How to increase usability for SAP ERP HCM and SharePoint: A live Q&A with Sitrion's Markus Dopp

February 20, 2014

Markus DoppThanks to everyone who joined in our online Q&A with Sitrion's Markus Dopp, co-founder of Sitrion's SAP business practice, on increasing usability for SAP ERP HCM and SharePoint. 
You can review all the discussion in the chat replay and the edited transcript here:


Allison Martin, HR 2014: Thanks to everyone for joining us today for our Q&A on expanding HR user adoption with design best practices and delivering SAP ERP HCM self-services on mobile devices and the Microsoft applications like SharePoint.

I’m pleased to have Markus Dopp here for today’s chat. Markus is General Manager and cofounder of Sitrion, and has a long background in HCM and Microsoft integration with tools like SharePoint and Office – as well as usability best practices to increase adoption of HCM self-services. Welcome, Markus!

Markus Dopp, Sitrion: Hi Allison, thanks for hosting this session. Let's get started here.

Allison Martin: Markus, to start off, where do you see as a couple proven best practices for increasing user acceptance for HR self-services? For example, any specific gains from SSO or mobile delivery ESS and MSS?
Markus Dopp:
Approximately 20% of all employees in an organization are so called power users and working with SAP on a daily basis. These employees are either in HR, Financials or other departments and are trained on using SAP.

But 80% of the workforce just wants to get stuff done such as travel expenses, time recording, leave requests or task approvals. These knowledge users are used to Microsoft tools (e.g. SharePoint, Office, Outlook) and mobile devices.

By combining the collaborative power of the Microsoft stack with a structured process environment in SAP you can unlock the power of HCM. Think about maintaining and storing HR docs (e.g. policies, expert wikis etc.) in SharePoint and embedding direct access to SAP HCM data and processes within the same context.

Allison Martin: Thanks Markus, I know that our readers have some questions for you as well, so I’ll let you get to those now.

Comment From Susan Cox:  What are best practices for this integration (MSS to SharePoint)?
arkus Dopp: Best practice is to provide a seamless experience for the user. Your employees and managers shouldn't even recognize that they are working in an SAP context.

Everything should look & feel like the surrounding application (e.g. SharePoint). Therefore having native SharePoint apps is key because you don't want your users to work in yet another siloed application.

Comment From Guest: How do you get SAP HCM Self-Service on mobile?
Markus Dopp: There are two main ways on how to get SAP HCM on mobile devices:

1. Expose all Self-Services via HTML5/Responsive user interfaces or

2. Expose all Self-Services using native apps

Option #2 is the preferred way for most of our customers, as their users really love things such as push notifications for SAP workflow approvals, location-based services for Travel & Expenses or even mashing up SuccessFactors data with SAP HCM information in one mobile app.

Sitrion has and end-to-end solution called Sitrion ONE for bringing all SAP data and processes (HCM and non-HCM) as a native app to all major mobile platforms (iOS, Android and Windows Phone) leveraging a 100% BYOD approach.

The key here is that ALL employees & managers can have exactly ONE native app installed on their personal and corporate devices that gives them a secure access to your on-premise SAP HCM (and non-HCM) processes. No Mobile Device Management or complex mobile infrastructure needed.

Comment From Guest: What benefits have you seen for customers/users from using SharePoint with SAP HCM?
Markus Dopp: Your organization can benefit in multiple ways:

First of all, an easy to use and modern self-service workspace embedded into SharePoint will help users to get work done much faster and easier. Therefore your IT support and HR support will experience way less ticket volume and support calls.

Also you don't need a separate SAP portal infrastructure anymore as you can host all Self-Services natively in your existing SharePoint environment. No need for hosting and maintaining a full-blown SAP portal infrastructure anymore.

Additionally your HR team can focus on adding value to existing HR processes and you can transform HR in your organization much faster and cost efficient.

Comment From Sewakinder Grewal: What is the basic utility that an organization implementing SAP for the first time get from also implementing ESS at the initial stage itself?
Markus Dopp: To get started with self-services in SharePoint you just need core HCM implemented (e.g. for maintaining master data).

If you want approvals, you should have SAP organizational management and SAP Business workflow activated and customized. Also you need backend licenses for SAP like ESS or MSS user licenses.

