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AiThority Interview With Jill Popelka, President at SAP SuccessFactors – AiThority

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My journey to SuccessFactors has been a great adventure! Everything I’ve done in my career was leading me here. From the beginning, I was passionate about helping people, understanding other cultures, and learning.  That evolved into helping customers achieve value from their technology, and leading teams around the globe. It is still a good day at work when I have helped a customer understand how technology can better support their business objectives. Through the first 10 years of my career in consulting, I learned that every transformation succeeds or fails based on one thing: people.
Fast forward to 2020. As the President of SAP SuccessFactors, I’m responsible for our business and product strategy, customer success, and growth for SAP’s largest cloud line of business. I have been with SAP for over a decade, most recently as Chief Operating Officer and prior to that, Head of Asia Pacific & Japan for SAP SuccessFactors. It was a wonderful experience working in Japan, Singapore, Korea, Australia, and the other incredible countries and cultures in the region. We can learn so much when we truly understand global perspectives, and we leverage the best of those into our solutions.
Today at SAP SuccessFactors, we have a vision that puts people at the center of every design and every experience we create. We hold ourselves to a very high standard in terms of how we provide experiences for our own employees, and we strive to deliver incredible service and experiences to our customers. When I hear stories from our customers about how our technology is helping their employees excel, when I hear that we are making a difference in people’s lives with learning, when I hear that we are helping both the employee and the business become more successful, I’m inspired. If we can inspire employees around the world to keep growing, and at the same time help our customers build teams that work passionately toward business goals, we are on the right track!
The mission of SAP SuccessFactors has always been to enable organizations to cultivate a motivated and engaged workforce that in turn drives innovation, growth, and resilience. When we introduced human experience management (HXM) a year ago, it signaled a shift from looking at people as “capital,” or company assets, to rightfully placing them at the center of business.
This human-centered mindset has been put to the test this year, at a time when organizations and individuals alike have been forced to work and live in an ever-changing, unpredictable environment. The organizations that have survived, and even thrived, during these challenging months are those that have quickly pivoted to new business models, products, and services. But their resilience didn’t happen with the flip of a switch. It was made possible by the passion, commitment, and agility of their workforce.
HXM is resonating in the market and we have significant momentum. We recently surpassed 4,000 customers using the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central solution, which is one of the fastest-growing core HR solutions in the market. This milestone is a testament to how customers are choosing us to deliver exceptional employee experiences that put their people at the center – while maintaining the flexibility and insights to adapt in times of disruption.
Also Read: Human Experience Management (HXM) Builds Momentum As More Organizations Select SAP SuccessFactors Solutions
While customers may be in crisis mode, we are here to support them, to empower HR leaders, and to help businesses through challenging times while readying them for the future.
Reimagining HR is an essential part of the digital transformation journey for every organization, and it’s been drastically accelerated due to COVID-19. SAP SuccessFactors HXM Suite helps companies take charge of change by adapting how they deliver HR – shifting from traditional transactions to simple, engaging, end-to-end employee experiences. By linking employee feedback to operational data, organizations can understand what is happening within their workforce and why, so they can create a more flexible environment and a more resilient business.
By making work more individualized for each employee, HXM helps powers business. And with remote work here to stay, it’s increasingly important that employees feel connected and informed, and have access to the tools they need to be productive from any device or location.
SAP Work Zone for HR is our newest HXM solution. It provides a digital workplace that brings together multiple work applications into one environment. In other words, it acts as an entry point to the intelligent enterprise by seamlessly connecting applications from SAP, SAP SuccessFactors, and third-party and partner apps. Employees can tap into everything they need from a single touch point that is personalized based on what matters to them and what they need to do their best work.
With more than 290 partner apps in SAP App Center that address workplace issues such as employee well-being, diversity, equity and inclusion, recruiting, talent management and more, we are constantly extending our pipeline of innovations that apply the latest technologies to tomorrow’s most pressing challenges.
COVID-19 has accelerated the urgency of digital transformation, advancing business processes by years in a matter of months. We are supporting our customers by helping them combine and optimize their current technology in thoughtful ways. We just launched a new service offering that helps them determine new ways to utilize technologies they already have, combining solutions from SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Fieldglass, SAP Analytics Cloud, and Qualtrics.
Let me share a couple of incredible customer stories, too. At the start of the pandemic, National Australia Bank was able to condense a three-week training course into two days so they could quickly retrain and redeploy employees to areas with increased demand. We also saw results from Mariposa Corporation, a company with a 90 percent use rate of our technology. Employees who never had an opportunity for higher education are now spending time in SAP SuccessFactors’ learning system to take training courses at night — some on their phones together with their families — to learn how to become better leaders.
HR leaders have addressed complicated scenarios to quickly pivot and adapt their workforce to changing business conditions. There are a few major trends I think we will see in 2021:
Next year won’t just involve working from home or on the front line. Rather, it will involve a constant change in work environments as we continue to battle the virus in fits and starts. This lack of predictability and comfort will require tech we can count on, that connects us, and that makes us more efficient wherever and whenever we are working.
