Saturday, December 28, 2013

Product Story Presentations Are 99 Percent Perspiration

My first job out of college was to work for a federal government information technology research laboratory in New Delhi. It was a low paying yet prestigious post, where your job offer is signed by the President of India. It was nice to get a letter that started like...The President of India is pleased to extend this job get the idea. In my first year there I was involved in the implementation of a video conferencing system for the federal government using our own satellites. Yes. We had all the budget in the world to do what ever we wanted to do as long as it made the government look forward thinking and impressive. That was one of the reasons I took that job.

The company that developed the video conferencing system was from a city called San Jose in the US. The product sales person and a technical architect visited us in New Delhi and conducted a two day workshop about the system and its functionality. Both of them were clear and precise in their presentations and answers. During the break on day two, I walked behind the podium and had a look at their notes. There were using a software called PowerPoint which I had not used before (This was 1991) and they had detailed notes on what exactly to say, including prompts to put their hands up to show the size of the system, for every picture and every screen.

I asked them about it and they told me that the product manager had written the script and had trained them on how to talk about the product and how to use facial and hand gestures to convey the functionality of the product. He said that their product managers take this task very seriously and this scripted story was a key reason for the product's success. I was very impressed with this approach and wondered what it might be like to write a product story that others could tell. I also wondered about where in the world was San Jose, California.

That encounter with the product sales person was a learning experience for me. Since that day I have tried to write a detailed script for my presentations for myself and for others who might use them. Writing such a script is sometimes excruciating. It takes a long time to prepare and think through every screen and the reason for the content there. But it always pays off.

Here is the script I wrote this week for my FKOM story on integration. There is nothing confidential in there. I don't expect any one to read the details from my notes. But it is fun to see the prep process, I think. Nothing is left to chance. Right or wrong - there is a reason for every word and every image. The reasons are captured in the foot notes for others to see and recognize the purpose behind the content.

Post Script: A week after the workshop we ordered a copy of this new software called Microsoft office, even though it was very expensive. I told you we had the money to import what ever we wanted. I was very excited about PowerPoint and Word. It also came with another software called Excel, which I did not use or understand at that time.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Integration Categories To Connect SuccessFactors To Other Systems

There are four  integration categories available to connect SuccessFactors to other cloud and on-premise systems. I normally get questions about these. So I decided I hand draw a picture, to explain what is available across all SuccessFactors deployment options.

Prepackaged Integrations
The first category is the prepackaged integrations built and maintained by SAP and SuccessFactors. We release these like products with versions and documentation. All the SuccessFactors Talent Solutions to SAP ERP HCM integrations fall under this category. Some of the SuccessFactors Employee Central to ERP and third party applications fall under this category as well.

Generic Connectors
The second category is the generic connectors that we provide to connect Employee Central with third party time, benefits and payroll providers. Customers will use these connectors only when the time, benefits and payroll providers they use are not covered by the prepackaged integrations.

Reusable Custom Integration Templates
The third category is a library of reusable templates that the SuccessFactors professional services team maintains. They have built this library based on the wisdom they gathered during the hundreds of implementations they have done. This library is available for customers who hire SuccessFactors professional services teams to build the integration.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
The fourth category is a library of integration APIs available for customers. Customers can build their own integrations or hire SuccessFactors professional services teams to build a custom integration for them.

After I wrote this post, my friends from Dolphin Multimedia took my sketch and worked on the information design and sent it to me in January 2014. Here it is. I am still working on adding this to the overview presentation. Will have a version out before FKOM 2014.

Original sketch

Integration Is A Bridge To Innovation And Business Value

Today's business technology landscape has a lot in common with world geography. The same way time has shaped Earth into various continents and regions separated by rivers, mountains and oceans, software vendors, technology and time have split the business software landscape into multiple architectures.

For centuries, civil engineers, architects, transportation planners and ship builders have recognized the importance of connecting separate regions of the world with technologies such as bridges, canals, mountain passes and shipping routes.

Like a bridge across a river or like a canal across an isthmus unlocking economic value, an integration between two business systems unlocks business value.

Charles Bridge in Prague connects the Prague Castle with Old Town. Photo by +Dharini Ramakrishnan 
There are two ways of looking at integrations between two business systems. The first way is to consider it an expense and ignore it or reluctantly do the absolute minimum. The second way to is to consider it a bridge to new ideas, innovations, productivity and enormous business value. Fortunately, most organizations I work with think of integration between business systems as a bridge to ideas, innovation and business value.

