Friday, June 29, 2012

SuccessFactors Jam Turns Documents From Information Repositories Into Information Radiators

A few months back, I wrote about information radiation as an educational technique. This is the technique of posting documents on a physical wall in the project room so that others stumble into it and learn about it. Sometimes a second person may join the viewer and strike up a conversation, which in turn enhances their learning. We started doing this with good results for teams in a physical location.

We are now able to replicate this online in the HCM Exchange community that we maintain for virtual teams. Most of the content in organizations, even in the age of the internet, exists in documents. People in organizations are more comfortable creating and sharing information in document formats. We found this out by analyzing the content creation and consumption patterns in collaboration rooms. These documents could be in PowerPoint, Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF formats.

Image Courtesy 
SuccessFactors Jam display all pages of a document in the group wall where pages of the document catch the eye of participants. They can comment on those documents right there on the group wall. When they click on a certain page, they are directly taken to that page. They can then comment on particular sections of that page. These comments inturn, show up on the group wall, where one or more people can join the conversation about content in that page. We noticed that consumption of documents and collaboration around documents goes up when documents updates show up in the group wall. 

In our community SuccessFactors Jam is turning existing documents from information repositories to information radiators. This is helping my colleagues crack open documents, discuss them, debate them, add to them and spread the word efficiently and more frequently that it was possible before.

Here is an example of how SuccessFactors Jam enabled a conversation about a section of a document between my colleagues. The key thing to note here is the idea to think about mentoring came from a colleague who manages the Analytics products who would not have otherwise looked at this document.

Information radiated and enabled a very meaningful conversation thanks to this feature in SuccessFactors Jam.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Granular Collaboration and superior navigation is making us productive and smart

I had written earlier about how we use SuccessFactors Jam for exchanging information and having conversations about products. Recently my colleagues and I debated for and against keeping documents inside Jam Vs posting the documents in another document management system and linking them from Jam.

I was thinking about this and I found two compelling reasons why it makes sense to physically upload the documents to Jam and use Jam as a content repository as well.

In the example below my colleagues Heike Kolar, Kouros Behzad and Fran Smolders are discussing a particular section of a page in a particular version of a product document stored in Jam.

This conversation is a piece of learning that can be linked to directly, and watched by other community members on the group wall. This kind of collaboration makes us and our field colleagues smarter about our product and customer situations by the day.

Jam enables deep linking to a particular page in a document
If I post a document in Jam, I and my colleagues can deep link into a particular page of the document. In effect Jam turn every page of a document into an independent unit of information that can be reached directly. This simplifies navigation and enhances the adoption of content.

I can link to a particular page in a document from another page. I can email a direct link to a particular page in a long document to a colleague. The colleague can them make a remark on that particular page of the document and start a conversation, all while the whole community is watching and learning. It is incredible to experience this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How An Account Executive Found Me In The HCM Community

The SAP Solution Management team maintains a community called the SAP HCM Exchange. This community is powered by SuccessFactors Jam. We decided to practice what we preach and created this community for all product and field colleagues to share, discuss and learn from each other about the solutions, sales pursuits, case studies, positioning, competition and challenges. This is an ongoing effort. However I want to share something interesting that proved my hunch on expert finder systems correct.

I always believed that expert finder systems, as they are designed today, do not work. I believe that people who are looking for experts like to see the work that someone has done, sample the work, and talk to them before relying on them for some critical help. In other words, enabling a person to make his or her work visible and thus making him or her find-able is the best way to design expert finder systems.

How HCM Exchange powered by Jam made me find-able
A few days back one of our new account executives from Canada left a message on my Profile Wall asking me if I can help him with a hybrid sales pursuit. We connected and spoke about the pursuit. At the end of the conversation I asked him how he found me and why he reached out to me instead of anyone else. His answer was simple. He said "I saw you posting and writing about the topic of hybrid solutions and read some of the documents and decided you might be a good person to help me." It is that simple. This is how the real world works.

By the way, there are a number of expert finder systems within SAP, on which we spent millions of dollars, where every expert is required to go and update their expertise so that other colleagues can find them. Many of us do not even know where such systems are. Within a Jam group, experts can go about doing what they do everyday without wondering about what their expertise is and they will be discovered by the right people, for the right topic, when they want, with pin point accuracy.

Here is a snap shot of the SAP HCM Community. If you are an SAP or SuccessFactors employee reading this and want access, please leave a comment or send me an email and I'll invite you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Connected My Personal Blog To SuccessFactors Jam

I just connected my personal blog to my SuccessFactors Jam instance at work. Now my colleagues will be able to read my blog posts from within Jam.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Fascinating Balancing Act Of Suggesting Cloud Software To OnPremise Customers

You probably know that SAP sells a lot of OnPremise software and our operating margins are in the high twenties. You can see this in our annual report. We are also one of the largest cloud software providers now. Margins in the cloud software business are not the same as those in the OnPremise software business. This is a balancing act. In the hypothetical scenario where every one of our customers moves to the cloud overnight, our operating margins could become much lower than what it is today. Our investors may not be very happy with that.

