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It’s Not Just About Software: Mike Ettling Puts People First

Feature Article | September 2, 2016 by Susan Galer

Mike Ettling, president of SAP SuccessFactors, kicked off SuccessConnect 2016 in Las Vegas this week with a keynote that lived up to its billing as an “un-keynote,” delighting a packed crowd from the moment they streamed into the main ballroom serenaded by a live rock band, were hit with a surprising cascade of bright red confetti hearts propelled down from the ceiling, and heard a series fascinating conversations with customers and partners.

Dubbed “The Simply Human Show,” the morning was hosted by SAP TV Anchor Megan Meany, and also featured live interview outtakes between SAP SuccessFactors experts and Jon Leiberman, Senior Creative Director of SAP TV.

Focus on Customer Journey, Not Just Technology

Emphasizing that human resources (HR)  has embarked on a massive journey of transformation, Ettling outlined the most important business issues pushing companies forward today as engaging five generations in the workplace, the rise of contingent, part-time workers, the imperative for standardization and simplification, and talent management.

“There’s a lot of talk about the concept of digitalization, but success is not about the technology. The software won’t be successful unless the journey is successful,” said Ettling. “It’s really about individual people. Our focus at SAP SuccessFactors is on the journey, not just the software, building a market-leading suite that uses the cloud to simplify and standardize. We’re building for mobile-first because people engage in sound bites – performance management on the go.”

The Service in SaaS

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Audience members were hit with a surprising cascade of bright red confetti hearts propelled down from the ceiling at the event kick-off featuring an “un-keynote” from Ettling

Ettling explained his personal commitment to service in a cloud-based world, and how SAP SuccessFactors is service-oriented with rapid cycle innovation and multi-tenant services. “We saying if you do rapid innovation in your software, why shouldn’t you do it in the same way you operate your business,” he said. “We’re taking the culture of our development teams, and building it into the way we operate our support, implementation, and planning services to innovate on 13-week cycles. At the end of the day, people aren’t just buying software, they’re buying outcomes. The journey is different for everyone so we’ve created a guide to cloud technology to help companies move forward.”

People and Money

Digitalization is creating a new triumvirate between the CEO, CFO and the CHRO, something Ettling sees exemplified by SAP’s cloud software portfolio. He mentioned the company’s latest announcement of Cloud Managed Payroll, allowing customers take their existing payroll solution into the cloud. He also invited the audience to the event’s show floor for product demonstrations of the SAP Digital Boardroom. “Business is about two things – people and money,” said Ettling. “To run businesses successfully, you have to be able to know the impact of the people and the business on the money. We’re seeing a resurgence of finance and HR coming together in terms of how SAP SuccessFactors and SAP S/4HANA are being used for better, real-time executive decisions.”

Corporate Social Responsibility

One of the highlights of Ettling’s un-keynote was an interview with a young high school student participating in an educational curriculum sponsored by NAF, a non-profit organization providing career-focused learning experiences in STEM for almost 90,000 underserved high school students each year. Every time someone tweets #sconnect16 #BeFutureReady, SAP SuccessFactors is donating $1 to NAF.

Business Beyond Bias

Following a group of videos spotlighting SAP employees who have overcome hardships and embraced activism, Ettling shared the SAP SuccessFactors strategy to help companies address bias in the workplace during the recruiting, performance management and calibration processes. “If we can identify the origins of bias in the HR engagement and work process, and can start using technology to help eliminate bias at that point in time, then we can do more and more to eliminate unconscious bias,” he said. “This is a journey we’re on to change the way people use technology to change the workplace.”

No One Can Monopolize Innovation

As social media fundamentally changes the concept of workplace learning, Ettling discussed the release of SAP SuccessFactors Learning Marketplace, an online enterprise platform that delivers learning to employees in ongoing sound bites targeted to their job requirements, as well as the release of the SAP SuccessFactors App Center, an open hub providing a directory of partner software offerings that can be connected with the SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite.

“Many organizations are expanding their borders to different geographies and workers, and they need extended enterprise learning for an omnichannel experience,” he said. “We took components of SAP Hybris and embedded those in our learning solution to create a market-leading extended enterprise learning solution. The future of HR tech is shifting to a platform, and what that means is a rapid movement of apps and innovation. No one can monopolize innovation. The whole idea is to allow innovation to come forth for our customers. Our App Center will be one-stop shopping for partners and customers.”

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