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HR Connections — Jeremy Masters on Next-Generation Self-Services for SAP ERP HCM

by Jeremy Masters

August 12, 2014


In this podcast, HR 2015 speaker Jeremy Masters of Worklogix discusses next-generation self-services for SAP ERP HCM. Topics covered in the discussion include:

  • The impact of SAP Fiori and HR Renewal and the future of self-service technology within the SAP HR space
  • SAPUI5 as the unifying technology moving forward
  • What this means for Web Dynpro and ABAP developers
  • A seamless transition of a self-service user experience with SuccessFactors talent applications

Full transcript:

Ken Murphy: Hello and welcome to HR Connections, an SAPinsider podcast series focusing on some of the hottest trends and current developments in the HR space. This is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and helping me kick off the inaugural HR Connection series today is Jeremy Masters. Jeremy is the co-founder and a managing partner of management technology services firm Worklogix and he’s a popular presenter at the SAPinsider HR events. Jeremy, welcome to the podcast.

Jeremy Masters: Thanks Ken, I appreciate you inviting me, thank you.

Ken: Jeremy, today we have a very hot topic to start this series, and that’s the subject of next-generation self-services, for SAP HCM. So what’s some of the big news right now in the HR self-services space? We’ve been hearing a lot about SAP Fiori and HR Renewal, can you just explain a little bit what they are and why customers should care about them?

Jeremy: Absolutely, and Ken, just to give you a little background on it myself, it is a big topic right now in our industry, I’ve been working in the SAP HR space for 16 years now, and focused on talent management, self-service. And the past two years have seen probably more change than the last 10, in some ways, because of the technology changes, because of the new focus on user experience, usability, customers just getting tired of the core, some of the core functionalities not being enterprise-grade. And so that’s what sort of caused this. Your first question around HR renewal and SAP Fiori is really key to this rejuvenated SAP. And why customers should care—obviously to put it simply, it’s the future of self-service technology within the SAP HR space.

Fiori came out several years back. It’s s a set of 25 applications, actually more now, it’s up to I think over 100. Unfortunately for HR folks, there’s still only a handful available for HCM usage, so apps like Benefits for the US, Leave Request, Pay Stub, Timesheet, Travel Request, and all the associated approvals. That came out as one sort of product, and in a separate program in SAP called HR Renewal, was also being born, so a few years back in an effort to renovate and rejuvenate the entire self-service platform for HR, SAP came out with this HR Renewal 1.0 and now 2.0, application—some of the same ones you heard in Fiori, you know, Leave Request, Salary Statements, something called the Employee Profile, Team Calendar, the latest is the CATS, or the Cross Application Time Sheet functionality. So both of these initiatives use SAPUI5 as the unifying technology going forward.

And so what this means is that basically, these two technologies are sort of kind of merging, so some of the newer HR Renewal stuff, it looks like a Fiori design, and that’s sort of you know, not coincidental. So a lot of this stuff is merging into essentially one unified SAPUI5 front-end.

Ken: So by design, so HR Renewal then, does that completely change the look and the feel of ESS, MSS?

Jeremy: That’s a great question Ken. So, I would say yes and no. From an entry point perspective, absolutely. When we think of our traditional HR portal, you’ve got you know, an Employee Self-Service tab, a separate tab for Manager Self-Service, and then you may have created one or more additional tabs for other self-services, maybe for HR or for a specialist within the company but that you’re giving some access to. But in the new, in sort of this new paradigm, where you’ve got this, these lanes, you really don’t have this concept of tabs anymore, you have mostly these lanes and you do have a sidebar, depending on the technology you use, the type of portal you use, this concept of lanes, it’s very similar to how some other SaaS companies actually deliver their self-service content, where, you know again the taxonomy of the portal, the navigation of the portal, is a lot different. A lot more—in my view it’s a lot more intuitive, and of course the look and feel, the styling, the softness, but really the styling of the lanes and how you actually launch into the transaction is fundamentally different than our traditional—the way we typically think of the SAP Portal.

Ken: So with everything happening that you’re talking about, and Fiori, where does that leave Web Dynpro? Is that Web Dynpro and ABAP technology dying or dead? And as far as SAPUI5, what does the future hold for that as well?

