Q&A on Designing and Enhancing Self-Services:
Ask HR expert Martin Gillet your questions
about ESS and MSS configuration
I recently moderated a web forum with SAP Mentor and HR Expert technical advisor Martin Gillet on tips and tricks for configuring self-services for ESS and MSS. Martin wrote the newly released book, Configuring and Customizing Employee and Manager Self-Services in SAP ERP HCM.
For the full Q&A, you can view the questions from Insider Learning Network members and Martin’s responses in the HR Forum, or read excerpts from the transcript of th e Q&A below.
M.S. Hein, HR Expert (moderator):
Thanks you for joining us, and thanks to Martin Gillet for taking the time to respond to these questions today!
Brian Reilly: As I understand it, to truly leverage the power of integrated HR processes through ESS and MSS for Talent Management, there are certain key foundation elements that need to be in place.
One of these that we are grappling with is the establishment of a well thought out and designed Qualifications Catalogue which is so important to employee development, succession planning, e-learning, e-recruiting, etc.
What is surprising to me is how difficult it appears to be to find good information on how to go about creating this. Not the technical creation but rather the content creation:
- What are some good general design principles (e.g. Section the hierarchy by HR competencies, Occupational Safety and Health, Legally-required certifications, and Technical skills)?
- Is there an ideal size for a Qualifications Catalogue (i.e. at what point does it become too unwieldy from a user perspective and an administrative nightmare vs. being too small to truly bring value)?
- What are good governance models for maintenance of the Qualifications Catalogue?
- Should your initial design tie the structure of the Qualifications Catalogue to your Jobs structure in OM (i.e. Functional Area -> Job Family -> Job -> Position) or some other approach?
- What's the best approach to an initial inventory to establish your Qualification universe (e.g. stakeholder surveys, working groups, run job descriptions/competition posters/strategy documents/marketing material, etc. through parsing software and look at the subject word counts and relationships?
- Are you aware of any presenta tions, case studies, publications, web sites, vendors, etc. or have your own thoughts on how to best go about this?
The one area that seems easy to find information on is in the area of HR competencies but that seems to be about it.
Thanks for any insights you can provide.
Martin Gillet: Hi Brian,
Thanks for highlighting a very important point which is to secure the 'basic layers' such as the Qualification Catalogue.
Well, in my humble opinion, SAP provides the tool to store the information but this naturally does not replace a thorough assessment on how the Catalogue should be structured. You could go creative and create as many Qualification Groups as you like but ... this is a risk, as later on we would need to maintain this Catalogue.
I used setup and recommend having one Qualification group for grouped Qualifications such as Languages, Computer Literacy, Soft Skills etc.
Throughout the years, this question was often raised. I could point out a great answer that I witnessed and took part in during a project: A customer used the Lominger Scales for building their qualifications. It did help quite a bit as the company was international and we had to be able to compared qualifications throughout all countries.
(This also highlights an important point you haven't raised here but that comes with the building of the Qualification Catalogue, which is the definition of the Qualifications scales).
If at all possible and available (not all customers are using jobs), I would recommend to use the binding with the jobs as this would bring additional benefits to business processes (not to mention a better return on investment as we would use the full capability of the system or almost).
Based on my experience, most of the time, Human Resources Department is the driver collecting all Qualification needs and requirements from the 'Business Side', which cou ld involve stakeholders, team leads, managers etc. Most of the time, the data and the information is there, the primary concern is the 'cleaning out' of this information and perhaps as underlined earlier the 'harmonization' when dealing with multinational companies.
In order to gain more information, after having read the standard documentation, I would recommend you engage ILN and community peers, as well as speakers during SAP HR Conferences. You could also engage with expert HCM peers among the SAP Mentors who could also chime into the conversation.
Brian Reilly: Martin.
Appreciate the input. Yes, we've been thinking about the scales too. It's unfortunate that all the qualifications in a qualifications group must use the same scale. Not the sort of flexibility I'd like.
Martin Gillet: I hear you, 'been there and reported this 'lack of flexibility' to SAP but it's the way its designed. Most customers I worked with have outsourced the catalogue and only have the bare minimum in SAP... but then we narrow the SAP functionalities potential use....
Question of pros and cons I presume.
Doris Grant: Hello!
I would like to know if there is a way of making Employment Verification totally automated. My SAP teacher said they do. However, the documentation looks like it just acts more or less as a workflow request.
Martin Gillet: Hi Doris,
Thanks for your question.
Perhaps you could elaborate a bit more by describing what you mean by employee verification. SAP does already provide, i.e., in the hiring process, quite a few checks regarding the data consistency.
Then on top, customers can always add their own checks thanks to user exits, for example. The following come to mind:
- HRBAS001 - Customer Enhancement for Special Personnel Actions
- HRPBAS01 - User Exit for HR M aster Data
Some customers also request to 'lock' the data until the HR Business Partner agrees to unlock the data, upon the reception of a certification for example.
Or perhaps were you referring to Workflow triggering to Human Resources Department for verification, through technical means of Workflow, Dynamic Actions or Customer Event Linkage, for example.
