Implementing A Cloud HR Solution: 6 Lessons I Learned The Hard Way

Steve Borg

I have worked on the customer side in one of the earliest and largest implementations of an end-to-end cloud HR system, as well as with other customers doing the same. Both experiences have given me some key insights into common considerations when tackling a project.

While every business or project is different, I have found a number of commonalities across projects, so I’d like to share some lessons I have learned along the way to help others who are about to embark on their own cloud journey.

1. We don’t know what we don’t know

This is probably the most common statement I hear from customers, and I even thought or said it myself on more than one occasion. This is closely followed by “Surely we are not the first to want to do this!” or “How have others done this before?”

My advice on this is: First, choose who will help you with your implementation carefully.

Look for experience in the team—not just on the system build, but also people with experience in HR, process design, and change management. Be clear up front what your expectations are on thought leadership and how delivery of this will be measured.

Look for someone to join your team who has done this before. Also take the time to broaden who you ask for advice. When you are in the trenches of an implementation, with deadlines and deliverables looming, it can be difficult to lift your head up, but you’ll benefit from it. Why limit yourself to the experience of the implementations your consultants have done when there is a community of thousands of customers globally who have been where you are now? Who better to talk the language of a customer than another customer?

2. Remember why you bought it

There are a number of reasons why companies choose to go on this journey. These range from “We don’t actually have a system; we are still on paper,” or “Our current systems don’t talk to each other,” to “We are navigating a business transformation and we need a system that can support us end-to-end.”

Remember this when you are embarking on your design. The system is not the silver bullet for all your current business challenges. It is, however, an enabler to better business outcomes. You have this unique opportunity to look at what you do and how you do it. Take the time to challenge what you do today. It is a wasted investment if all you do is take your existing processes, systems, and forms and put them in the cloud. Consider what could be done differently. Try to achieve simplicity.

One principle we used—and I encourage others to do the same—is to design the system and process for the good employee, the good line manager, and the good HR business partner. Most people don’t come to work to find the loophole or wrought the system, so why build in complexity for the 1 percent of times something might happen? Rather than bog it down with too many layers of approval or checks and balances, manage those rare exceptions when they happen and treat them as just that: exceptions.

3. Find the balance between business-led and solution-led processes

It is easy to fall into the trap of what the system can do and turn everything on because it looks exciting and is built on best practices. As mentioned above, there needs to be a balance between driving improvements in your business and considering what the business is ready for from a change and maturity perspective. Remember, the system can grow with you over time.

Ensuring you have a strong system owner is key for your ongoing success.

This person needs to be the lead in achieving this balance. They need to understand what the business and HR strategies are and be able to translate them into how the various modules can enable and support these strategies. As such, the system owner or lead must also be able to articulate (when appropriate) what the modules future direction looks like and why that direction is being developed. In some cases your business could benefit from the system influencing the organization’s overall HR strategy. A recent example of this could be the changes to performance and goals.

4. Give yourself time

One of the most common misconceptions I see is the idea because you’re working on a cloud implementation you should do it fast.

Take should and replace it with can!

Ask yourself: Is that pace right for your business? I understand that in today’s fast-moving world, which is dominated by being first to market and controlling or minimising cost, there is a drive to do things faster. I also recognise that when these products are sold to you this concept is always at the forefront, and often that is because one of the first questions asked by prospective customers: “How many weeks does it take to turn that module on?”

While a particular timeline quoted may be possible and have been successfully done before, the question you need to ask yourself is: Can you and your business do it that quickly? In most cases, the implementation or technical team can build it that fast if you can provide them with the design decisions and data that quickly.

And that is where the challenge lies: Having sufficient time to understand the business requirements, get stakeholder agreement on key decision points, and then test the system to ensure it meets your business’s needs. Then there’s the time it takes to do proper communication and change management, with an often widespread and diverse end user group. By rushing these steps, you are simply reducing the benefit you could gain from taking an iterative approach to the design.

5. Share your design early

There is no point in rolling out cloud technology and keeping on-premise thinking. One mistake I made with the first module I worked on was designing the solution with my team in a somewhat closed shop—the first time the output was shared broadly was at UAT.

We involved key stakeholders in gathering requirements, and the project team was made up of subject-matter experts who understood not only the challenges faced with the legacy system but also the business they supported and strategy of where we wanted to go. We also did a lot of show-and-tell and “demoed” the design—but we could have and should have done more.

On reflection, I likely subconsciously drove this behaviour because we didn’t want to share anything that wasn’t perfectly polished and complete. Why? I wanted to protect the brand of our system, the project, my team, and my own personal brand. I worried that if something didn’t quite look right or wasn’t ready yet, it would be received poorly and we would be behind before we even began.