Jeremy: It’s a tough question. It’s not official from SAP, but of course we’re not seeing anything new in the HR space for Web Dynpro ABAP, so I wouldn’t say it’s dead, of course it depends on I think what your, you know, where you are in your project. If there’s an existing service out there that is a Web Dynpro ABAP service, and I’m going to get a little geeky for a little bit, but if there’s an existing Web Dynpro ABAP service out there that you can leverage, the idea is, let’s say it’s 70-80% meeting your requirements, you wouldn’t want to write that from scratch, assuming that it wasn’t available in SAPUI5, you wouldn’t necessarily want to develop that from scratch. Again, different projects have different approaches on this thing, on this whole development effort but basically Web Dynpro ABAP, yes, it’s on its way out, it’s by no means dead, because there’s plenty of existing services that have not yet been replaced by UI5. But I would say if you are a developer or you’re a project manager in this area, you do want to learn about SAPUI5 and the newer technology that’s coming out. Certainly SAPUI5 has a huge role in the future for SAP self-service. Web Dynpro ABAP is not dead, but it’s, I would say it’s on its way out.

Ken: So what about some of the options then, for customers, in terms of portals and portal technology? Would you recommend one option over another?

Jeremy: There’s several options out there now, and it’s actually quite confusing for a lot of customers, so you’ve got the SAP Portal – the NetWeaver Portal, still a very enterprise-grade portal, so it’s got the content management, personalization, knowledge management, of course single sign-on, all of that is extremely important for customers. From a migration perspective, relatively straightforward for those customers that are already running SAP Portal to upgrade to the new portal.

That said, there are some customers that either don’t have a portal, or don’t want a portal anymore, for XYZ reason, there’s several. And SAP’s given you options, so there’s other ways to actually gain access from a web perspective for your self-service. So for example, there’s the NetWeaver Business Client, there’s the NetWeaver Business Client for HTML, there’s the SAP Fiori Launchpad, there’s using other portals like SharePoint or WebSphere and connecting in, you know, consuming services from SAP, from the SAP system.

So there’s a couple of, you know, you asked would I recommend one over another, I would definitely advise against the NetWeaver Business Client. The HTML version is certainly better, and I’ve had some experience with some customers using that. The Fiori Launchpad is pretty brand new, that’s serving up Fiori apps through again, another type of personalized experience. But the, going back to the NetWeaver business client, it’s like the GUI, it’s an application that sits on users’ desktops, so I definitely would advise against that. I would prefer, it sounds biased, I would prefer that folks look to continue to use the Portal because it’s so rich in functionality. So from my recommendation, I would say the Portal, you can also look at the Fiori Launchpad, and NW BC for HTML. I’m partial to the Portal.

Ken: What about for customers running some of their talent processes with SuccessFactors – so how would the integration and user experience work between them?

Jeremy: This is a big item, Ken. So obviously you know, with the acquisition several years back a lot of customers are looking at SuccessFactors for one or more of their talent solutions, and integration obviously is, has always been paramount in the minds of SAP consultants and customers. This is no different. How do I, from a self-service perspective, make things transparent? So when I log into SuccessFactors, and I have to do some work in SuccessFactors, how do I then log into or be somehow sent into SAP Portal, for whatever web technology you’re using? How does that work seamlessly? And then vice versa, if I’m in the Portal, how do I get launched into SuccessFactors without a jarring experience? And so, there’s a couple of ways to kind of go about this and what we’ve done with several customers is work with them, of course around the easy things, and the easy things like single sign-on, I would say it’s easy but you know, there is a cookbook out there that you can leverage, it’s out there on service marketplace. And then there’s this concept of a mash-up, that I’d like to talk about briefly.

The mash-up is essentially a way to pull data, or pull content from another system. So if you’re logged into SuccessFactors, you can pull data from the SAP core system, and when you’re in the SAP Portal or another core on-premise web technology, you can pull data in, into a frame if you will, within the person’s session.

For example, we have a customer that is using SuccessFactors for a couple of their talent processes. If you want to pull in, for example, a service around you know, address information, or personal data, into SuccessFactors, you could make essentially a widget and pull that data into SuccessFactors. Now, you still need to worry about the branding, the look and feel, and there are still things that you need to be concerned about, right, in order to truly have a seamless experience, and that’s again the tricky part,. How do you work with the business team, the communications team, the Portal team, right, to ensure that how you pull that data, that transaction, into that other system, to make it truly seamless. Because we are sort of living in a world of heterogeneous experiences with regard to these technologies, so it’s going to be more and more important to understand how we can integrate not just at a data level, but also at an application level.

Ken: Well, a lot of interesting topics and a lot of ground covered here on the next generation self-services for SAP HCM. We’ve been speaking with Jeremy Masters, co-founder and managing partner of Worklogix. Jeremy, thank you for time today in helping us kick off the HR Connections podcast series.

Jeremy: Thanks Ken, looking forward to hear the rest of them.

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Malcolm Staves

8/22/2014 12:08:42 PM

Interesting to hear about all these new and varied possibilities. Time will tell.