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.

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:

Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.

Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain


Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.


Why HR Is The New Marketing

Michael Brenner

In a world of infinite media choices, the best way to reach new buyers and new talent might be right under your nose. Your own employees represent the greatest opportunity to create meaningful marketing and to develop human resources programs that increase sales, while also finding and retaining top talent. Is HR the new marketing?

In the battle for new talent, HR departments have been forced to expand their role from hiring and firing, overseeing personnel systems and processes, and handling benefit management to include leadership development and training, employer branding, and diversity initiatives.

HR has been forced to adopt strategies that look, well, very much like marketing. These days, HR develops campaigns to grow employer awareness, to build the employer brand as a “great place to work,” and to retain top talent—all traditional marketing objectives.

While many in HR have embraced these traditional marketing skills, the most effective companies are moving beyond HR simply applying marketing techniques to a whole new opportunity. These effective companies are actually activating employees as a new marketing channel to achieve both HR and marketing objectives.

Proceed with caution

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving the potential of employees as a new marketing channel is the perception of marketing as advertising.

Asking (or forcing) your employees to share product content on their social media channels is just as dangerous as asking them to share (or guilting them into sharing) what a great place your company is to work.

Consumers are increasingly ignoring and blocking advertising messages, with some research even suggesting that promotional messages from brands can have the opposite of their intended effect. These misguided efforts can actually cause sales to decline!

While some employees may authentically share their excitement and passion for the products they work on, the projects they are engaged in, and the company they work for (and we should celebrate that), this is not a sustainable strategy for getting new customer or talent.

Content marketing and HR

Content marketing has emerged as one of the hottest trends in marketing. Marketers are learning to think and act like publishers to create entertaining, interesting, or helpful content that consumers actually want to read and share (vs. promotional ads). And this approach allows a brand to reach, engage, convert and retain new customers.

The opportunity to activate employees to achieve marketing and HR objectives starts by creating content they naturally want to share.

As the first VP of content marketing at SAP, I learned to tap into the power of my fellow employees to create a marketing program that delivered massive ROI. The biggest lesson I learned: HR is the new marketing!

With a limited budget for content, I asked our internal experts to write articles on whatever they wanted. We had one editorial rule: no product promotion. Our internal experts could explore their professional or personal passions and interests, even if it meant writing about cat videos. Because somewhere out in the world, I believed there was a potential customer, employee, partner or investor who might also loved cat videos. (No one ever wrote about cat videos. Bummer!)

I even created a slideshare deck to explain the value for these employees/budding content marketers:

  • Grow your personal brand
  • Increase or establish your authority on the topics you are interested in
  • Gain new social media followers
  • Maybe even find that new job or get promoted

We also encouraged this behavior by publicly recognizing our top articles and authors each week in a round-up post. We made rock stars of the best performers as their social connections and influence increased. And this drove more employees to sign up.

Today, that site has hundreds of employee contributors. All are growing their personal brand, while expressing their passions and expertise to the world. And many of the employees who don’t write articles voluntarily share the content with their social connections.

As LinkedIn’s own Jason Miller mentioned in his article, the trick is to define what’s in it for them.

Why does this work?

Because you can create massive momentum when we combine the needs of our customers, our employees, and our company based on THEIR own distinct interests:

  • Companies want more loyal customers and talented employees.
  • Employees want purpose and meaningful work that has real impact on their career and the world.
  • Customers want to form relationships with brands on their terms and based on their self-interest

What you can do to activate HR as the new marketing

1. Create a customer-centric vision

Look around your organization, and you will see people above you, below you, and beside you. The traditional org chart still exists to focus on your position in the hierarchy. But where’s the customer? Where is the customer in your org chart? 

Even if your company mission isn’t customer-centric (“we are the leading provider of widgets”), your marketing vision must be. And there is one simple formula to get there:

Become a sought-after destination for which topicin order to deliver what customer value or impact.

2. Create content employees who want to share

According to LinkedIn, the combined connections of employees on the LinkedIn platform is 10 times larger than any company’s followers. And just 3 percent of company employees sharing branded content generate 30 percent of the views and clicks on that content.

Platforms such as LinkedIn Elevate, social selling programs, and other tools can dramatically increase the reach of your content, grow your company’s social presence, and improve the effectiveness of marketing programs — without spending a single dollar on paid media.

But you have to create content your employees want to share. You might even ask them to help you. The trick is to explain what’s in it for them: creating or sharing content can help them build more connections, establish relationships with other leaders in your industry, and grow their personal brand so they can achieve happiness in their careers.

3. Measure the results

Measure the impact of your employee content sharing for your company. Demonstrate how it has benefited the employees (increased connections, awards, and recognition). Discuss ways to profile your best customers as well.

And partner with your colleagues across HR, marketing, and sales to determine the best ways to continuously optimize what is working for everyone.

If you’re in marketing, it’s time to start thinking about your colleagues in HR as your new best friend. And if you’re in HR, it’s time to think about how marketing can help you acquire and retain the best talent — while making the leadership team happy as well.

For more strategies that create a culture that drives business growth, see Employee Advocacy = Engaged Employees.


Michael Brenner

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.