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Greg Tomb: HANA underpins SuccessFactors, post-2025 SAP HCM

The cloud has loomed large in Greg Tomb's SAP career. Now, he has a year under his belt at SuccessFactors and much to say about where SaaS fits in the migration from legacy HCM.

In two decades at SAP, Greg Tomb has had a front-row seat in the company's long march from being a vendor of on-premises...

ERP to a provider of a broad portfolio of enterprise applications and cloud services. He was an executive in the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud and SAP Global Services units before his July 2017 appointment as president of SAP SuccessFactors, the SaaS HR heavyweight SAP acquired five years earlier.

Tomb -- pronounced tom -- gave an update on the merger of the SAP and SuccessFactors product lines, the ways they complement and integrate with each other, and recent moves in AI and analytics.

It has been a few years since SAP acquired SuccessFactors. Is there anything more to do to integrate the two product lines?

Greg Tomb: We've done more than just integration. We've changed a lot of the architecture and foundation of the SuccessFactors product portfolio.

We have moved every application off Oracle onto HANA, so HANA now is the foundation for the entire set of SuccessFactors applications whether on the recruiting side all the way through payroll, no matter where you are in the world. [This] is not just great from a speed perspective, but gives us all the additional analytic capabilities in HANA and allows us to build a different breed of application.

When it comes to everything we do from an extension standpoint or an interface standpoint, we've wrapped all the applications with SAP Cloud Platform, so now we're using the same set of tools in order to do integration and build additional applications on top of SuccessFactors.

Greg Tomb photoGreg Tomb

When it comes to the user interface ... we've replaced the entire user experience with Fiori and with CoPilot. So we follow all of the SAP standards that all the other applications follow. That's really important. When you have an application that runs across, let's say, SuccessFactors, Fieldglass and [S/4HANA], from a user perspective, you don't see any difference. You feel like you're in a single application.

The last thing we're doing right now, which we have not released in [general availability], but we've talked about it and announced it, is all of the reporting for SuccessFactors is moving to SAP Analytics Cloud, which is super powerful. That's for your operational reporting [and] workforce analytics reporting. And now we've got the ability, when we want to do analytics or predictive modeling, we can do it across SuccessFactors, S/4, non-SAP systems, all with that tool.

Can you explain what the so-called S/4HANA HCM sidecar means for the SuccessFactors migration?

Tomb: We initially said to our customer base, 'If you're using [SAP] HCM on premises, you've got a date of 2025 where we're going to stop support. You're going to be on your own.'

We have changed that. We had a lot of customers that said, 'SAP, that's not enough time if we're going to switch out core HCM, and definitely not a lot if we're using payroll for a big part of our organization -- especially for a government agency.'

So we took a step back and said, 'OK, that's probably too much pressure. We're going to extend it from 2025 to 2030.'

The key though is, come 2025, if you still want support, you've got to be on the HANA platform. So sidecar is the wrong term. You've got to have HCM on the HANA platform and then we can support you. We don't want to be in a place where we're supporting a really old stack on Oracle. At least we want the technology to be upgraded so we can support whoever it is appropriately and it can support all the equipment underneath.

Customers like that answer because it's not that hard to go from Oracle underneath HCM or payroll to HANA. We've got the tools, we can do the conversions and we've given people more flexibility. They may say, 'I'm going to move HCM but keep payroll going until 2030 on what it is, and I'll put SuccessFactors in HCM. Or I'm just going to put in talent from SuccessFactors and leave that other stuff in till 2030.'

Do you call that a hybrid cloud environment?

Tomb: It's 50-50. I was with Corning Glass [recently] and they went all in: 40 countries, 50-something-thousand employees, the breadth of SuccessFactors applications. They got up all the core HCM stuff, went directly to SuccessFactors wall to wall because they said, 'We're just going to do it all at once. We're tired of all the modifications and enhancements over here. We want to go to standards and we want the pain once.' And they did it. They did it really fast.

We've got a fairly large telecommunications company in Philadelphia. They went [to] recruiting, onboarding and learning first. So for their 85,000 employees, they said, 'That's where we're starting.' Now, they're looking at the business case to do core [HCM, Employee Central] and payroll. They've broken it up. They still have SAP from an HCM and payroll perspective [and] SuccessFactors for recruiting, onboarding and learning.