Comment From Guest: Where are the integration points from MSS Workflow to SharePoint?
Markus Dopp: You can bring in SAP tasks from SAP's Business Workflow Engine seamlessly into SharePoint, Outlook and onto mobiles.

SharePoint tasks, SAP workflows and even non-SAP workflows (e.g. SuccessFactors) can be merged into one central and universal task center. Even attachments from SAP (e.g. travel expense claim, team calendar from SAP and MS Exchange) can be attached to the task.

Comment from Ellen Hanson: Can you use manager email responses for T&E approvals rather than having them log into the system and perform approvals?
Markus Dopp:  Yes, Sitrion can sync SAP workflows with Microsoft Exchange. Managers can easily approve SAP workflows with one single click in Outlook, OWA and even on mobiles. Plus you can also sync time events (e.g. leaves, training, business trips etc.) with exchange calendars in the background.

Comment From Ellen Hanson: Can you include the attachments from a T&E claim to the approval email that goes out?
Markus Dopp: Yes! The Outlook approval items can also have attached docs such as T&E claims or invoice docs coming from SAP and/or SharePoint. Even Archivelink integration pulling docs from an SAP archive works smoothly.

Comment From Guest:  What solutions for Onboarding and employee life-cycle integration can SAP provide?
Markus Dopp: SharePoint and SAP HCM in combination can provide extremely powerful onboarding and life-cycle capabilities.

New hires can be guided through the onboarding process in SharePoint that includes filling out their profile (one profile with integrations into SharePoint, Active Directory AND SAP HCM master data), checking and maintaining HCM master data (e.g. EEO, W2, direct deposits etc.) and getting familiar with HR policies (from SharePoint doc libraries).

Work & Life events can not only include SAP forms and data but also SharePoint content, forms & workflows. Key here again is that there is ONE environment for the user where everything from an HR perspective can be found and performed.

Comment From Charles D: Markus, I need to build an ROI case for our ESS implementation. Do you have a ballpark on the savings it delivers?
Markus Dopp: Absolutely, there's some great research out there (Deloitte etc.) that show even on a per- process level how much you can save. Please ping me after the session and I can even give you some real numbers from our reference customers who switched from SAP Portal to SharePoint ESS/MSS.

Allison Martin: Markus, just a followup about mobile: For HCM customers, what is the business case to be made for offering mobile self-services? 
Markus Dopp: That's a good one, Allison. Studies showed that bringing HCM to mobile will give you an average productivity gain of 13% for managers. Your managers can easily approve tasks on their mobiles (e.g. leave requests, T&E, CATS etc.), view reports or even use the mobile during EE performance review sessions. This just makes sense.

We even have the first retail customers who want to let all staff use BYOD mobiles to access HCM and non-HCM data (e.g., product information) within the stores.

One more comment to Charles' question above regarding the ROI and cost savings: According to Cedar Crestone, implementation of employee self-service reduces costs by $9.00 per employee per month by eliminating manual, paper-intensive processes. That’s $450K savings per year for a 5,000 person company!

Comment From Parker:  How long does a project moving from standard SAP UI to SharePoint integration typically take? (We're planning open enrollment and other things and there never seems to be a good time to conduct a project like this.)
Markus Dopp: It depends on the complexity. We had customers going live within 8 week, some take up to 9 months. It really depends on the complexity.

We went live with a "One-Click" Open Enrollment and Benefits Enrollment project in SharePoint 2013 with 3 months for one of our North American customers. 9000 users, the employees simply loved it. Before SharePoint they were using paper-based forms and SAP portal.

Comment From Guest: What security problems do we need to test for in offering HR employee self-services to employees' mobile devices?
Markus Dopp: This question cannot be answered in one sentence. But let me give it a try :-)

Basically you need to have users mapped in IT105 plus SSO configured. Then you need to think about how your users can access your SAP system from external networks and so on.

Long story short: Ping me after the Q&A for more about the Sitrion ONE mobile cloud platform, as it is an end-to-end mobile solution that includes all the missing building blocks for your mobile strategy (e.g. security, tools, cloud access, BYOD etc.).

Comment From Bryan P:  How much IT support is typically required after performing this kind of integration? A lot of customization involved?
Markus Dopp: The good news is: As we will be using all your SAP roles, authorization, customizing and data there is not a lot of change for your SAP team.