Integration is also a pretty exciting and challenging field. The personal and economic rewards are phenomenal. Have you noticed that some of the best engineering marvels, not to mention some of the most beautiful structures, of the world are bridges and canals. The picture above is of Charles Bridge in Prague. It connects the Prague Castle with old town.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Google Translate Can Help Simplify The Language Of Your Communications

Majority of my sales colleagues and customers are not native English speakers and it is necessary to speak and write in easy to understand language while talking about product features and advantages.

When I put together training content for my products, I use Google Translate sometimes to help me simplify the language I use and remove phrases that might not translate very well. I first translate the English message into another language and then translate the message from the other language back to English. If I see misinterpretations, I remove words that cause confusion and use simpler words without losing the essence of the message.

Google Translate is not perfect and does not understand nuances in languages very well. That constraint forces me to use simple words.

Here is a sample integration message in English and the Spanish, as translated by Google.

Now the Spanish version. Please note that this is not something that I share with my colleagues. The Spanish version is for my test purposes. Native Spanish speakers can tell me if this technique is working.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cathedral Behind Cafe In Old Town Square, Prague

I started this sketch more than a year back while visiting Prague. This cathedral is one of the many you can see from Old Town Square in Prague. It is hidden behind modern buildings that house cafes, art galleries and restaurants. I thought that it symbolizes life today. Religion and faith taking a back seat to commerce.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The SAP SuccessFactors Advantage For Full Cloud HCM Customers

When SAP customers move all their human capital management applications to the cloud, they might wonder about the advantage of going with SuccessFactors.

First of all, integrating HR applications with business applications has proven to be a big advantage. In fact an SAP study found out that revenue per employee increases 40% when HR applications are connected with business applications. So even when HR applications move to the cloud, it is absolutely essential to connect them to systems that run the business to stay competitive.

Second, my colleagues and I are making changes to both ends of the software while building integrations between SAP and SuccessFactors. While building an integration, if we think changing the cloud software or the on-premise ERP software a bit significantly simplifies the integration and reduces cost for customers, we get together for a coffee (It sometimes turns out to be a very expensive coffee because, one of us flies to Walldorf or South San Francisco) and persuade the product manager to consider making changes to the software. I found out that it is hard to say no to someone who flies 9000 miles to ask you for your help.

Other cloud vendors cannot do this. Instead, they (or their implementation partners) try to build an integration within the constraints of the software. I do not blame them. I would do the same if  I were in their shoes and were operating with the constraints they have.

While both types of integrations might look similar in the beginning, the cost of maintaining the integrations, provided by cloud-only vendors, with every software upgrade will add to millions of dollars. It is a bit like the difference between driving a car that gives you 20 miles per gallon and one that gives you 40 miles per gallon. You may not notice the difference when you buy the car, but the first car will cost you a lot more money to operate.

Every time such maintenance is done, it is time and money away from other productive activities. Every maintenance missed is a significant business risk. Every integration not done to avoid these problems is opportunity lost and eroded competitive advantage.

Here is a picture I put together to convey this advantage.

Is that the only advantage of going with SuccessFactors for your cloud applications? Of course not. There are more. I will be talking about the other advantages and inviting sales colleagues who have successfully articulated these advantages to customers to the stage at FKOM in Las Vegas. I look forward to seeing you there, if you are going.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

SAP HCM Customers See Talent Hybrid As Stepping Stone to Full Cloud HCM

Many SAP HCM customers see the Talent Hybrid deployment model as a stepping stone to the Full Cloud HCM deployment model for SAP and SuccessFactors. A year back this was a positioning statement. Today, it is a reality and customers have adopted this approach with open arms.

I will be talking about this at the Field Kick Off Meeting (FKOM) in Las Vegas in January 2014. Adam, the star of this story, will be there to share his case studies with everyone. If you are an SAP or SuccessFactors colleague going to be there at FKOM Las Vegas, I look forward to seeing you there. For colleagues in EMEA and APJ, this content will be available via the integration Jam group and FKOM distribution channels. For partners, I will also post it to the partner Jam group.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Talent Hybrid And Side-By-Side Deployment Models are Stepping Stones To Full Cloud HCM

I spoke to some of my sales colleagues recently and they reiterated what we believed earlier this year. The SAP SuccessFactors - Full Cloud HCM deployment model is the destination for most customers. The Talent Hybrid deployment model and the Side By Side deployment model are acting as stepping stones for customers to get to the Full Cloud HCM model, where they can reap all the benefits of the cloud.

Some customers decide to move to the Full Cloud Model about a year after they adopt the Talent Hybrid model. Some may take over a year to make the move. However, we are seeing a clear trend of Talent Hybrid customers moving to the Full Cloud Model.

