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Live from the SAPinsider Studio: The University of Kentucky's Hybrid HR Environment

An insider's look at how a customer integrates SAP and SuccessFactors smoothly

April 23, 2014

In this interview recorded live on the sidelines of HR 2014 in Orlando, four HR representatives from the University of Kentucky discuss their journey to cloud-based HR solutions using SuccessFactors. Michelle Bliffen, Leigh Baker, Jennifer Peavler, and Debbie Zoll discuss the University's history with SAP, recent updates to its HR functionality, the recent implementation of SuccessFactors, and their experience with integration of SAP and SuccessFactors. 

View the video, and read the edited transcript of this conversation here: 

Dave Hannon, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Dave Hannon with SAPinsider. I’m at the HR 2014 event in Orlando, and I’m joined by four folks from the University of Kentucky who are presenting here this week. We’ve got Michelle Bliffen, Leigh Baker, Debbie Zoll, and Jennifer Peavler. Thank you all for joining me today. I was hoping maybe we could start by having you each tell me a little bit about your role at the University first.

Michelle Bliffen, University of Kentucky: Ok, my name is Michelle Bliffen, I’m the HR team lead for our SAP implementation and support team. I have been at UK for about 15 years, and started off in the benefits office and then moved on to SAP implementations.

Dave: Okay, great.

Leigh Baker, University of Kentucky: I’m Leigh Baker, I’m on Michelle’s team, and I’m a functional specialist, working mostly with performance evaluations and time.

Jennifer Peavler, University of Kentucky: I’m Jennifer Peavler, I’m a functional specialist, work for Michelle and her team and deal mostly with DSO and supporting ESS, MSS.

Debbie Zoll, University of Kentucky: I’m Debbie Zoll, and I’ve worked at the University for 21 years, and I mainly focus on payroll but also time and personnel administration and I’m also on Michelle’s team.

Dave: Okay, great. How many employees overall are there at the University?

Jennifer: We have about 23,000 employees that we pay, those include students and temporaries, we have about 12,500 regular employees, benefits-bearing positions, and we have about 15,000 employees using SuccessFactors.

Dave: I wanted to get a little background on your use of SAP, how long you’ve been running SAP and HR and what functionality you have in place for that?

Debbie: We started our implementation in 2004, Michelle and I were both on the team that implemented SAP. We came up live in April of 2006, and at that time we had payroll, benefits, time, personnel administration, and org management.

Dave: Were there any recent updates to that functionality?

Michelle: Yes, since then we’ve added employee self-services and manager self-service and with that we included benefits enrollment online, time entry and leave requests, W2s, W4s, the learning solution, and we initially did SAP’s performance evaluations, and then moved to SuccessFactors afterwards.

Dave: Tell me a little bit about SuccessFactors – when did you start running it and what functionality are you running now?

Leigh: We started our implementation in January of 2013, so a little over a year ago, and we are using the performance and goals functionality.

Dave: Okay, tell me a little bit about the business case for that, what were the drivers behind rolling out SuccessFactors?

Leigh: We were looking for a visually engaging user interface, and that was something we felt was missing with our existing PE system. We also wanted to find something that had a reporting tool that gave us information across the University, gave us better analytics on the status of PEs, and we also were looking at the org chart functionality, and some of the other features that SuccessFactors offered.

Dave: So you’re running a hybrid environment today, which a lot of folks are curious about or are considering now, so tell me a little bit first about your experience with the integration?

Michelle: Well the integrations with SuccessFactors are actually pretty simple, the interfaces are very easy to use. We all say that we’re very non-technical, and we can set those interfaces up, and pull the data in, but we actually integrate three different systems. So our position descriptions are in PeopleAdmin, and we pull those into SAP and then feed them into SuccessFactors. So it’s always a one-way feed. And that works, it works pretty well, that way they have what they know about their positions in SuccessFactors and they can’t make changes to it there. So they have to start with compensation if they want to make changes to their position descriptions.

Dave: Okay, great. Tell me a little bit about the benefits that you’ve seen since using SuccessFactors?

Michelle: Well, the users really seem to like it, it does have a very easy to use interface, the navigation’s very easy, you don’t need a whole lot of training for the employees. We’ve been able to run some reports that we haven’t been able to get before, so we can tell today where everybody is in the process and how many people have finished it, how many people haven’t started, and we’ve never been able to do that before. We used to collect the scores about six months after the process was over, so we really didn’t have a way to monitor how people were progressing through that process. So that’s been one of the biggest advantages I think, was just to be able to have that real-time information and be able to see where people are.

Dave: Okay. Are there any drawbacks to running the hybrid environment?

All in unison: Single sign-on!

Dave: Ok, clearly.

Michelle: That’s been a struggle for us going through the portal, it seems to—we just upgraded our portal to the 7.3 version, and that seems to have magically resolved a lot of the issues that we had, so we’re thinking, and crossing our fingers, about turning it on for everybody now. But that’s really the biggest thing that we noticed. The configuration is different, for a hybrid situation, you know when you have the SAP system, you can configure everything, you have control over a lot of it. And there are things that you have to partner with on SuccessFactors, so you have to have that partner who can do those pieces for you, and you just, you can’t do it, so letting go of that control is a little bit of a challenge, but really, I mean the users like it, it works well, it’s fast, I mean we haven’t had any system issues with it at all, so…browser support, you have to test your browsers. Especially if you allow lots of different browsers.

Dave: Okay, lastly I know a lot of folks here this week are considering that move to a hybrid environment, is there any overall advice that you have, based on your experience?

Michelle: I think the most important thing, at least for us, was to know your processes, and be willing to maybe adjust those processes a little bit, and to make sure that your data is very, very clean, because that data drives everything—if there’s one piece that’s wrong, it, you know, it’s wrong everywhere, so making sure that your data’s clean and that your processes are clean are really important.

Dave: Sure. Okay, great. Michelle Bliffen, Leigh Baker, Debbie Zoll, and Jennifer Peavler from the University of Kentucky, thank you for joining me today.

All: Thank you.

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