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HR Connections: Jeremy Masters on HR Renewal

by Jeremy Masters

January 30, 2015


Jeremy Masters, Managing Partner at Worklogix, and an experienced SAP HCM consultant, joins SAPinsider for another installment of HR Connections, an SAPinsider podcast series focusing on trends and developments in the HR space. Topics of this discussion include:

  • HR Renewal functionality, including the user interface (UI) changes to the navigation, personalization, and look-and-feel
  • The increased importance of HR security roles within a SAP NetWeaver Business Client deployment
  • How SAPUI5 fits in with HR Renewal and SAP Fiori
  • The SAP NetWeaver Business Client and what it means for self-service
  • How HR Renewal and SAP Fiori fit in with your mobility strategy
  • Best practices for using SAP HCM authorizations, especially within a self-service context

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 another edition of HR Connections, an exclusive SAPinsider podcast series focused on the latest developments and trends in the HR space. And this afternoon I am pleased to be joined by Jeremy Masters, who is the Managing Partner at Worklogix. Jeremy, welcome to the podcast.

Jeremy Masters, Worklogix: Thanks, Ken. Thanks for having me back.

Ken Murphy: For our readers – or listeners in this case – who may not know much about Jeremy, he has worked in the SAP HCM space for more than 17 years, and he focuses on talent management solutions, including those for Performance Management, Compensation Management, Recruiting, and Succession Planning. He also has experience with Employee and Manager Self-Service, and is the author of six SAP Press books, including the latest title, “Self-Service in SAP ERP HCM, ESS, MSS and HR Renewal”. Lastly, Jeremy is also a frequent speaker at the SAPinsider HR conferences, including HR 2015 in Las Vegas.

Jeremy, let’s start there. HR2015 is right around the corner, it begins March 3 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. What do you think customers should be looking for when they attend the conference this year?

Jeremy Masters: Good question, Ken. It’s always good to prepare yourself for these conferences so that you go in and get the maximum value that you paid for. So I’d try to focus on the learnings in the case studies of customers and consultants and avoid the hype. It’s hard to do in these conferences, to avoid some of this hype, but focusing on success stories – pleasant and unpleasant both together – I think it’s where you’ll find the biggest value in these conferences especially when it’s coming from the independent voice. Now whether that’s a consultant or customer, hearing those experiences, hearing about innovations that customers have done, innovations that vendors, SAP HCM partners, have brought to this space, all make this conference that much more interesting. And one thing I’d definitely want to call out is the sessions around Ask the Experts. So Ask the Experts is basically a forum that I think is totally underleveraged. I’ll be doing one of the nights at that session, but basically each night of the conference the SAPinsider group pulls together consultants, industry experts, analysts, and others that are specialists in specific functionalities of HR and there’s a lot of times where I’ve seen customers rather go to the bar than sit down with one of these experts. It’s basically time to sit down, relax, have a casual discussion instead of a typical session exchange. So I think it’s important that attendees go to that session as well.

Ken Murphy:  Well, we’ll look for your friendly face at the Ask the Experts sessions. Speaking of which, I know one of the ones you’ll be presenting is on HR Renewal, among some other topics. As far as HR Renewal can you give some words of wisdom for those looking at it and anything that people should be aware of for those who are implementing it?

Jeremy Masters: Absolutely, Ken. For those who may be looking at HR Renewal as a fresh sort of install, or you could be converting over from your existing ESS and or MSS implementation. And either way it’s important for you to understand a few takeaways I’ve learned over the past year implementing it. It sounds trite, it sounds what every other consultant has said, but you really need in these HR Renewal implementations to – as much as there’s a technology change, there’s also a big change within the actual adoption, the user experience. And so you need to engage change management and training professionals. Again, it sounds overused but there’s so much change in the look and feel of the application in the navigation of the HR Renewal screens. There’s difference in the personalization, and the way the flow of the application works that it’s quite jarring if you’re used to let’s say the old portal look and feel, and then with the tabs and side navigation, and then you migrate to these lanes and these expanded lanes of HR Renewal. One important part of this is – and you’ll hear this in my session at HR2015 on HR Renewal and Fiori and some of the other modern technologies for self-service. But you’ll hear within the context of HR Renewal the content of a CHIP, and I don’t mean potato chip or fish and chips, and maybe I’m dating myself here but the TV series “CHiPs”, but I’m talking about the SAP CHIP, and it stands for Collaborative Human Interface Part, it’s kind of a crazy acronym. You may have heard of a CHIP before, but if you haven’t it’s basically a small widget that is combined with other widgets to form a page, or a side panel. Basically it’s a way for us to visualize and gain access as a user to the various applications within ESS or MSS, or HR Renewal. So these CHIPs, or sometimes more commonly referred to as lanes, within the application provide that navigation point.

