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Micah Fairchild SuccessFactors' SuccessConnect Conference Recap and Review

3 stars Average rating: 3 (from 40 votes)
 By Micah Fairchild

SuccessConnect Conference Updates Users on Cloud HCM, Mobile, and SAP

SuccessFactors' annual user and partner conference SuccessConnect was held over three weeks this past month; starting with Sydney, Australia (actually May 22-24), cresting in San Francisco, CA June 5-7, and ending in London June 12-14. Bringing together 2000+ attendees representing 100+ countries, the conference was the first real chance for the company to highlight the fact that SuccessFactors is still very much alive and well under the new SAP ownership—a question that has been on customers' minds ever since the German juggernaut acquired the cloud leader this past year. While there weren't drastic differences in content for SuccessConnect as compared with SAP's SAPPHIRE NOW conference, there were some standout elements and takeaway messages that caught our eye here at HR Lab.

For starters, attendees certainly had a chance to witness some rather notable presentations; including a customer-driven report from Hilton, keynotes from both Lars Dalgaard and Dmitri Krakovsky (VP of Product Management), and a poignant motivational session from North Pole adventurer Ben Saunders. That said, without equivocation the bulk of SuccessConnect's excitement centered on SuccessFactors' product roadmap. Namely, attendees had the chance to witness what happens when you give Dmitri a huge budget increase (75+% ) for Research & Development, 200 additional team members, parent company support, and space to innovate. Those improvements included a soon-to-be-released update to the user interface (which much like SAP, features HTML5 usage); new social and mobile capabilities; fresh recruiting capabilities (divided into Recruiting Marketing for candidate sourcing and CRM functions and Recruiting Management for expanded applicant tracking processes); and highly-anticipated innovation for Employee Central.

SuccessFactors' Missed HCM Connections

Leading up to these announcements, Dmitri started off be debuting the SMB-focused SuccessFactors' Professional Edition—an expansion of its HCM portfolio which handles the rote tasks of profile, goal, and performance management, and comes pre-packaged with a basic version of the social solution Jam. Unfortunately, compensation, recruiting, and countless social tools are extra; a fact that could well negate its usage for a number of potential customers. While undoubtedly beneficial to the company financially, the announcement could hardly be construed as impactful let alone innovative. Likewise, Dmitri's highlights about the adoption of SAP's HANA for HR analytics fell flat as well; in large part due to unprepared speakers and unfulfilled timeline expectations given that that full capabilities won't be made available until later in the year. However, for the most part these small let-down moments paled in comparison to the product announcements that punctuated the majority of the SuccessConnect conference.

SuccessFactors' Social & Mobile HCM Functionalities

As mentioned earlier, several capabilities were expanded for the BizX (Business Execution) suite, which Dmitri demonstrated at every available chance. For starters, the software received a much-needed update to its look-and-feel, and now has movable tiles for ESS and MSS dashboard transformation. However, the bulk of the attention went to the application's newer social and mobile HCM software capabilities. For example, the newly-released Mobile Touchbase (a socially-connected, activity-based meeting tool) is based on what Jeff Kristick (VP of Global Product Marketing) calls a "continuous feedback loop"—functionality that tracks agreed-upon performance measures for employees and managers outside the formal office environment. Additional mobile elements include the ineffectual "Who's in the Meeting" (based on new LinkedIn connectors that allow meeting participants to view attendee profiles) ; "Ask for Feedback"; and "Team Overview"; the latter two of which do a decent job of supporting informal feedback mechanisms. While advanced learning functionalities for social collaboration and knowledge sharing were also added into the BizX suite (which could prove particularly useful as integral succession planning elements), unfortunately the feel of the bulk of these new social and mobile elements came off feeling like Salesforce.com's Chatter but with less panache.

SuccessFactors' Employee Central Capabilities

Still, perhaps the biggest news related to plans for Employee Central—the company's soon-to-be-released cloud-based HCM solution. In addition to the core functions of record storage and integration, Employee Central provides easier access to self-service functions such as PTO and payroll, as well as more advanced metrics and mobile functionalities. By far though, the potential game-changer for this SAP/SuccessFactors amalgamation is the upcoming global cloud payroll solution initially slated to support the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the UK, Brazil, India, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Based off of SAP's already existing on-premise global payroll product, the solution will be delivered as a managed service and is expected to be available to 50+ countries by the end of 2013. While promising though, SAP and SuccessFactors need to work fast to move beyond this starting point of SAP Payroll to get functionality into the cloud—a sentiment that is shared by both companies' customers and partners alike. In fact, Jarret Pazahanick (Managing Partner of EIC Experts and a SAP Mentor), voiced his concern by saying,

"Having focused on SAP Payroll for the past 14 years I can understand why they chose to use SAP's current offering as a starting point but think longer term they will have to make a commitment to re-architect and build a multi-tenant global payroll solution which will be a very complex undertaking".

Final Thoughts on SuccessConnect

Much like parent company SAP, SuccessFactors faces a long and hard road ahead as both organizations seek to effectively combine resources and deliver innovation at the pace the market seeks. In fact, time and again history has shown that focusing too closely on integration (with newly acquired cloud companies), or trying too hard to assimilate disparate cultures, can lead to a breakdown in the flexibility and time-to-value that prospective SaaS customers expect. At least for now though, it would appear that the SAP/SFSF relationship is built off of mutual respect and autonomy—allowing both companies to tap into what the best of each other offers. As such, if the company continues to loosely couple its respective solutions, success (all pun intended) is likely to follow. It's hard to say whether this strategy will last, but the company certainly appears to be on the right track. End

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By far the potential game-changer for this SAP/SuccessFactors amalgamation is the upcoming global cloud payroll solution initially slated to support the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the UK, Brazil, India, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

 

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