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Micah Fairchild A Recap of the SuccessFactors’ SuccessConnect Conference

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 By Micah Fairchild

SuccessFactors’ User Conference Provides Updates to Payroll and More

A little late to the party (but here nonetheless), here is our recap of SuccessConnect, SuccessFactors' annual user and partner conference—a significant event especially considering the global payroll transition announcements issued at the event (discussed further in depth shortly). Held over three weeks this past month the party officially started in Australia May 22-24 and ended in London June 12-14. That said, the bulk of the festivities and announcements came June 5-7 in San Francisco, CA where users, partners, and executives from SuccessFactors and SAP alike gathered to hear product highlights and announcements that were only hinted at or echoed during the other two dates.

Bringing together 2K attendees that represented well over one hundred countries, SuccessConnect was the first real chance for SuccessFactors to highlight their autonomy and current operational status under the new SAP ownership paradigm. While this may seem like an unnecessary undertaking, the fact of the matter is that current SuccessFactors’ customers have had unanswered long-term viability questions in their minds ever since the German juggernaut acquired the cloud leader this past year—questions that were no doubt laid to rest at the event. That said, the SuccessFactors purchase was also the big news and focus of the just-held SAP SAPPHIRE NOW conference; making many of the announcements for those people attending both events seem redundant. However, for those SAP and SuccessFactors customers seeing thing for the first time at SuccessConnect, a great deal of the news was novel, exciting, and in many ways necessary to keep the momentum going that SuccessFactors had been gaining leading up to the SAP acquisition. Here are what we consider to be the standout elements and takeaway messages.

SAP and SuccessFactors Finally Connect at SuccessConnect

Aside from the notable presentations held at the conference (e.g. Hilton, keynotes from both Lars Dalgaard and Dmitri Krakovsky, and adventurer Ben Saunders), the bulk of SuccessConnect's announcements (and quite frankly interest) revolved around the dual-company’s product roadmap. Specifically, attendees got to see the fruits of providing SuccessFactors’ VP of Product Development (Krakovsky) with an over seventy-five percent increase in R&D and room to try out and test the new innovations that the company will be using going forward. Mostly the enhancements that Dmitri’s team came up with focused on HCM capabilities and user experience; and included a “coming soon” HTML5 user interface (in the same vein as SAP’s latest upgrade); brand new social and mobile functionalities; and an innovative recruitment feature set that divides the function into Recruiting Marketing for candidate sourcing and CRM functions and Recruiting Management for expanded applicant tracking processes.

That said, the biggest announcements (and consequent relation to us here at Payroll Lab) related to plans for Employee Central—the company's soon-to-be-released cloud-based HCM solution. For instance, one of the major areas of pride for both SAP and SuccessFactors, that was paraded around (for good reason) at numerous times during the conference, was the addition of 200 new localization team members that have been deployed internationally as part of this new Employee Central global release. Aside from just the sheer numbers of those dedicated staff, the fact of the matter is that this move provides a much needed in-road into the intricacies and peculiarities of local laws and regulations—a feature that few other Payroll and HR software vendors will initially be able to match once Employee Central is fully operational. Not only that, but the coming release of Employee Central also increases the accessibility of self-service functions such as PTO and payroll, as well as more advanced metrics and mobile functionalities.

Still, by far the big news for the new SAP/SuccessFactors’s Employee Central suite is the upcoming global cloud payroll solution expected to initially support not only the U.S. but Canada, Mexico, the UK, Brazil, India, Australia, and Germany; as well as the Netherlands and Switzerland. That’s the good news. The bad news is that (at least at first), this solution will be based off of SAP's already existing on-premise global payroll product—meaning that this payroll functionality will be delivered as a managed service rather than a pure cloud solution. Jarret Pazahanick (Managing Partner of EIC Experts and a SAP Mentor), voiced his concern of this news by indicating that “longer term [SAP and SuccessFactors] will have to make a commitment to re-architect and build a multi-tenant global payroll solution which will be a very complex undertaking". Indeed, from our perspective the true weight of this product enhancement will only be felt once the full capabilities of Employee Central are allowed to take hold; independent from SAP’s on-premise solution. It is promising though, but SAP and SuccessFactors will both need to work fast to move beyond this initial starting point to get functionality into the cloud—a sentiment that is shared by both companies' customers and partners alike; even if Employee Central is expected to be available to 50+ countries by the end of 2013.

Final Thoughts on the SuccessFactors SuccessConnect Conference

Finally able (or dare we say allowed?) to showcase product innovations and overall company health and direction, SuccesFactors put on a great show at the SuccessConnect user and partner conference—providing a clear roadmap for what the SAP acquisition really means for both customers and overall company strategy. That said, what became readily apparent at the SuccessConnect event is that (much like SAP) SuccessFactors faces the unenviable task of effectively utilizing shared resources to deliver innovation at the pace the market seeks. As has been the case time and again with newly-acquired cloud innovators in the Payroll, HR, and larger business application space, focusing too closely on integration or cultural assimilation can lead to a lack of flexibility—affecting not only key company relationships but also the time-to-value that current and prospective SaaS customers expect. From what we witnessed at SuccessConnect though, it would seem as though the SAP/SFSF relationship is off to the right start—focusing on truly leveraging the strengths that both companies possess and allowing for the necessary autonomy that is needed for innovation to thrive. If the conglomerate company is able to continue to loosely couple these respective solutions, it would not be surprising to see SAP gain domination in the Payroll and HR cloud arena—especially given the current fragmented nature of that market. End

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Aside from just the sheer numbers of 200 new dedicated localization staff, the fact of the matter is that this positioning of personnel provides a much needed in-road into the intricacies and peculiarities of local laws and regulations—a feature that few other Payroll and HR software vendors will initially be able to match once Employee Central is fully operational."



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