searches across employees and positions and org units, I can have a more summarized view of my employee profile where I can get and see access, key information about employees right away. I also have a better team view that is accessible to me as an HR administrator. So I can go in and look and see the org structure in a really nice way. And then another area that was a big win – and this came in in version 2.0, was the roadmap forms, and the roadmap forms allowing us to basically take what was before in Windows GUI what was the PA 40 actions, which is a stream together of multiple Infotype screens, and putting those on the Web so that it’s a nicer, cleaner interface that I can get to. And the roadmap provides some really cool functionality which includes a new version of something that we know in our old world as dynamic actions, which is the ability to default information on say your work tax area based on the fact that I’ve moved to a new location. Things like that, I now can do that on a roadmap form through the Web and the Web-based front end is cleaner, easier to use and actually provides some deeper and richer functionality than was the case before with your back-end transactions.

It’s easier to use and the benefits of that from a business standpoint are, No. 1 you can do your job more efficiently. But also No. 2, it allows you to get more people involved in the process, the more casual users can get involved and do more. So it challenges the assumptions of who can be an HR user where before you needed somebody who’d been through a lot of training. Maybe now you don’t have to have quite so much training and that really changes the equation of how distributed you can make your team of users of the HR and the people that can consume your HR data.

KM: Does that then drive compliance?

BT: It certainly can help drive compliance, as far as from a segregation of duties (SoD) standpoint absolutely. That’s one aspect of this is you can make it so that your back-office folks are dealing with more of the configuration types of things and you can roll out more of the data changing to your more casual users on the front end.

KM: So how is this presented in the UI? Is this a new lane?

BT: Yes, as a matter of fact. So, just to kind of position this to where this fits into the overall scheme of things – as we know now we have Employee Self-Service, Manager Self-Service, we also have SAP Fiori, which has ESS and MSS aspects to it. Well, the HR Professional Role really sits outside of that whole universe and it really stands on its own and it’s really intended as of today to be something we access through a portal or through a laptop. There are certain aspects of it that are mobile enabled but there’s a lot of rich functionality that is still something you want to access via a laptop and its mostly accessible via the portal and accessible by an HR professional. It does have some of the newer SAP UI5 look and feel, so it does have some of that really cool, new visual front-end that makes it a lot more attractive and more engaging with an end-user but it is definitely still something that as of today someone would get most benefits of it from looking at it on a laptop.

KM: Where do you see SAP’s commitment to HR Renewal and the HR Professional Role moving forward? Is there anything we can expect in the coming year?

BT: Sure, that’s a really interesting question because it requires some reading of the tea leaves. SAP can be kind of close-lipped about where they’re going in the future because they don’t want people to rely on bad advice if you will. So what I’ll say is what I’m doing right now is not going off of any kind of inside information, it’s more just here’s my gut on where this is going. No. 1, I see the investment on the HR Professional side, really continuing and if anything accelerating. I’ve been really surprised at the level of commitment really since the acquisition of SuccessFactors, it seems like ironically enough the level of investment on the on-premise side particularly on the core HCM basis, has gone through the roof. They have done so much more in the last three years with core HCM and the HR Professional Role than they did in the previous 10 years combined. So that’s a really interesting insight, and I think that will continue at least over the next 2-to-3 years. I also think, as I mentioned before and emphasized, that we’re doing things that are more laptop friendly today. I think that the HR Professional Role will become more UI5 based, and as that transition occurs, it will be more mobile-friendly. So you will be able to do more of your HR Professional work on a tablet as opposed to a laptop. So I do think you’ll see more of that over the next few months and over the next 2-to-3 years, but like I said I don’t see any taking the foot off the pedal from a roadmap standpoint, at least for the next year. I can say that with a high degree of confidence, and my gut is that’s the next 2-to-3 years it should probably stay that way.

KM: Lastly Brandon, for our listeners who are curious I’m sure, when can we expect the release of your new book?

BT: Well, we got the proofs back today. We’ve been delayed a couple of times as new functionality comes in, we have been working feverishly to get things in. So for example, once SAP came up with the SAP Fiori announcement last May, which said that SAP Fiori is free, and we saw that customer demand for that was going through the roof as far as from an HR standpoint, we held off and we actually wrote a chapter on the HCM aspects of SAP Fiori, so that’s an example of where we’ve been trying to do as much as we can to get the latest and greatest in, we’re now at the point of finalization – I’ve got the proofs today and my co-authors also have their proofs – Jeremy Masters, Justin Morgalis, and Kris Bland – everyone’s looking it over and we should have this out middle of January.

KM: Great. We will keep an eye out. Brandon, thanks for joining us today.

BT: Thanks a lot for having me, Ken.

KM: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and you’ve been listening to another edition of HR Connections with Brandon Toombs.

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