What’s also important for anyone looking at HR Renewal is there’s an increased use of security roles, so if your security resource is there they need to be aware that the personalization around which Launchpad the way an application flows for ESS, MSS, and HR Renewal, that’s all driven within the SAP role now. There’s other aspects of how the role gets provisioned and used that are stored now at the role level, since again we’ve – a lot of people who don’t want to do the portal for X,Y,Z reasons and they’ve decided to stay or transition to HR Renewal – now all of that user provisioning and that access have to come into the experience through the role. And that’s how that provisioning happens. A lot of it is through the security role as I said, as well as that Launchpad customizing which I mentioned before. That transaction for you techies out there LPD_CUST; that is where a majority of the configuration is done for the lanes as well as the roles.

Lastly, it’s important to step back and look at your overall strategy for mobility. And your mobile strategy obviously when we talk about HR and HCM solutions we need to figure out how does HR Renewal play into that? So to be honest HR Renewal is not the most mobile optimized solution out there. There are services built within HR Renewal that use SAP UI5, but the user experience is on a tablet, smartphone, or phablet, whatever device you’re looking at will not be the same as the same experience that you’ll use using Fiori. Or any other technology that’s pure SAP UI5 development.

Ken Murphy: For the layperson out there, what exactly is SAPUI5 and why is it important? And in your estimation do you think that SAPUI5 is really the unifying technology that SAP says it is?

Jeremy Masters: You asked a lot of good questions there so let me take one by one. It’s a big subject. And it’s an overarching subject because it just doesn’t hit HR, SAPUI5 is a large topic across all SAP. For those who don’t know what it is, SAPUI5 stands for SAP User Interface for HTML5. And basically it’s a collection of libraries that the developer can use whether it’s an SAP developer that’s providing you with out of the box functionality, whether it’s your own in-house developers or consultants that are building applications using this framework, it’s basically used to build applications that can be accessed via device or desktop. So agnostic in terms of device, and responsive in terms of design. In a nutshell, SAPUI5 is SAP’s proprietary language for or take on the standard HTML5. So you asked about unifying technologies, so it’s a bit complex for us in the HR space, and there’s a couple reasons for that, so we can say that HR Renewal and SAP Fiori uses SAPUI5 and that’s all fine, but we need to really dig deeper when someone says that. We need to dig deeper to understand the full story. And the reason for that is, HR Renewal is an umbrella term – really it’s a program given to SAP customers that comes with the licenses and it’s a mix of technologies, it’s a mix of services that ranges from that – everyone’s probably seen the landing page with the lanes or CHIPs for all of the entry points whether it’s an ESS/MSS or HR Professional user – but behind the scenes, what is it? It’s a mix of UI, so one link will take you to a WebDynpro app, another link will take you to a new UI5 app. So for example, there’s a new UI5 timesheet as part of HR Renewal. But it also will take you to the old "biz card personal" data screen where an employee can update their address and personal information.

I’m not trying to downplay the importance of it; I want customers to realize that HR Renewal is a mix of both. For Fiori, so you compare that with Fiori, Fiori has consistent style sheet, and consistent look and feel across the application served up by potentially the SAP Fiori Launchpad which I’ll talk about later. But Fiori apps are 100% UI5-based, so you might say “So I’m going Fiori, why would I look at HR Renewal?” But the problem is with Fiori there’s very little content right now. So there’s not a lot of services out there. Will this change in the future? Likely yes. Do I know when SAP is going to come up with more standard content for other services? I don’t know; I’m sure SAP and partners will tell us more about that during the Las Vegas conference in a few weeks.

Ken Murphy: Another thing I’d like to ask you about Jeremy is we’ve heard a lot lately about NetWeaver Business Client, and its ability to serve up content for self-service. In your estimation is this the future of self-service and, if so, where does this leave the SAP portal?

Jeremy Masters: There’s been a lot of talk about NWBC, everything from the CHIPs to the importance of the security role with that. The future of the portal is I think – it’s marching forward. There’s new functionality in 7.4, they have the SAP NetWeaver mobile edition which is available starting from 7.3, and for 7.4 there’s an ability to have the mobile edition also included. The traditional SAP portal which by the way has become for many organizations the Enterprise Portal, is alive and well and will continue I believe. There is something still engaging about having an Enterprise Portal that can pull in personalization, can pull in content, can pull in knowledge management, can pull in all the things that we love the portal for, just five, six, seven years ago. For those people that want more of a lightweight sort of engine if you will to serve up your services. And NetWeaver Business Client is a good alternative. Now in the past I’ve sort of shied away from it, and to a certain extent I think it depends on what you’re using it for. If you are deploying light solutions there’s definitely nothing wrong with NWBC. Now there are two flavors of NWBC that you should be aware of. There’s NWBC for desktop, which is an actual GUI-based application that’s installed locally on your machine. And then there’s also the NWBC for HTML, which is a web-based utility. Obviously unless you’re going to be replacing the SAP GUI with the NetWeaver Business Client then I suggest you go with the web version, I don’t think there’s really any other option if you’re trying to do self-service. But I think that the latter HTML version certainly is an alternative for deploying more lightweight solutions.