We’ll continue to see two themes that have emerged during the pandemic. First, the ease with which HR brought forward tech that had previously been on the backburner and is now imperative to doing business, such as mobile learning, frequent pulse surveys and remote collaboration tools. The second theme is an understanding that this technology can enhance – but not replace – human experience and connection. Technology is just one part of the puzzle.
Upskilling and reskilling are a critical piece to business continuity that I believe are fundamental for future growth. To effectively address this, we must look at continuous and relevant learning. Learning should continue to be a huge priority for companies, not only within HR, but across the entire business. Driving a culture of continuous learning will not only provide employees with the tools to thrive, it will prepare organizations for long-term success and enable them to keep up with the pace of change.
AI – particularly conversational AI used in chatbots, and personalized nudges and recommendations – will also move from a backburner investment to a priority. Leaders will look at these use cases to increase efficiency and enhance the human experience.
When it comes down to truly envisioning the future of work, change is the only constant – which is why human connection remains vital to success. Prioritizing individuals, whether it’s in the way technology is designed or the way employees are cared for, is what will build a workforce that is equipped to excel today and tackle tomorrow’s challenges. That’s why HXM exists and why we make solutions like SAP Work Zone for HR – because if people win, business wins.
Our world today looks vastly different from a year ago when we launched HXM, but the message is still the same. People should be at the center of all business priorities. HXM solutions can help HR and business leaders look to their workforce to best understand their available resources, then match them to immediate needs. They provide visibility into operations and the flexibility to adapt plans and contingencies. Having the right digital resources in place helps ensure continuity plans are effective, employees are supported, and companies remain flexible in the face of unforeseen demands.
If there is one thing the pandemic has taught business leaders, it’s the value of their employees and how their employees are doing both personally and professionally during these difficult times. It’s a regular occurrence for meetings to take place in the kitchen or be interrupted by our pets or kids! We are all human and the pandemic has blurred the lines between work and our personal lives. These are my tips as we continue to adjust to this new normal:
Leaders are looked at for inspiration and optimism, especially in times of instability and change. While it’s critical to keep our eye on the future, avoid committing to dates or time stamps for when employees can expect things to go back to normal or the way things were pre-COVID. Leaders can create a supportive environment by communicating with facts, being honest and not overcommitting so that employees are prepared – even if it is preparation for the unknown. This can be hard, but as we continue to face levels of ambiguity, leading with facts makes us trusted. And trust is key to strong teams and high performing organizations.
– To that point, we must continue to keep a strong focus on empathy, compassion, and listening. These are key elements to keeping employees healthy and well so they can perform at their best. We are all human and after so many months, empathy can (unknowingly even) begin to erode. While we are all working to maintain business continuity, we cannot forget to make space for the unique scenarios our employees are working within. Especially as many of us go into planning for 2021, continued empathy will pay back in dividends of engaged and loyal employees.
Having the right tools remains an important and essential need when it comes to employee productivity and safety. As a leader, it’s our job to ensure employees can count on us to support their success. Don’t forget that the basics matter. Take the time to check in with your teams to make sure they have what they need to be effective in their unique virtual environment. Set up a specific time to discuss their needs and make a plan to remediate any gaps with a dedicated level of speed and urgency so they know how important they are.
Don’t hesitate to adjust goals and plans, and reconfigure expectations. People are motivated by purpose and progress. Keeping teams accountable will help them feel connected and valued. Create the stability teams need and expect them to deliver results and achieve milestones. Ensuring your team stays productive and delivering will help them to know how valuable they are to the organization.
Recommended: Sci-Fi is Coming to Life: You Can Live Forever using Machine Readable Human Experience
Finally, don’t lose sight of long-term goals on issues such as learning and reskilling, and diversity and inclusion. Crises force us to focus on short-term challenges, like transitioning to remote work or introducing new safety measures. These are critical actions, but we must also remain committed and focused on the long-term strategies that will ultimately set workforces, and businesses, up for success.
Also Read: AiThority Interview With Jitesh Ghai, SVP And GM, Data Management At Informatica
HXM is helping our customers take care of their people, sustain momentum, and build the best future. There are three main areas we are helping our customers during the pandemic:
– Realign resources to fill critical roles, which involves quickly staffing up, staffing down, and redeploying talent to fit business’ rapidly changing needs.
– Reinforce business continuity: Adapting policies and programs to make payroll more versatile, make performance management more flexible, and create the consistency it takes to restart and sustain momentum. Workforce modeling can help plan for several “what if” scenarios so companies can react quickly to unexpected circumstances.
– Reskill your workforce: Upskilling and cross-skilling your employees, so they can confidently tackle the tasks at hand is a critical part of building a team positioned for the realities and opportunities of what comes next. Driving a culture of continuous learning will not only provide employees with the tools to thrive, but it will also prepare organizations for long-term success and enable them to keep up with the pace of change.
