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Live from SAPinsider Studio: Kellie Fitzpatrick of Symphony Management Consulting on Moving HR to the Cloud

An insider's chat with the CEO of Symphony Management Consulting recorded live at HR 2014

April 18, 2014

In this interview recorded live at HR 2014 in Orlando, Kellie Fitzpatrick, CEO and co-founder of Symphony Management Consulting, provides strategic advice for SAP customers considering moving their HR functionality to the cloud. Fitzpatrick describes what Symphony learned from its internal implementation of SuccessFactors and emphasizes the organizational change management issues that come with the move to the cloud.

Full transcript:

Dave: Hi, this is Dave Hannon with SAPinsider. I’m coming to you live from HR 2014 here in Orlando. Joining me now is Kellie Fitzpatrick, the CEO of Symphony Management Consulting, welcome Kellie.

Kellie: Thank you, glad to be here.

Dave: Kellie’s here giving some presentations, and they’re an exhibitor and a sponsor here at the event as well. Kellie I wanted to first ask you about Symphony itself, where you guys sort of fit in the overall SAP space, give us a sense of that.

Kellie: Sure. Symphony has been an SAP HCM partner since 2002, and we became a partner, and about two and a half years ago we moved into SuccessFactors when the acquisition occurred by SAP, and we just focus on HCM so we don’t do anything outside of HCM. Our main focus is around the HR piece of it, and our consultants are actually part of the business so they largely come from a business background, and they have moved into the technology space so certainly from an SAP or SuccessFactors perspective, and more recently with the SuccessFactors acquisition, bringing people over who have done SuccessFactors implementations for a business … really understand that comp and payroll and all that good stuff.

Dave: Sure, yeah. I know you’re not just a SuccessFactors consulting firm, you’re also a customer … you’ve implemented internally. Tell us a little bit about that, the drivers behind that and what you’re seeing there.

Kellie: We have. You know, for us it was a couple of things, the first and foremost is obviously our team. We wanted a better way to capture their performance results and give them some input to their overall goals within the organization, and we had always wanted a technology to handle that, but we never really found a good product to handle that, so certainly from a SuccessFactors perspective we rolled it out last year, our team has now been using it for almost a year. They’re very excited about it, and interestingly enough their compensation is tied to their performance results overall so they have the day-to-day insight into what those goals are to actually get their entire bonus for the quarter or the year.

And then from a recruiting perspective we rolled that out about six months, nine months ago, and we utilize it to recruit our internal candidates and external candidates, so for us it was really about—initially it was about the team but then it’s become more than that, right, we don’t want to go to our clients and say “Hey we don’t understand the technology, we don’t understand what you’ve been through,” and me personally when we started SAP I came from a business background and had been a consultant so I could tell the story of “Hey I’ve been there,” I can still tell that story and I think it’s really important.

Dave: Right, that’s great. There’s a lot of folks here this week who are sort of grappling with the move to the cloud, when to do it and how to do it. I’m sure you encounter them pretty regularly. What is your typical advice for somebody in that early stage of that sort of questioning process?

Kellie: I think this conference being primarily SAP, it’s a different story for those people who are outside of SAP, right, who are what we consider a net-new who’ve never done any technology and are really looking at SuccessFactors. From an SAP perspective, a lot of organizations had the need to implement a talent solution that was user-friendly and had a lot more capability, and SAP did a great job developing that functionality, but when they moved into SuccessFactors it just took them another step forward, right, so from a cloud perspective, you know, we went from SAP requiring a portal and requiring on-prem and requiring all this stuff to actually allowing employees to access technology from anywhere, so I think my advice to them, and I think SAP agrees with us, right, it’s go at your own pace, and a big thing for our clients today is “What does go at your own pace mean? Do we do everything? Do we do it in spurts? Do we pick one module?”

And it’s really about key drivers within the organization, so what we’re seeing a lot of organizations start with is certainly the performance and goals. It’s a big enough bite of the technology to get people utilizing the technology but also used to it, and then tying in comp or recruiting and succession and all that other great stuff that goes with it. From a net-new perspective where it’s a brand new client, a lot of those clients don’t have an HRIS technology, so tracking employee data from an Employee Central perspective and tying that into recruiting, how are you going to attract the right candidates and learning, and how are you going to keep those candidates and those employees and then certainly the day-to-day of “How am I performing? Am I positioned? How am I growing with the technology?” So it’s really about employees embracing and having ownership of where they’re going in the organization, so I think that that’s really, for me, advice for clients is don’t take it all on because there is a huge change impact to that, but at the same time, take on what you need to take on so …

Dave: Sure, speaking of that change impact, I know there’s sort of a—one point that a lot of folks overlook is the organizational impact of moving to the cloud, maybe you could tell us a little bit about what you’ve seen in there, in that area?

Kellie: Yeah, sure. You know it’s interesting for me because I’ve been doing SAP implementations for so long so change management was such a key component of any implementation, and when we moved into SuccessFactors, what we found a lot of people saying  is “Oh it’s easy, it’s intuitive,” it’s, you know, one thing or another, and it’s interesting because there’s still change involved, and when you’re moving into a technology like SuccessFactors, unlike when you implement payroll, which does affect everybody, with SuccessFactors everybody’s utilizing the technology so the neat thing is you still have to train people, you still have to get their buy-in, and we’ve had a number of clients where they’ve done very quick and had low buy-in for SuccessFactors, and then we’ve had clients that actually spend some time just educating their individual employees on the fact that it’s coming, it will be coming, it’s now here and now you’re going to utilize it, so there is still training required, it’s different training, with SAP it’s classroom-style training, with SuccessFactors it’s web-based training, it’s online training of … you know, go at your own pace-type training, and there’s so much to it. It’s not three, four months of training or impact, but it still takes a few days to get people up to speed, and certainly managers so ...

Dave: Sure, yeah. Good. Ok, well I want to thank Kellie for joining us, this has been Dave Hannon with SAPinsider, sitting down with Kellie Fitzpatrick, the CEO of Symphony Management Consulting.

Kellie: Thank you!

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