In reality, however, the rollout was successful, although there were some challenges at go-live that could have been avoided had we shared more. One way to achieve that would be to include usability testing by bringing together real end users to experience the newly designed system and process before the design is finalised.

6. Go-live is only the beginning

Ensure thaf you have revisited your measures of adoption and measures of success prior to go-live. Make sure you have baseline data of how long things took and/or how often they were done using the old system.

In addition, be sure that you have the tools in place to measure the improvements in the new system. I have found that some people have short memories regarding how difficult things used to be, so it is important to show the benefits offered by the new system. That way you can measure and demonstrate the value realised as well as celebrate your wins.

Be sure you plan for the transition from “project” to “business as usual.” A period of hyper-care for key processes and users makes for a smoother and faster transition. Also, where possible, retaining key members from the project into BAU roles helps with knowledge retention.

An agile approach doesn’t mean all rules go out the window. This includes the need for good documentation. As issue that has come up time and time again is the benefit of documenting not only what you did or how it was configured, but why. This is especially important over time as team members change.

For example, knowing we set X code to only 6 digits because Y downstream system can only handle 6 digits, or that you have this process in place because that module isn’t turned on yet, is invaluable information to have in 6, 12, or 18 months’ time when system or process improvements are being considered.

Finally, I encourage all of you who are on any stage of your digital HR transformation to get out there and talk to others. Remember, you’re never really finished, so there is always something to be shared and learned!

For more insight on HR technology, see “Gutting” The Guesswork Out Of HR Decision Making.


Steve Borg

About Steve Borg

Steve Borg is a Customer Engagement Executive (CEE) with SAP SuccessFactors. Steve is an experienced HR practitioner with over 15 years experience in generalist and specialty roles across a number of industries including finance, manufacturing and retail. Steve has also had the privilege of working on a major end to end implementation of SuccessFactors as a customer, implementing over this time, Employee Central including Cloud Payroll, Recruitment, Performance and Goals, Succession, Learning, Compensation, Variable Pay and Workforce Analytics . Steve now helps existing SuccessFactors’ customers align their technology with their business strategy to maximize the value they yield from their investments as it relates to the SuccessFactors software and services.

Innovation Without Boundaries: Why The Cloud Matters

Michael Haws

Is it possible to innovate without boundaries?

Of course – if you are using the cloud. An actual cloud doesn’t have any boundaries. It’s fluid. But more important, it can provide the much-needed precipitation that brings nature to life. So it is with cloud technology – but it’s your ideas that can grow and transform your business.USA --- Clouds, Heaven --- Image by © Ocean/Corbis

Running your business in the cloud is no longer just a consideration during a typical use-case exercise. Business executives are now faced with making decisions on solutions that go beyond previous limitations with cloud computing. Selecting the latest tools to address a business process gap is now less about features and more about functionality.

It doesn’t matter whether your organization is experienced with cloud solutions or new to the concept. Cloud technology is quickly becoming a core part of addressing the needs of a growing business.

5 considerations when planning your journey to the cloud

How can your organization define its successful path to the cloud? Here are five things you should consider when investigating whether a move to the cloud is right for you.

1. Understanding the cloud is great, but putting it into action is another thing.

For most CIOs, putting a cloud strategy on paper is new territory. Cloud computing is taking on new realms: Pure managed services to software-as-a-service (SaaS). Just as legacy computing had different flavors, so does cloud technology.

2. There is more than one way to innovate in the cloud.

Alignment with an open cloud reference architecture can help your CIO deliver on the promises of the cloud while using a stair-step approach to cloud adoption – from on-premise to hybrid to full cloud computing. Some companies find their own path by constantly reevaluating their needs and shifting their focus when necessary – making the move from running a data center to delivering real value to stakeholders, for example.

3. The cloud can help accelerate processes and lower cost.

By recognizing unprecedented growth, your organization can embark on a path to significant transformation that powers greater agility and competitiveness. Choose a solution set that best meets your needs, and implement and support it moving forward. By leveraging the cloud to support the chosen solution, ongoing maintenance, training, and system issues becomes the cloud provider’s responsibility. And for you, this offers the freedom to focus on the core business.

4. You can lock down your infrastructure and ensure more efficient processes.

Do you use a traditional reporting engine against a large relational database to generate a sequential batched report to close your books at quarter’s end? If so, you’re not alone. Sure, a new solution with new technology may be an obvious improvement. But how valuable to your board will you become when you reduce the financial closing process by 1–3 days? That’s the beauty of the cloud: You can accelerate the deployment of your chosen solution and realize ROI quickly – even before the next full reporting period.

5. The cloud opens the door to new opportunity in a secure environment.

For many companies, moving to the cloud may seem impossible due to the time and effort needed to train workers and hire resources with the right skill sets. Plus, if you are a startup in a rural location, it may not be as easy to attract the right talent as it is for your Silicon Valley counterparts. The cloud allows your business to secure your infrastructure as well as recruit and onboard those hard-to-find resources by applying a managed services contract to run your cloud model

The cloud means many things to different people. What’s your path?

With SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud service, you can navigate the best path to building, running, and operating your own cloud when running critical business processes. Find out how SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud can deliver the speed and resources necessary to quickly validate and realize solid ROI.

Check out the video below or visit us at

Connect with us on Twitter: @SAPServices


Michael Haws

About Michael Haws

Michael Haws is the Vice President of HANA Enterprise Cloud at SAP. His specialties include Enterprise Resource Planning Software & Services, Onshore, Nearshore, Offshore--Application, Infrastructure and Business Process Outsourcing.


Consumers And Providers: Two Halves Of The Hybrid Cloud Equation

Marty McCormick

Long gone are the days of CIOs and IT managers freely spending money to move their 02 Jun 2012 --- Young creatives having lunch and conversation. --- Image by © Hero/Corbisexisting systems to the cloud without any real business justification just to be part of the latest hype. As cloud deployments are becoming more prevalent, IT leaders are now tasked with proving the tangible benefits of adopting a cloud strategy from an operational, efficiency, and cost perspective. At the same time, they must balance their end users’ increasing demand for access to more data from an ever-expanding list of public cloud sources.

Lately, public cloud systems have become part of IT landscapes both in the form of multi-tenant systems, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings and data consumption applications such as Twitter. Along with the integration of applications and data outside of the corporate domain, new architectures have been spawned, requiring real-time and seamless integration points.  As shown in the figure below, these hybrid clouds – loosely defined as the integration of data from systems in both public and private clouds in a unified fashion – are the foundation of this new IT architecture.


Not only has the hybrid cloud changed a company’s approach to deploying new software, but it has also changed the way software is developed and sold from a provider’s perspective.

The provider perspective: Unifying development and operations

Thanks to the hybrid cloud approach, system administrators and developers are sitting side by side in an agile development model known as Development and Operations (DevOps). By increasing collaboration, communication, innovation, and problem resolution, development teams can closely collaborate with system administrators and provide a continuous feedback loop of both sides of the agile methodology.

For example, operations teams can provide feedback on reported software bugs, software support issues, and new feature requests to development teams in real time. Likewise, development teams develop and test new applications with support and maintainability as a key pillar in design.
After seeing the advantages realized by cloud providers that have embraced this approach long ago, other companies that have traditionally separated these two areas are now adopting the DevOps model.

The consumer perspective: Moving to the cloud on its own terms

From the standpoint of the corporate consumer, hybrid cloud deployments bring a number of advantages to an IT organization. Specifically, the hybrid approach allows companies to move some application functionality to the cloud at their own pace.
Many applications naturally lend themselves to public cloud domains given their application and data requirements. For most companies, HR, indirect procurement, travel, and CRM systems are the first to be deployed in a public cloud. This approach eliminates the requirement for building and operating these applications in house while allowing IT areas to take advantage of new features and technologies much faster.

However, there is one challenge consumers need to overcome: The lack of capabilities needed to extend these applications and meet business requirements when the standard offering is often insufficient. Unfortunately, this tempts organizations to create extensive custom applications that replicate information across a variety of systems to meet end user requirements. This development work can offset the cost benefits of the initial cloud application, especially when you consider the upgrades and support required to maintain the application.

What this all means to everyone involved in the hybrid cloud

Given these two perspectives, on-premise software providers are transforming themselves so they can meet the ever-evolving demands of today’s information consumer. In particular, they are preparing for these unique challenges facing customers and creating a smooth journey to a hybrid cloud.

Take SAP, for example. By adopting a DevOps model to break down a huge internal barrier and allowing tighter collaboration, the company has delivered a simpler approach to hybrid cloud deployments through the SAP HANA Cloud Platform for extending applications and SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud for hosting solutions.

Find out how these two innovations can help you implement a robust and secure hybrid cloud solution:
SAP HANA Cloud Platform
SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud


Marty McCormick

About Marty McCormick

Marty McCormick is the Lead Technical Architect, Managed Cloud Delivery, at SAP. He is experienced in a wide range of SAP solutions, including SAP Netweaver SAP Portal, SAP CRM, SAP SRM, SAP MDM, SAP BI, and SAP ERP.

The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage

Justin Somaini and Dan Wellers


The cost of data breaches will reach US$2.1 trillion globally by 2019—nearly four times the cost in 2015.

Cyberattacks could cost up to $90 trillion in net global economic benefits by 2030 if cybersecurity doesn’t keep pace with growing threat levels.

Cyber insurance premiums could increase tenfold to $20 billion annually by 2025.

Cyberattacks are one of the top 10 global risks of highest concern for the next decade.

