5 Questions with … Steve Bogner

By Posted September 5th, 2012

To help us kick off the new SpinifexIT blog, Insight Consulting Partners founder and Managing Partner Steve Bogner shares his extensive SAP HR and Payroll experience in the first installment of “5 Questions with …”

1. There have been more changes in the SAP HCM/Payroll landscape over the last 12 months than we have seen in many years. How do you see some of the new offerings/technology such as cloud computing impacting traditional ERP customers?

Larger SAP customers have been working with and benefiting from cloud computing systems for a while now. Many of them have decided to use some variant of cloud computing system for one or more business functions instead of using their on-premise SAP HCM for it. The big change is that SAP is now promoting SuccessFactors as its go-forward Talent Management platform, and the pace of change has quickened. For most customers this means they will have a hybrid on-premise / cloud environment for some time to come. They will be developing new technical skill sets to handle these hybrid environments so they can maintain a unified, integrated view of their HCM data and processes. HR executives and directors will have to understand the business impact of all this if they have any hope of providing value to their organization. There are important decisions to be made and the technology is so entwined with the business value that both have to be understood.

2. In your experience, what are the keys to developing a best practice SAP HCM/Payroll reporting strategy?

The first step is acknowledging that SAP’s standard, delivered payroll reports in R/3 are insufficient for operational reporting and wholly unfit for analytical reporting. Some customers have an expectation that the software they licensed should also provide the reports they need to run their business, and while that’s a reasonable expectation, it just isn’t there in the system. The standard reports satisfy a fair portion of the typical requirements, but more is always needed. I advise SAP Payroll customers to license a third-party payroll reporting tool such as Easy Reporter and then to focus on a good roll-out of that tool. The way these tools are implemented in the organization makes a tremendous difference in how successful they are. You don’t get the value by just installing them and letting people figure it out.

3. I advise SAP Payroll customers to license a third-party payroll reporting tool such as Easy Reporter and then to focus on a good roll-out of that tool.

For analytical reporting I advise customers to feed payroll data to Business Warehouse. SAP provides standard extractors for payroll and time results as well as the payroll posting documents, and when integrated with employee data in BW this is a very powerful analytical reporting tool. Some firms are concerned with data privacy, particularly with employee garnishments, personal deductions and net pay. Those concerns can be addressed in a number of ways and should not deter customers from taking advantage of that BW functionality. Customers who don’t use BW can certainly use whatever warehouse they want, including one with Business Objects, but there is additional work there for the extraction process.

Whatever you do, don’t go code dozens or hundreds of custom ABAP reports for payroll reporting. There is very little value in that and quite a bit of maintenance cost.

4. You’ve helped customers across many industries navigate SAP payroll challenges over the years. What’s the single biggest piece of advice you would give to an organization just starting out with SAP payroll?

Getting the payroll calculations done correctly takes some initial effort, but the ongoing effort is in ensuring high quality, timely transactional data. If you feed the payroll calculation bad, stale data then you will get bad results and spend a lot of time resolving issues. There’s no way around that. Payroll managers must reach out to the other business units who provide payroll-relevant data and work with them to ensure high quality business processes and data. Get involved in other peoples’ business – that’s the only way payroll managers will be successful in achieving a high quality payroll. The best payrolls are the ones no one ever hears about because they just work, and it all starts with good data.

5. Mobile solutions are becoming very popular. In your opinion, when and how should HR embrace mobile?

I am a fan of mobile technologies and their ability to extend the reach and effectiveness of HR. This move to mobile reminds me of the move to xSS years ago, and I think the same guidelines apply. What are the services that matter most to your employees, managers and executives? What are some quick wins you can achieve to get some momentum? What are the standards being used, if any, by the rest of the organization? HR needs to provide mobile services that people will actually use, and that will provide value. A good way to figure that out is to go out there and ask people, get involved in their business and understand their needs – and that’s a good practice for everything, not just mobile.

For larger clients, there is likely a corporate strategy on mobile applications and HR has to be part of that. You want HR services to be integrated into the mainstream of where people are doing their work. Don’t make your own island for mobile HR services.

From a technical perspective, SAP customers have a few options. Unfortunately, adopting SAP’s mobile platform can be a bit complex and costly. We’ve seen many customers writing their own code for exposing HR data and processes on mobile devices. Cloud/SaaS systems such as SuccessFactors are much easier to work with when implementing mobile services and they include them for free or at minimal cost. For those wishing to implement mobile services for their on-premise SAP HCM, the technical options are more expensive and labor-intensive to realize.

6. Finally, a more light-hearted question. As a respected expert, you have been invited to speak at various SAP events around the world. Which has been your favorite conference destination/experience and why?

I love to travel and experience new destinations, which surely is a nice benefit of speaking at conferences. One of my recent favorite destinations was Sydney, Australia for the Mastering SAP HR/Payroll conference. The SAP HCM community in Australia & New Zealand might be small, but its expertise is deep and full of great people. And taking a break to Sydney in February was a nice relief from the cold winter here in Cincinnati!

Steve Bogner, Managing Partner of Insight Consulting Partners, has worked with HR and IT leaders in private and public sector companies on both domestic and international projects since 1986.

In addition to being a founding member of the Advisory Board for the HR Expert knowledgebase, he has been asked to speak at SAP HR conferences in the US, Europe, and Australia. The Steve Bogner’s Insight podcast is available on www.insightcp.com as well as in the iTunes store. You can also follow Steve on Twitter at @SteveBogner. [/message]