Doris Grant: I mean "Employment Verification," which I believe is delivered in ESS. e.g., mortage and loan companies. Thank you.
Brian Reilly: Martin, perhaps she's referring to the ESS function where an employee requests a letter of verification indicating their current employment and salary levels. These letters are often required by banks for mortgages, etc. It's one of the tasks that HR loves to have totally automated, so HR is out of the loop for the creation of these once employees can do it for themselves using ESS.
Doris Grant: Yes, thank you Brian!
In this case, you can either use the out-of-the-box solution with limited flexibility regarding checks (you would also need to elaborate on the kind of checks to be performed).
In most project, this is simply a form generated by the system, re-using standard code, enhanced with customer business requirements.
Most of the time, the challenge comes not from the checks themselves but from the security perspective (lock the pdf file for read-only, for example).
Philipp Schneider: Hi Martin,
We are using ESS and MSS to a limited extent, and further extensions are partially hampered by the fact that our ESS/MSS portal looks very much out-of-the-box, even though we have changed the colour scheme and added our company logo. Also, the UWL looks very techy and not very inviting (we have customized the fields/information visibly in the UWL to make it more informative for the managers but it still looks dreadful).
What are the best ways to customize the ESS/MSS look and feel to get business buyin into this web frontend? We are currently only on ECC5 and EP6, but will be upgrading within the next 12 months.
Martin Gillet: Hi Philipp,
Thanks for your question. Well, first of all, congrats on your upgrade plans. :)
Well, the out-of-the-box scenario is always best as we keep it simple and accessible to the enduser. On the other hand, I can understand you'd like to make it shine. :)
Based on the technology you are using (ECC5.0 with EP6.0), there is not much we can do in regards to layout optimization as this was sort of the beginning...
I trust you have done the necessary adjusting of the Portal to the Corporate branding or look and feel.
Now that Ehp5 is released, we have (much) more flexibility to adjust and optimize the screen content and layout. I trust you could also take advantage of the fact that services can now be run independently, without a Portal!
Regarding the UWL, it is true that it might look overwhelming at first but after configuration and removal of, for example, unnecessary tables, it would be quite a plus for team leads and managers to retrieve their notifications and Workflows. (Besides, do we have much flexibility, as instead we would need to go back to good old R/3 SAP Business Workplace?)
I would thus recommend that you 'enjoy' the out-of-the-box solution for the time being, and look forward to advertising the forthcoming new upgrade project. You would even get more buyin from the end users, as they would be quite curious to see what's next.
Jarret Pazahanick: For those of you that don’t know Martin recently published a great book on ESS/MSS that I would highly recommend.
Martin Gillet: Jarret is also a proud newly appointed SAP Mentor you should engage with! Keep up the good work Jarret. Glad to have you onboard!
Reid Thompson: Hi Martin,
We are currently live on ESS/MSS for U.S. We will be rolling out basic ESS (Personal Data, Addresses) for Europe soon and I am looking for advice re configuration: Is it best to create roles/configuration for each country, or configure once and copy via "Country-Specific Services", etc.? All countries will be using the same services, but I do not want to duplicate configuration if I can help it.
In addition, we have a requirement to present pages in the user's home language, especially for France. How is this done?
We are still early in the project, so any tips would be great! Thanks.
Martin Gillet: Hi Reid,
Well, as far as I can tell, assuming that you are using the supported countries, there is no need to extend configuration to the country-specific services.
(Should you have non-supported countries, then you would need to copy the services to make it happen, which is not facilitated through the Ehp).
All countries are using the same service but they have their own iview, which is determined by the personnel area the employee belongs to, which then identifies the country code as illustrated in table V_T500P.
So you would still need, in my humble opinion, to set up the Portal Content Directory (PCD) per country, as illustrated in the standard Business Packages provided by SAP .
That's from the configuration side.
Then, from the role perspective, you can certainly create a dedicated role per country, but it would then require maintenance and perhaps too much redundant information. Perhaps first check with the audit/security team for any specific requirements.
Assuming there is none, you could create one role for ESS. The role would then determine which service will be provided, thanks to a 'proxy class' used in the configuration steps, in the Home Page Frame Work (HPFW). (It would require a little bit of coding.)
As for the tips and tricks, I would recommend you check out the communities like ILN and SDN, as there are plenty. In the meantime, I took the time to consolidate 'my expertise' in the ESS/MSS configuration book that was published in May this year.
It also highlights great individuals you can challenge for more ideas, as there is no 'single answer' to your question.
Reid Thompson: Thanks Martin! BTW, I am going to order your new book shortly. :-)
Martin Gillet: My pleasure. Hope it will help. Looking forward to your feedback and comments for the Ehp5 and higher update. :)
Harshal Soni: Hello Martin,
We will be rolling out ESS and MSS for various countries. Some of the East Asian countries are very rigid on language and we cannot use English. What is the best way to capture various language options in ESS & MSS? Also for Europe, we have the issue with the decimals (Comma and Period).