In the drawing above, cloud represents SuccessFactors software and the boxes represent SAP ERP HCM and SAP ERP software. The lines connecting them indicate pre-packaged integrations.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Simple, Powerful Diagram In The Book, Rich Dad Poor Dad

The book 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' is the best selling personal finance book of all time. The author Robert Kiyosaki uses simple diagrams to explain very complex money concepts. The most important of them all is to understand the difference between assets and liabilities.

This is how he explains it using this diagram. This one is arguably the most powerful diagram in personal finance.

The picture on the left is how the poor and the middle class handle money. They accumulate liabilities that continue to take money out of their pocket.

The picture on the right is how the rich handle money. They accumulate assets that put even more money in their pocket. According to the author, any one can choose to be rich or poor. It is not luck or inheritance. It is a matter or choice and financial literacy.

Think about it. If a person with a mindset depicted on the left gets $50,000, he or she might buy a luxury car to replace his current (probably still usable) car. It will cost the person more money in maintenance and will lose almost all its value in 10 years.

The person on the right might use the same $50,000 as down payment to get a mortgage for buying a single family home valued at $200,000, rent it out and use the rental income to service the debt, insurance and property tax. In ten years the person will have close to $80,000 in the assets without spending any additional money or time on the asset.

The power of a picture is incredible. I draw pictures every day at work to explain more mundane things like SAP SuccessFactors integration.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Hand Written Story

When I have to design a product message or training content, my favorite tools are pencil, paper and a cappuccino. I like to go to a place (normally a coffee shop) that is not my usual work place with my note book and pencil and write the story down on paper as if I am talking to someone about the topic. If I have associated pictures in mind, I draw a skeleton version of the pictures  near the script. I use a pencil because, it enables me to erase, rethink and correct what I write down.

I also sometimes make a video of the story by pointing a video camera at these notes and speaking out loud. If I cannot speak out the story, i change the script a bit and try again. Writing with a pencil makes erasing and changing the script easier.

Here is my handwritten story of the SAP SuccessFactors integration strategy and road map. The final version did not change that much from this paper version.

SAP Learning Solution Is Integrated With SAP Jam

SAP Jam has been integrated with SuccessFactors Learning for a couple of years now. This combination of formal and informal learning systems is very popular with customers.

My colleagues in the SAP Learning Solution and SAP Jam teams integrated SAP Learning Solution with SAP Jam recently. Now, customers using SAP Learning Solution can attach Jam groups to course types. All students who are taking a course can join the group and discuss the topic among themselves, access additional resources, and revisit the topic when they need. This integration was released in November 2013.

I think this is a great opportunity for SAP Learning Solution customers to add informal learning tools, in the cloud, to their on-premise formal learning management system. It might also be a good opportunity for such customers to test the waters in the cloud, if they do not have any cloud based talent management solutions so far.

Contact my colleague Giovanna Enea if you have questions. She is the product manager, on the SAP Jam side, handling this integration. You can also ask my colleague Martin Mueller about this integration.

Friday, December 06, 2013

A Wireless Presenter Can Change How Your Interact With Your Audience

I use a wireless presenter with a laser pointer for all my presentations and customer conversations where I am required to use a PowerPoint presentation. Having a wireless presenter lets me move away from the podium and get closer to the audience and have a conversation with them rather than just share information one way from what looks like the podium of a preacher in most settings.  Try moving away from the podium and closer to the audience the next time you present. It completely changes how your audience reacts to your session.

The best wireless presenter I have used so far is the Kensington Wireless Presenter. It has a laser pointer and the USB stick that connects to the computer doubles as an 8GB memory stick. This might make a nice gift to any speaker.

A Master Story Teller - Malcolm Gladwell

If you are a product manager tasked with telling a story to make your point or sell your product, you can learn a lot from Malcolm Gladwell, the master story teller. In the video below, he is talking about why David is not really an under dog in the David and Goliath story.

Best Audience Sizes For Optimum Interaction and Learning

I have the good fortune of meeting and learning from hundreds of customers every year and listen to their human capital management needs. Some times I meet them at their offices. Sometimes I meet them in settings of about 30 people. A few times a year I meet them at conferences and speak with them during breaks.

The most optimum audience sizes, in my opinion, is about 20-30 people representing multiple customers. The optimum setting is when they are in a room for an extended period of time, usually about 2 days. My company's Max Attention events and the recently concluded SuccessFactors Seminars are modeled for such interaction. Customers may believe that conversations that focus only on their companies products, landscape, and problems are the best way to learn about solutions to their problems. That may not be the case. Going to a small event away from their office, where they can interact meaningfully with experts from the field and other customers is a better way to learn about solutions to their problems.

I realized that this optimum number is not a coincidence. According to research, 24 students is the optimum class size for any classroom. Malcom Gladwell talks about this in his recent book David and Goliath.