This reminds me of a case study that I read while at Columbia Business School. It was about Kodak. Kodak was making film cameras and selling film to consumers at a profit margin of about 60%. Kodak researchers then invented the digital camera which did not need  film and hence provided no additional revenue and high margins. Kodak wanted to preserve those juicy film margins and did not look for a new business model using the digital camera. Kodak eventually lost the lead on cameras and lost an opportunity to reinvent itself.

Apple on the other hand systematically invented the iPad and iPhone that created a new market that instead of killing the personal computer business stimulated it further. Apple went on to become the most valuable company in the world.

At SAP, the story is still unfolding. We are selling a ton of OnPremise software and a ton of OnDemand software. From what I have seen so far, customers with whom I discuss OnDemand software are in no mood to completely give away their OnPremise software. In the case of Human Capital Management for example we have thousands and thousands of customers who use just OnPremise software. They may not give up what they have OnPremise today. But many of them at least in the US and Europe are willing to add OnDemand software to the mix and bring down their overall consulting, maintenance and hardware costs.

Unlike Kodak, at SAP, we are not holding on to our OnPremise business alone. We are actively promoting OnDemand software for many areas. Talent Management is a good example of that. The entire company across ranks has embraced cloud software and strongly believes that cloud is the future.

Interestingly, I find that customers are willing to buy and use both OnPremise and OnDemand software (sometimes doing the same thing) thereby spending more money on licenses with us because in the overall scheme of things they save money on maintenance, consulting and hardware by moving some parts of their applications to the cloud while still having a sense of security and control over areas which they are not comfortable to move to the cloud yet.

We realize this and so are heavily investing in technology, content and services that help make such hybrid situations work for customers. We are also investing heavily in cloud integration services to make this practical and cost effective for customers.

I find this to be a mutually beneficial situation for us as well as our customers. We get to innovate in the cloud without losing our margins overnight and going out of favor with our investors. Customers get to transition to the cloud in a step by step manner without replacing their internal technology teams, without disrupting their business processes overnight and without taking huge risks.

At work, every day is a fascinating balancing act through this innovators dilemma. It will be great if we can pull this off. I am cautiously optimistic. Time will tell.

Some Customers Are Willing To Buy Double Licenses for OnPremise and OnDemand

Some OnPremise customers I speak with about cloud software started asking me if there is an option to use both OnPremise and OnDemand version of the same software because they liked certain aspects of each and would like to keep both for a while. I found this very unusual. So I asked them why they would want to pay double the license fee for essentially the same functionality with significant overlap.

They explained to me that it is a bit like keeping your land line phone while switching to a cell phone. You may not use the land line much but you want to keep it for emergencies. May be you don't trust you cell phone for emergency calls. May be you home security system does not work with your cell phone and so on.

They also explained to me that software licence is not the largest portion of a software implementation budget. A significant portion (more than 80%) of their budget is spent on consulting, maintaining the software and hardware. Customers have calculated, without the help of any outside vendors to influence their thinking, that they can actually save money even if they pay software licence fee for both OnPremise and OnDemand versions of the same software because they save a significant portion of their consulting, maintenance and hardware costs by moving to the cloud. For some customers this could be tens of millions of dollars a year.

I find this mildly perplexing. But I am not complaining.

The Next Decade by George Friedman

I have started reading the book "The Next Decade" by George Friedman. It is an interesting book about how Geo-politics is going to affect all of us in the coming years. It is particularly interesting to read about the potential relationship between Russia and Germany and how it might affect Europe and the US.

Organizational Chart Could Be a Killer App For the Tablet

I heard from one more customer today that executives and managers always print out organizational charts when they go to meetings. This is not the first time I am hearing this. There seems to be something compelling about the pecking order that appeals to the basic human curiosity.

I think organizational charts will make a great app for the tablet. Providing additional actions such as connecting to the person on LinkedIn and following the person in the company professional network will make it far more interesting. This will be a great mobile-only app.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

SAP OnPremise and SuccessFactors OnDemand Integration Status and Roadmap

I have been speaking with several SAP OnPremise customers, who are using or considering SuccessFactors Business Execution solutions, about their need for integration with SuccessFactors OnDemand and other third party applications. I have been sharing our plans and road map for integration and it has been received very well so far.

Some of the customers I am speaking with are current SAP HCM customers running SuccessFactors for talent management. Some are SAP OnPremise HR customers considering SuccessFactors applications. Some are SAP OnPremise HR Customers considering SuccessFactors Employee Central for Core HR.

There is a comprehensive plan to provide integration technology, integration content and integration steps to help customers with various scenarios make a move to the cloud if they choose to so do. A set of rapid deployment services are also on the cards.

I realized that there are many questions in everyone mind about the integration status and plans of SAP. My colleague Heike Kolar will walk customers through the vision, the status and plan. This session will be valuable for all SAP and SuccessFactors customers who have solutions from either SAP or SuccessFactors or both. Click here to register for the Webinar.
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