What is the best way to resolve the decimal and language issue for each country?
Thank you for helping out... Your book has been very helpful.
Martin Gillet: Hi Harschal,
Thanks for the book feedback. It is always a pleasure to hear it was helpful, as it was its primary purpose. Glad to know sleepless nights were worth it. :)
Well, I'm not a Language expert but I dealt with several projects with 'Exotic languages'. The first assessment to be made would be to check the use of Unicode, I believe. Then you would need to assess that the Self Services to be deployed are actually supported in regards to languages.
The languages bit is quite tricky, as it can be forced in the SAP Userid properties, the Portal properties and above all in the browser properties used!
In many cases, to avoid confusion, we do use a small script that would determine and force the language and the additional properties, such as the decimal and the language (this is normally default in the SAP Userid properties).
Or else you could always test the portal iview properties 'Forced Language', but it doesn't work quite well, in my humble opinion, when you deal with two languages – say, French as an employee and English as a manager. Indeed the system always keeps a type of cookies, which could lead to confusing screens in non-supported languages.
Kir Chern: Hi Martin,
We would like to implement the new Leave Request on EHP5. We have custom validations, and I wonder where should the validation coding be placed, so that the validation is enforced both in txn. PA61 and ESS?
Should it be in the BADIs PT_ABS_REQ and PT_GEN_REQ or infotype framework BADIs which are HRPAD00INFTYBL, HRPAD00INFTYDB and HRPAD00INFTYUI? Thank you.
Martin Gillet: Hi Kir,
Thanks for your question.
You are correct. The validation takes place in the backend system.
The fact that it should be applied both to transaction and iviews should be enforced in the code (for example by determining the type of access, RFC for ESS and transaction for R/3).
I don't know the BAdIs by heart. I would recommend running both transaction and ESS and request your developer to set a breakpoint where applicable to identify the right placeholder for the validation.
I trust there is a customer program available on the communities pages which directly identifies the user exit/BAdI using in current process. Kindly use this program in a sandbox, not a productive system.
Also, kindly refer to SAP Note 897623 (User exits and BADIs in the PT area) which provides a bit more details regarding user exits and BAdIs in the field of Personnel Time Management.
Kir Chern: Hi Martin,
One more question. With EHP5, SAP is moving away from Homepage Framework to Report Launchpad-style homepage. However, there are features which are closely associated with Homepage Framework, such as Data Tracking for Self Service.
Does Data tracking for self-services still work without utilizing Homepage Framework? If not, what are the other alternatives to track the usage of self-services? Thank you.
Martin Gillet: Hi Kir,
Well, while writing the book, I tested the Data Tracking Services and if I recall correc tly, it does require the information that is contained in the resource if If I'm not mistaken.
Like this example ESS_EMPLOYEE_ADDRESS_AR_SERVICE.
Anyhow, you would still have the possibility to use standard reporting, or perhaps even better, the customer event linkage to track down these changes (Table T779X).
Kir Chern: Hi Martin,
Is the new Leave Request in EHP5 merely a change in UI technology -- i.e. from WD Java to WD ABAP and the existing configuration and workflow etc -- which works with the former release (i.e. WD Java version)? Should it still work as it is when we migrate to WD ABAP? If not, what should we watch out for? Thanks.
Martin Gillet: Hi Kir,
I can't tell you right now, as I haven't implemented the Ehp5 Leave Request yet.
I was involved in the CATS testing for Ehp5/6. Perhaps someone else from the communities could answer that. I'm also keen to know.
Based on the CATS experiences, I would assume little change (Workflow tasks, new functionalities etc).
Morten Prom: There are a lot of Adobe Interactive Forms delivered with the standard ESS/MSS installation. How much can you alter one form before it triggers additional license costs?
Martin Gillet: Hi Morten,
Well, that's a tricky one, as I'm mostly never involved with Licensing and cost issue.
I trust you could inspire yourself from or use past projects. The license covers, as far as I can tell, once you have Interactive Forms, meaning data exchange between form (Portal) and R/3.
I would suggest challenging our peers at Adobe or the project Manager?
Harshal Soni: With the new EhP5, does the Content Administration process remain the same as in the previous versions? I know that the services are now being migrated from WD Java to WD ABAP...?
Martin Gillet: Hi Harshal,
Content administration, you are referring to the PCD I assume.
Well yes, it's mostly unchanged as far as I can tell. The main changes are in the coding, which most of us can now better read, as this is ABAP!
Martin Gillet: Thank you all.
Looking forward to seeing you online.
M.S. Hein (moderator):
Thanks to all who posted questions and followed the discussion!
A full summary of all the questions will be available here in the HR Forum and in the HR Group. I encourage you to join the HR Group for ongoing information and additional resources. You can also listen to a recent interview with Martin on the topic of self-services and find Martin’s past HR Expert articles on various topics, including CATS, personnel data, and other related topics.
And, of course, more information on his book Configuring and Customizing Employee and Manager Self-Services in SAP ERP HCM is available.
Thanks again to Martin for joining us today!