On the SharePoint side you just deploy ESS/MSS as a SharePoint 2010 solution or 2013 App. At the SharePoint conference 2014 in Las Vegas beginning of March we will launch our self-services even in Office 365. So we can host your Self-Services in SharePoint Online and connect to your on-premise SAP HCM.

One more comment:  You don't need to upgrade your portal every time you patch your SAP instance. So transporting in new EHP's won't cause a downtime in your self-services. Your Intranet team will like that :-)

Comment From Guest: Hi Markus, how much customization should we plan for when implementing a new UI for an SAP HR application?
Markus Dopp: Not a lot. Sitrion has already prepackaged a lot of the Self-Services for you. So they are native to SharePoint and can be plugged seamlessly into your intranet.  They look, feel & smell like everything else in your portal. :-) No SAP UI visible at all.

Comment From Gautum: Do you have experience using SharePoint integration for a non-HR application?
Markus Dopp:
Our customers have integrations in SharePoint not only with SAP HCM but also with other SAP modules (FI/CO, SCM, CRM etc.) but also with SuccessFactors, Taleo, Remedy and Salesforce.

One more comment regarding non-HR/non-SAP on mobile:

We have clients that expose Self-Services to all employees and managers and also activate additional functionalities for specific groups within the organization.

One example is a client that enabled all sales reps to look up SAP and Salesforce data in real time. The rep doesn't even recognize where the data is coming from and going to.


Comment From Guest:  Hi Markus, can you talk a little bit about hardware and software requirements? Do you need Fiori for the SharePoint Mobile Solution? Do customers need to be on any specific enhancement pack level or version of NetWeaver? Is the SAP Network Gateway required?
Markus Dopp: No Fiori needed. No SAP portal needed. We access SAP via RFC or NetWeaver Gateway.

So basically the only things you need are:

1. SAP (min EHP4) and

2. SharePoint 2010/2013 or Online

Minimum footprint.

Comment From Adrienne: What specific functionality within HR self-services is most effective in building the business case? More management-focused or employee-focused?
Markus Dopp: Start with employee processes first to gain a "critical mass" in your portal for HR processes. Lot of cost savings there, especially in the payroll, master data and benefits space.

Then add "premium" processes as workflow approval in SharePoint, Outlook and mobile plus more sophisticated organizational processes later to "wow" your management and colleagues.

Comment From Shawn: Hi Markus, What are your suggestions for access to ESS in developing nations specifically for blue collar/disconnected employees given literacy issues, high data costs and access to smart phones?
Markus Dopp:
BYOD on smartphones. Developing nations have normally very good mobile coverage as they are lacking "regular" high speed internet coverage.

Comment From Shawn:  More that the general employee does not have a smartphone and BYOD will not suffice. Is a self-service terminal a good option and do you have experience in this?
Markus Dopp:
Yes, all our UIs are touch enabled. :) Plus you could also use tablets instead of "old-school" terminals.

Comment From Joseph: Where can SharePoint and Outlook increase exposure of HCM processes to users, and what are the integration options? 
Markus Dopp:
You can bring in HCM data and workflows into SharePoint and SAP. Once again: Key is that your users don't recognize another system but work within their "natural" environment: SharePoint, Office, Outlook & mobile.

Allison Martin: I know that your colleague Oliver Ziegler is presenting a session at HR 2014 on success with user adoption and open enrollment on SAP HCM. What do you see as one or two takeaways from their experiences?
Markus Dopp:
First: Don't be scared by integrating your 2 major platform (MS+SAP). Your users will fall in love with this approach.

Second: Oliver will show you how even a process as complex as Open Enrollment can be as simple as ordering something on Amazon.

Allison Martin: Thanks again, everyone, for all your great questions.

For more on this topic, I invite you to join us at HR 2014 in Orlando March 11-14. We hope to see you in Orlando this spring!

Markus Dopp: Thank you so much for having me; it’s been fun!

If you have additional questions, feel free to contact me at or introduce yourself to our team at the Sitrion booth in Orlando at HR 2014. For more on Sitrion’s approach to HR and self-services, I also encourage you to visit the Sitrion web site. I look forward to speaking with all of you!

Allison Martin: And thanks again, Markus, for joining us today!

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