A large class, compared to more personalized coaching, is usually thought to be a “disadvantage” for pupils, and smaller class sizes and personal tutoring are assumed to be better. Surveying studies, Gladwell says that though really big classes are a problem, there is a happy medium, and smaller classes or more personalized coaching don’t necessarily lead to better outcomes. This is because the students do not just learn from the teacher. The students also learn from each other.

Going to a very large conference is not always better than medium sized events. Large conferences have relatively less formal public interaction compared to smaller events.

I personally like the medium sized events such as ASUG, Wispubs Seminars and SAP Max Attention events where I get to interact and discuss problems of multiple customers in the same room and hear them share information with each other. I do not enjoy the conferences where I am forced to stay on the podium in front of 200+ people and just convey the message. That is less fun.

Talent Hybrid And Full Cloud HCM - Current and Planned Integrations

Most SAP customers choose to go with one of two main deployment models for SuccessFactors. The first one is called the Talent Hybrid deployment model. We have several pre-packaged integrations available and planned for this model. Here is the diagram depicting the same.

The second deployment model is called the Full Cloud deployment model. For the Full Cloud deployment model, we did not have a picture that shows all current integrations and the planned integrations in a single slide. So my product management colleagues and I decided to put one together to show the big picture.

Like all diagrams, this one is also starting on paper with probably many mistakes and omissions. But I like the way it is emerging. You can see that Employee Central is in the middle.

Employee Central Integration with 3rd Party Applications
It is connected to specific time, payroll and benefits applications using pre-packaged integrations. There is an integration with BSI for tax calculation purposes. Then there are generic connectors to integrate with time, benefits and payroll providers.

Employee Central Integration with SAP ERP applications 
Employee Central is connected with SAP ERP via standard integrations for employee information and cost center information. In the diagram below employee information integration is shown as multiple integrations. I am still thinking about what is the best way to depict this one. I am discussing this information design with my colleague Heike Kolar, who handles the integrations in the Full Cloud deployment model.

Employee Central Integration with on-premise payroll.
Employee Central has a pre-packaged integration with on-premise payroll.

There are several more integrations planned in 2014. The sketch below was my first attempt at depicting all current and planned integrations in context.

 Please take the information in the picture with a grain of salt. Planned integrations are just that. Planned.
Update after a week...

I got a lot of good feedback about the diagram above. I appreciate it very much. My information design partners, Dolphin multimedia helped me turn my sketch into a clean, simple diagram. I have shown this to a few colleagues and they seem to like it better than an integration Excel list with no context.

You will notice that, we are building a lot of fine grain integrations between Employee Central and ERP. This is possible because we control both ends of the software. This is something only we can do. We are also simplifying the integrations by making necessary code changes to both ends of the software, rather than making the integration itself complex and overloading the integration middle ware. This is important because customers use multiple integration middle-ware technologies and even switch integration middle-ware technologies for business reasons. We want to be as flexible and as open as possible when it comes to middle-ware technologies. We also want to minimize integration technology switching costs. Again, this is something only we can do, because we have control over software on both ends of the integration.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I calculated that these integrations will save billions of dollars in cost for SAP ERP customers over the life of their software. These diagrams will become part of the integration overview presentation and will be shared at FKOM with sales colleagues and at HR Insider conferences with customers. These diagrams will also become part of the integration training content for my colleagues and SAP SuccessFactors partners.

When it comes to building integrations, my product management colleagues and I are increasingly thinking like landlords rather than architects. We are thinking about long term implications, maintenance and complete landscapes rather than focus on just getting the integration work the first time.

Apart from the integrations mentioned above, SuccessFactors professional services teams have done custom integrations with tens of time, benefits, Core HR and payroll providers. They have done such integrations with most major providers in the world. We do not plan to turn all that intellectual property into pre-packaged integrations at this time for various business reasons. However, if you use a time, benefits, Core HR or payroll provider not listed in the diagrams above, check with the SuccessFactors professional services team to see if they have built an integration with your provider before. The SuccessFactors professional services teams may be able to save you tens of thousands of dollars in integration costs and weeks in the integration timeline.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Attributes Of Great Content

An expert from Fitch and Associates shared this with us during a content design session. I found it useful.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Perfect Mix Of Data And Narrative

I take the approach of story telling when presenting content. This month I am in the process of creating the integration story for my sales colleagues. We are getting trained by experts from a company that specializes in content presentation by story telling. The team that does this training shared this framework with us today.

It is very interesting to note that a product launch presentation, which is what most product managers do, is right in the middle of report and story.

I look forward to learning a few new techniques. You can read more about Nancy Duarte's tips for presenting in her HBR blog.
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