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HR Connections - Brandon Toombs on HR Cloud Journey

Newest SAP Mentor on HR Renewal vs. Employee Central and Short and Long-Term Roadmaps

May 28, 2015


Brandon Toombs of Toombs Consulting chats with Ken Murphy of SAPinsider in another HR Connections podcast that focuses on the short and long-term value propositions of both HR Renewal and Employee Central. Topics of this podcast include:

  • Toombs on being named one of the newest SAP Mentors and what the mentor program means to the SAP community at-large
  • Pros and cons of HR Renewal and Employee Central, and how each fits into SAP's short and long-term roadmap in an ongoing and eventual shift to the cloud 
  • SAP S/4HANA and what it means for the SAP HR landscape

Listen to the podcast, and read the transcript of the conversation here:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and you’re listening to HR Connections, an SAPinsider podcast series focused on the latest developments and trends in the HR space. Today, I am pleased to be joined by Brandon Toombs, who is the principal of Toombs Consulting and a newly appointed SAP Mentor. Brandon, thanks for joining us today.

Brandon Toombs, Toombs Consulting: Thanks for having me Ken.

Ken: That’s exciting news about being named a mentor, one of 19 new ones out of 63 nominees, so quite an honor and an exclusive club. Can you tell us a little bit about becoming a new SAP Mentor?

Brandon: I was really, really excited about that. It’s such a neat group of people, the common denominator amongst all of them is that they’re so willing to help and to be identified with that group and the knowledge that is represented in that group is quite an honor. Speaking a little bit about the program itself, just to give people a sense of what it’s about; SAP Mentors is really an organization that kind of takes care of the care and feeding of the SAP community itself.  It’s one of the unique things that exists within the SAP community I think compared with some of the other software groups out there, is that SAP really does have a thriving community of people that really look out for one another and there’s a lot of esprit and camaraderie amongst the group which is unique and fun. And I think that the SAP Mentor program has a big role to play with that because very few organizations are going to go through the trouble of investing – and believe me there is an investment that SAP makes in this program – both in making sure that people make it to the conferences as well as making some of their thought leaders available to the mentors themselves. So SAP has made a big investment in this program, but the mentors themselves what they really care about is making sure that the community at large is engaged with SAP and with one another in a real productive way. And so that’s really fun to be part of that.

Ken: And you have the distinctive blue shirt so if people see you at SAPPHIRE or d code they’ll know they can approach and ask any human resources questions.

Brandon: Absolutely.

Ken: Mentors choose the number on the back of their jersey – what did you select?

Brandon: I chose 126 because it was the next one up. Very creative.

Ken: 126, we will keep an eye out at the next conference. And this was announced at SAPPHIRE, right?

Brandon: It was right before, but SAPPHIRE is kind of the big coming out party for the SAP Mentors is at SAPPHIRE.

Ken: And speaking of SAPPHIRE, I know you had a presentation there where you did a comparison between on-premise SAP HCM via HR Renewal vs. SuccessFactors Employee Central. I’m curious how that session went; I understand you polled your audience on what they’re using today. Tell us about the results of that poll and what those results told you?

Brandon: The session again was Renewal, the on-premise world, vs. Employee Central. And so I polled my audience and not surprisingly just about everybody in the audience was existing SAP HR on-premise. And that makes sense because SAP HR is the largest install base in the world of HCM. And so you would expect that you’d have a vast majority of people on it as compared with maybe people already on Employee Central. And so this is really the target audience that I wanted to get to so I was gratified to see that that’s what I had. In talking to people both before and during this conference and then after the conference I can tell you that this is definitely a group that SAP has the greatest opportunity to talk to and spread the message on Employee Central and why it’s a compelling value for them.

Just to talk in more broad terms about the premise of my presentation; what I was trying to say is that for a short-term to medium-term investment what would make sense for you as an organization? Assuming that you’ve got SAP HR, and you want to think about what I want to do over say the next five years. Does it make sense for us as an organization, given our requirements, to invest in an on-premise to go to Renewal? Just to make it clear, just about everyone in the audience had SAP HR, but they did not have HR Renewal. And so they really do have one of two paths that they can take if they want to make an investment right now. They can go to HR Renewal, or they can go to Employee Central, with some pros and cons both ways. That was the overall premise was to say, “Okay, over the medium term, so in the next five years, which makes sense for us as an organization?” And I made that distinction, I’m emphasizing that over the next five years because I think starting in year six and beyond it absolutely makes sense for just about any organization to really think about how to make the transition from on-premise to the cloud because that is clearly the direction SAP is going longer term.

Ken: So you’re talking about short and medium-term vs. long-term and the direction toward the cloud, but as far as that short-term roadmap, what are the benefits to staying on-premise?

Brandon: If you stay with on-premise in the short-term, the key benefits there are that you have a full suite of functionality; I mean SAP HR has been around for 20 years so they’ve had plenty of time to build out all areas and aspects of the system, including time and payroll and benefits, all put in very robustly. As well as in the short-term the rest of your business is going to be probably still on-premise SAP locally. So the integrations may be a little bit easier in the short-term. That’s one thing to consider if you’re looking over the short term. But you need to be clear about the fact that this is something that you’re doing as a one-time kind of a last hurrah if you will if you’re going that route. What that probably looks like is you put in all of this new functionality so you do get the Fiori look and feel, you do get the mobility that you need and then that would be something you would do over a 3-5 year period and then what that does is that buys you a lot of time so that you can slowly migrate over to Employee Central so that you can do side-by-side; maybe you can take a part of your business and move it to the cloud, and then take another part of your business and move it to the cloud slowly and surely and because it’s all going to be Fiori-based and you can integrate it with your SAP Portal, it can be relatively seamless from your end user’s perspective as you make that gentle migration from your on-premise to the cloud. That’s one thing that a lot of businesses are kind of considering today because they’ve got so much investment and really they just want to do whatever they can to mitigate risk. So quite frankly, it’s really hard for me to come up with leaning one way or another for generic business if someone were to try to put a gun to my head and say, “Which direction should you go?” Because right now there are very compelling reasons to do both. The action item I had coming from my session was that everyone should really think about doing some sort of roadmap to be clear on where they think this is going. Because over the short-term and medium-term it’s very clear the direction that SAP is going but it’s less clear what everything looks like today, so you’ve got all sorts of incentive to chart a course for your business so that you know where you’re going and you know when you’re planning on getting there.

Ken: Another thing I wanted to ask you about Brandon is that we heard a lot at SAPPHIRE about SAP S/4HANA. In a broad sense, what does that mean for HR?

Brandon: For HR, really what you need to be thinking about is, the equivalent is for HR in the future is going to be Employee Central. That is going to couple with S/4HANA. They are not going to transition Employee Central to something else as part of S/4HANA. S/4HANA is going to be its  own architecture but it will be tightly integrated with Employee Central, and since they’re both cloud applications you can expect that those two will be hopefully pretty seamlessly integrated by the time it’s all said and done. Now the reality of the situation is S/4HANA is brand, brand new. So the adoption curve for the rest of the business onto S/4HANA is going to lag behind the HR organization. So the HR organization will probably be in the cloud before a lot of the rest of the business will get there. What’s important here is that is a consideration because you know that the rest of the organization will eventually go to S/4HANA in the cloud, so by going to Employee Central you’re going to something that will integrate better in the future with S/4HANA than if you were to keep your HR solution on-premise.

Ken: Brandon, thanks for joining us today and congratulations again on being named an SAP Mentor.

Brandon: Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me.

Ken: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and this is HR Connections, an SAPinsider podcast focusing on trends in the HR space. And today we’ve been speaking with Brandon Toombs.

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