There’s also an interesting alternative that came out a couple years back. Not a lot of people know about it yet, but it’s catching on which is the SAP Fiori Launchpad. The Fiori apps, they needed a home as well. They needed an entry point, they needed a gateway as well for users to consume those applications. And so the Fiori Launchpad is a way to display the various titles, we call them tiles, basically squares on the screen. You’ve probably seen screenshots of this, but they’re displayed based on users, there’s user provisioning, if you’re a manager obviously you see more tiles than you do if you’re an employee. The key thing here for the Fiori Launchpad is that as opposed to the HR Renewal discussion within NWBC context, the Fiori Launchpad is cross-scenario, which means that it goes across the SAP modules, so the Fiori concept which was started about two years ago but has picked up steam in the past year, is really a cross-functional solution. So that’s an important point to know; that other areas outside of your own group, outside of HR, could be looking at Fiori. The newest concoction is the SAP Fiori Launchpad within the SAP portal, so imagine a Launchpad experience within the portal environment, a NetWeaver Portal environment. That is also a viable option. You may ask about the use cases for that, but that’s a whole separate discussion. At the end of it, the third party portals – WebSphere, Microsoft SharePoint, and other portals where you certainly can now consume self-service applications from ECC. Those are all sort of swarming around the question of, “Do I go NWBC? Do I stay on the portal? Do I use my SharePoint portal?” These are all choices that are making these decisions that much harder for customers to move forward with.

Ken Murphy: Lastly Jeremy, I was hoping you could address some of the challenges that clients are still having with authorizations in SAP HCM?

Jeremy Masters: I don’t typically say this out loud, but I am kind of a closet security nerd, and I’d be happy to answer that. So basically the challenges around security and authorizations in SAP, OK I’ll talk a little bit about the NetWeaver Business Client as well a little bit later. But let me start with sort of the major items. Which are a lot of times I see in projects challenges at the very beginning during the requirements and design phases where we’re not spending enough time talking about role definitions. By that I mean what are your roles, what are your jobs, who are the users? And doing that mapping exercise; whether you’re doing a fresh install, or whether you’re going from another system or older SAP system to a new box. So I think role definition is huge in this, understanding who are your users, how are they using it, how secure, what transactions and what populations do they need to have access to? All that stuff. There’s also sort of the pink elephant in the room which is structural authorizations. And different people have different perspectives about this and feel strongly about this. You need early in the project obviously to define whether you’re going to use structural authorization. If you are, or you’re going to use context sensitive authorizations; I’ve actually seen situations where you’re halfway through the project and for some reason there was a decision that needs to be revisited and suddenly now you’re not implementing it. Or now you are implementing it. And that can really bring a project to a screeching halt. That and just other issue within the design of roles; having to revisit roles, the frustration of users when they constantly run into security problems, really does a poor job of getting our users and our customer base, our end users, adoption with the tools that we’re deploying. So I’m sure everyone listening to this podcast has their own war story – or hopefully success story as well – with respect to security and authorizations. And it’s important to really be knowledgeable about that. The other piece there is concepts around segregation of duties. You may hear this as SoD. These are critical for audit, and critical for internal controls, and the sad part about it is that sometimes it’s totally neglected during role design. So you may have for example a compensation team that you’ve granted access in your role for them to update, display all compensation records for the compensation planning cycle. But then you also give them the ability to activate those records. That’s a violation. Technically, the compensation folks should be responsible for their domain, which is the compensation planning. And the payroll folks, or maybe it’s HRS, or HR operations, should be responsible for the actual update of the payroll relevant infotypes. So it’s important to really understand and do that due diligence around the segregation of duties upfront so you don’t have auditors knocking down your door at the end of the project. And lastly I want to bring it back to HR Renewal before we close here. For HR Renewal the importance of a solid security resource whether it’s internal or external is crucial for a NetWeaver Business Client implementation of self-service because as I mentioned the personalization is stored there, the navigation is stored there, and other attributes, the CHIPs, the lane authority, not to mention the navigation is now stored at the row level. So it’s uber-important to have a strong secure resource when you’re deploying these self-service projects.

Ken Murphy: Jeremy, thank you for sharing your insights and your expertise with our listeners and we’ll look forward to seeing you at HR Renewal 2015, which again begins March 3rd in Las Vegas.

Jeremy Masters: Great. Thanks, Ken. Thanks for the opportunity to talk today.

Ken Murphy: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and this is another edition of HR Connections, and today we’ve been chatting with Jeremy Masters, the Managing Partner of Worklogix. Jeremy thanks again.

Jeremy Masters: Thanks Ken.

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