Companies are collaborating with a wider network of partners, embracing distributed systems, and meeting new demands for 24/7 operations.

But the bad guys are sharing intelligence, harnessing emerging technologies, and working round the clock as well—and companies are giving them plenty of weaknesses to exploit.

  • 33% of companies today are prepared to prevent a worst-case attack.
  • 25% treat cyber risk as a significant corporate risk.
  • 80% fail to assess their customers and suppliers for cyber risk.

The ROI of Zero Trust

Perimeter security will not be enough. As interconnectivity increases so will the adoption of zero-trust networks, which place controls around data assets and increases visibility into how they are used across the digital ecosystem.

A Layered Approach

Companies that embrace trust as a competitive advantage will build robust security on three core tenets:

  • Prevention: Evolving defensive strategies from security policies and educational approaches to access controls
  • Detection: Deploying effective systems for the timely detection and notification of intrusions
  • Reaction: Implementing incident response plans similar to those for other disaster recovery scenarios

They’ll build security into their digital ecosystems at three levels:

  1. Secure products. Security in all applications to protect data and transactions
  2. Secure operations. Hardened systems, patch management, security monitoring, end-to-end incident handling, and a comprehensive cloud-operations security framework
  3. Secure companies. A security-aware workforce, end-to-end physical security, and a thorough business continuity framework

Against Digital Armageddon

Experts warn that the worst-case scenario is a state of perpetual cybercrime and cyber warfare, vulnerable critical infrastructure, and trillions of dollars in losses. A collaborative approach will be critical to combatting this persistent global threat with implications not just for corporate and personal data but also strategy, supply chains, products, and physical operations.

Download the executive brief The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.



To Get Past Blockchain Hype, We Must Think Differently

Susan Galer

Blockchain hype is reaching fever pitch, making it the perfect time to separate market noise from valid signals. As part of my ongoing conversations about blockchain, I reached out to several experts to find out where companies should consider going from here. Raimund Gross, Solution Architect and Futurist at SAP, acknowledged the challenges of understanding and applying such a complex leading-edge technology as blockchain.

“The people who really get it today are those able to put the hype in perspective with what’s realistically doable in the near future, and what’s unlikely to become a reality any time soon, if ever,” Gross said. “You need to commit the resources and find the right partners to lay the groundwork for success.”

Gross told me one of the biggest problems with blockchain – besides the unproven technology itself – was the mindset shift it demands. “Many people aren’t thinking about decentralized architectures with peer-to-peer networks and mash-ups, which is what blockchain is all about. People struggle because often discussions end up with a centralized approach based on past constructs. It will take training and experience to think decentrally.”

Here are several more perspectives on blockchain beyond the screaming headlines.

How blockchain disrupts insurance, banking

Blockchain has the potential to dramatically disrupt industries because the distributed ledger embeds automatic trust across processes. This changes the role of longstanding intermediaries like insurance companies and banks, essentially restructuring business models for entire industries.

“With the distributed ledger, all of the trusted intelligence related to insuring the risk resides in the cloud, providing everyone with access to the same information,” said Nadine Hoffmann, global solution manager for Innovation at SAP Financial Services. “Payment is automatically triggered when the agreed-upon risk scenario occurs. There are limitations given regulations, but blockchain can open up new services opportunities for established insurers, fintech startups, and even consumer-to-consumer offerings.”

Banks face a similar digitalized transformation. Long built on layers of steps to mitigate risk, blockchain offers the banking industry a network of built-in trust to improve efficiencies along with the customer experience in areas such as cross-border payments, trade settlements for assets, and other contractual and payment processes. What used to take days or even months could be completed in hours.

Finance departments evolve

Another group keenly watching blockchain developments are CFOs. Just as Uber and Airbnb have disrupted transportation and hospitality, blockchain has the potential to change not only the finance department — everything from audits and customs documentation to letters of credit and trade finance – but also the entire company.

“The distributed ledger’s capabilities can automate processes in shared service centers, allowing accountants and other employees in finance to speed up record keeping including proof of payment supporting investigations,” said Georg Koester, senior developer, LoB Finance at the Innovation Center Potsdam. “This lowers costs for the company and improves the customer experience.”

Koester said that embedding blockchain capabilities in software company-wide will also have a tremendous impact on product development, lean supply chain management, and other critical areas of the company.

While financial services dominate blockchain conversations right now, Gross named utilities, healthcare, public sector, real estate, and pretty much any industry as prime candidates for blockchain disruption. “Blockchain is specific to certain business scenarios in any industry,” said Gross. “Every organization can benefit from trust and transparency that mitigates risk and optimizes processes.”

Get started today! Run Live with SAP for Banking. Blast past the hype by attending the SAP Next-Gen Boot Camp on Blockchain in Financial Services and Public Sector event being held April 26-27 in Regensdorf, Switzerland.

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