Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Opportunity To Design A Disruptive OnDemand HCM Suite

I have been blessed with a job that I love. I work with people who make me smarter everyday and work from a location that is anything but ordinary.

I work from Hill View Avenue in Palo Alto, California, where disruptive and innovative companies such asVMWare, Xerox PARC, Better Place and Tesla Motors have their offices. Once in a while I go for a walk in their campuses just to breath the same air as the smart people in those companies. I tell myself that this is the street where the Ethernet, The Graphical User Interface and the Laser Printer were invented. This is probably the street where the foundations of the next electric car, its charging network and cloud computing infrastructure will be laid.

My day usually starts at 7 am. I work from home early in the morning working with my product management colleagues in Walldorf, Germany and Budapest, Hungary. Every one of those colleagues, at some point, managed products that brought millions of dollars in revenue for SAP. While they are keen to listen to my ideas, they also bring a world view that includes knowledge about European and Asian markets, the ground realities and opportunities.

When I walk into the office I go a building where David Ludlow, who started the HCM product management function at SAP and built the more than 12000 SAP HCM customers, works from. For more than four years I have had the privilege of walking into David's office anytime and talk about all things HCM and learn from his vast experience. Near David's office is Nicholas Cumins's office. Nicholas heads strategic product management for SAP's OnDemand solutions. I have had many interesting and productive conversations with Nicholas, several of them informal hallway conversations, about OnDemand products, the market opportunities, the challenges and strategy.

Mike Tschudy, a huge proponent of design thinking and the head of the product design team for OnDemand solutions, is right next to David's office. I run into Mike several times a week where we discuss how to put the person first, put collaboration at the core and think mobile first when it comes to product design. Mike always pushes me to think about the complete customers experience and shares his vast knowledge gained from his past experience working at Apple and eBay.

Enric Gili Fort, a product management colleague and an industrial designer like me, sits a few yards away. Enric designed many parts of the Career OnDemand product. For many months Enric and I spent most of our afternoons in work sessions designing and building simple prototypes that captured the needs and wants of the people in organizations. Enric and I share the "Less Is More" and the Best Interface Is No Interface" philosophies and are determined to ensure that the next generation of OnDemand products from SAP reflect that belief.

Right next to me there is Steven Kim, who is responsible for the Sourcing OnDemand product. Steven sometimes walks over, look at my Storyboards on the wall and gives me tips about how the HCM OnDemand team can use some of the techniques he is using for Sourcing.

Nital Vora, who designed many components, including some iPad and iPhone versions, of the the Sales OnDemand product sits a few yards away. When I have a question or want to bounce an idea of someone who has done it before I walk over to him and chat with him.

John Wookey, the head of all OnDemand products for large enterprises, also works from the same building. On regular intervals John visits our project rooms to look at the work, where he always insists on building people centric products to disrupt the enterprise software market. John is a product person at heart and says that any day spent thinking about and discussing the product is a good day.

My typical day may involve talking to an Analyst to verify our ideas, work sessions with customers to understand the market fit of our hypothesis, design thinking session with colleagues and thought leaders, intense work sessions with colleagues who question everything from the value proposition to viability of our products, creating a storyboard to capture and convey my ideas to colleagues, building a quick prototype using Axure to show a concept  to customers. I also make it a point to walk over to the campus library at least twice a week to get away from the daily routine and look for new books and ideas. The friendly librarian orders any book I ask for. It is also an excuse to go over to Building 1, where Chef Jaspal from Bon Appetit, cooks Indian food twice a week.

The work we do is normally posted on the walls of our product design rooms and even on the walls in our work area. The work is visible, open for discussion and feedback. The environment I work in does not let me get lazy with my ideas or design. It brings our the best in me. Like any organization, there are challenges at SAP. But I consider this a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to disrupt the people management software area.

If you like what I do and have the skills, experience and inclination to disrupt the people management software market, please come and talk to us. We are looking for people like you.

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