The last thing I ever want to say to a customer is, 'You have to get rid of all that stuff to move to this.'
Greg Tombpresident, SAP SuccessFactors

We've got a big consumer products company in New York. For them, it was talent management, performance and goals first. They did that for the entire company. Now, they're coming back and saying, 'Now we're going to do it for HR.' So I think it depends on where their need is and where the best value is.

The SuccessFactors set of applications is on a common platform, but it is modular in how you can implement it. It gives people that flexibility.

The last thing I ever want to say to a customer is, 'You have to get rid of all that stuff to move to this even if there's no business value associated [with] it.' I'd rather say, 'Let's attack the places [where] you can get the biggest benefit and the most business value and help you transform your company there.' And if the other stuff is working and it's great, stay with that.

We've written about the concept of Employee Central and SuccessFactors being a company's entire HR platform.

Tomb: [Besides the integrated core HR and talent management modules in SuccessFactors], we've got another really great application that we integrate with called Fieldglass, for contingent labor. It's not part of the standard SuccessFactors portfolio, but it's part of the SAP cloud portfolio. And we've got a lot of customers that will buy [Employee Central] and Fieldglass together. Now they have a total view of the workforce.

How plug and play is that? Do customers have to do a lot of their own integration?

Tomb: Today, there are a handful of places [where] the integration's done. They don't have to do anything other than turn it on.

If you're using workforce analytics and you're using Fieldglass, you can see analytics across both products. If you're using recruiting and you want to create a [job requisition], it can either go into SuccessFactors or it can go into Fieldglass automatically.

There are two or three other specific points like that -- when you use both applications, it's automatically fed out of it. [For example,] when you're setting up learning, you can do it for internal employees or contingent labor.

With the intelligent suite, there's another layer of processes that we're putting in place between the applications. Today, when I say we're doing workforce analytics, it's really just analytics looking backward at history.

Now it's going to move to very predictive-type modeling, where we can come up with a scenario and say, 'I've got to open up a new location in a new country and here's my requirements. What's my short- and long-term people strategy and what's the one between my own labor and contingent labor?'

If you've got [SAP S/4HANA ERP] in that mix as well, let's bring in the actual cost for that over time and understand what that does to our P&L.

Now you're going to have this much deeper level of process integration ... and you'll have a consistent user interface across all the products. So if you're a manager, you don't know if you're in SuccessFactors, or Fieldglass or S/4. You have a common experience.

Are there other integration opportunities with the SAP cloud properties?

Tomb: On the Concur side of the house, we're tied into somebody using Concur from a travel management perspective. We know the states they're going into and when they're in those states, what countries they're in, and when.

Now we can track that back to the laws and regulations whether it's state-wise or country-wise. If you go to California and work there for more than 30 days ... they want you to pay California taxes. After using Concur from a travel perspective, [with] Employee Central, we can tell the employee, 'You're 10 days away from coming up against a target of paying taxes in California.'

That's available now, but it will continue to get stronger and stronger.

For each major application area at SAP, we've said -- between the different cloud apps -- 'What is that next level of value and process integration our customers want?'

What chatbot and process automation features are in there now or are coming?

Tomb: We do support CoPilot, which gives you a digital system. CoPilot is an SAP product.

There are a large number of scenarios that are part of the next three releases that start taking advantage of digital systems everywhere possible.

For example, if you're a new employee ... what are the things you need to do as you're coming into the company? From an education standpoint, based on your role, what are the suggested education tracks and certifications you need? That's CoPilot, with a digital assistant capability.

The baseline exists today -- it's built into the product -- and now there are all these individual scenarios that are getting built out [by SuccessFactors]. We're doing it in such a way that it's standard and it's released with the product. But if you, as a customer, want to extend it and do other things, you can do that.

What other machine learning and AI capabilities are available now or are planned on the analytics side?

Tomb: With the fact that Leonardo now is a layer that we get -- now that we're using the SAP stack and SAP Analytics Cloud -- we've got the ability automatically to bake machine learning capabilities into the applications.

One example would be around recruiting. Instead of having a recruiter comb through lots and lots of resumes and put bias into the process, we can take all that work out of the recruiter's hands and take bias out of the process. Take gender out of the process, take where somebody lives out of the process if you want. You can pick and choose what you want to take out and just give the recruiter the job of taking the final step with your recruits. We save them 70% of the time just combing through resumes. That exists now.

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