Putting Digitalization Into Action With Your HR Strategy

Stephan Koenen

The goal of the intelligent enterprise is to enable a company to continuously innovate, deliver best-in-class customer experiences, reimagine business models, and empower employees to leverage digital technologies to drive even more value. Therefore, digitalization requires the transformation of businesses, processes, and people.

Architecting transformation

But what is the role of HR in the intelligent enterprise? According to Bersin by Deloitte’s 2017 research, high-performance HR organizations lead the digital transformation instead of waiting for it to happen. In other words, HR needs to be the architect of the digital transformation.

HR can lead the digital transformation towards the intelligent enterprise by:

  • Attracting, developing, and retaining the best talent
  • Leveraging employees’ full potential and connecting them to the company vision and strategy
  • Developing leaders that drive the change towards the intelligent enterprise
  • Shaping a culture of relentless innovation
  • Providing the right concepts for the Future of Work, like agile or networked organizations

This also transforms HR toward intelligent HR. Our leaders and employees are digital consumers and expect HR services to be consumed in an easy, seamless, and mobile way with a state-of-the-art user interface. The expectation requires HR to narrow our focus toward creating an end-to-end consumer-grade experience.

Deployment of the newest technologies and next-generation capabilities is not an option; it’s an imperative. Technology is the key enabler for us to continuously transform the way we design and deliver experiences for employees and managers – anytime and anywhere. Ultimately, we are combining the “human” element of human resources with the power of technology, but strategically leveraging our data to add new business value and insights.

Focusing on strategy

To emerge as a digital winner, we must rethink the HR strategy, that is, the long-term framework that helps to stay on track as an HR organization. Digitalization must be embedded as an integral part of the HR strategy. Every company needs to develop its own long-term vision to become digital while also supporting the business and the people to transform accordingly.

When translating people into strategic investment, it’s important to consider areas that stay consistent for at least three years, such as talent, leadership, agile workplace, learning, digital HR, and an inclusive culture. It’s important to translate HR strategy into execution along these focus areas, including the concrete programs that drive HR digitalization and support for the business.

Targeting the allocation of budget and resources requires focus and prioritization on the impact on consumer experiences. Predefined budget pools for innovation and digitalization ensure sufficient investment along the key levers of digitalization. Prioritizing the consumer experience helps HR to focus first on the levers with the biggest return on investment.

Governing the portfolio

Ultimately, a great strategy without execution doesn’t change the world. So, HR needs to not only have digitalization embedded in its HR strategy but also to back it up with execution. Therefore, it is crucial to regularly check the progress on digitalization with an established governance body, such as a program board or a quarterly business review. HR needs to measure and communicate the impact of what we do with a focus on consumer-grade experiences. 

Three steps to success

To summarize, there are three steps to success when putting digitalization into the HR strategy:

Step 1: Derive HR strategy from business strategy

Step 2: Embed digitalization in the HR strategy by identifying key levers of digitalization around the strategic focus areas

Step 3: Execute your HR strategy and measure the impact of digitalization and delivery of consumer-grade experiences

These steps can deliver a best-in-class customer experience, reimagine business models, and empower employees to leverage digital technologies to drive even greater value.

For more on the future of HR, see “Is Your Organization Equipped To Lead The Workforce Of The Future?


Stephan Koenen

About Stephan Koenen

Stephan Koenen is a Senior Director in SAP’s HR Strategy, Planning & Processes department. Stephan's role is to deliver the Intelligent Enterprise for HR through SAP's HR Strategy and HR Strategic Portfolio. Stephan has built over the past 20 years extensive experience of progressive HR in the areas of HR Strategy, HR Portfolio Management, HR Transformation, HR Business Architecture, HR Shared Services, SAP HCM On Premise and SuccessFactors Business Suites. Before SAP, he worked for 9 years as business consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM and Accenture managing HR and IT projects for global-scale customers.