Never stop looking for advice and never stop learning. Stay open to new opportunities and be confident that you have what it takes. Always surround yourself with people you trust to talk to when you’re feeling overwhelmed and seek out mentors who encourage you to continue pursuing growth in your career.
I’m loving Brene Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us, and Simon Sinek’s A Bit of Optimism.
2020 put a spotlight on the employee experience, and at SAP SuccessFactors we saw this reflected in our customers’ adoption of HXM technology. There is a growing need for HR leaders to be involved in digital transformation and strategic business decisions. The quality of work and customer experience that employees provide is largely dependent on their experience at work. If anything, 2020 validated the direct correlation between the employee and customer experience, and you’ll see this playing out as organizations emerge from the pandemic with a stronger understanding of their workforce and stronger brand loyalty among their customer base.
It’s been truly inspiring to see the incredible amount of innovation from SAP SuccessFactors customers and our own employees, and many of these changes are here to stay. Here are a few that stand out:
Discovery Health is using SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and SAP Jam to develop a strategy to reskill their employees to focus not on their current jobs, but the jobs of the future, which will likely look different since the company expects only 50 to 75 percent of their workforce to return to the office.
I mentioned Mariposa Corporation earlier. Mariposa has an incredible story. It has rolled out mobile learning to all of its employees, many who did not have the opportunity for higher education. They now tap into lessons on leadership and business, often taking time of their evenings and weekends to further their learning.
Sephora recently transformed their new store manager experience by creating a modern, mobile-forward manager experience called MySephoraCareer. The results are incredible: it’s now 83 percent faster to hire new people, saving in-store managers 1.5 hours in paperwork per recruit. There is also a 98 percent increase in the number of candidates. For a brand that hires close to 15,000 new employees each year, this is a huge step in improving the experience for both new recruits and current employees.
Also Read: AiThority Interview With Krista Glantschnig, COO At SAP Litmos
Thank you, Jill! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Jill Popelka is a President at SAP SuccessFactors.
Earlier, Jill was Senior Vice President, Head of Services APJ for SAP. Jill Popelka joined SAP in 2018. Jill served as Senior Vice President, Head of SAP SuccessFactors APJ and Chief Operating Officer for SAP.
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SAP SuccessFactors is the global provider of cloud-based Human Experience Management (HXM) software. Our HR application suite integrates onboarding, social business and collaboration tools, a learning management system (LMS), performance management, recruiting software, applicant tracking software, succession planning, talent management, and HR analytics to deliver business strategy alignment, team execution, and maximum people performance to organizations of all sizes across more than 60 industries, in over 200 countries and territories.
Sudipto Ghosh is a tech buff with industry-recognized experience in creating B2B web and technical content for digital agencies and publishers covering the space in Automotive, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Shipping, Metallurgy, Textiles, Pharma and Health, Media and Entertainment. Apart from digging into MarTech, HR Tech, SalesTech AI labs and interviewing the C-suite executives, Sudipto enjoys watching nature and paintings. The darkest gym in the city’s outskirts is the next best place to track Sudipto on the weekends.
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​SAP HANA to go live on Microsoft Azure, eases Office 365 integration – TechRepublic

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SAP and Microsoft continue to build on their longstanding relationship announcing from Q3 2016, SAP HANA will be able to run on Microsoft Azure.
A new distribution partnership between SAP and Microsoft was announced during 2016 SAP SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, Florida, which will see the SAP HANA platform deployed on Microsoft Azure to simplify the integration between SAP and Microsoft Office 365.
Specifically, the partnership will mean organisations with large workloads will be able to deliver critical applications and data analytics, including SAP S/4 HANA, as well as run development, test, and production workloads on Microsoft Azure.
At the same time, the integration of the two firms will see Office 365 communications, collaboration, calendar, documents, and other data combine with cloud solutions from SAP, including Concur, SAP Fieldglass, SAP SuccessFactors, and SAP Ariba solutions.
SAP CEO Bill McDermott said on Tuesday that the partnership signals the company’s ability to “empathise” with customer demand.
“What I see now is we both have very large workforces, and we both have very important customer relationships,” McDermott said. “I think the more the customer says ‘hey, I like what I saw I want to see more and more use cases for my industry, my line of business,’ you’ll see us continue to innovate and push the envelope on what’s possible; that’s the game plan.”
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“You’ll see HANA and S/4 HANA pick up even more steam because Azure will be another large channel for HANA and S/4 HANA in combination with Microsoft. We feel, right now, SAP has never been in a stronger position between the core, the cloud, the network, and the ecosystem,” he said.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who joined McDermott on stage, said the latest partnership brings together the best of SAP and Microsoft’s hyperscale cloud.
“What that means is SAP is certified on Azure, S/4 HANA is certified on Azure, SAP HANA is certified on Azure, and that’s a fantastic capability to be able to run your test/dev and production workloads,” he said.
In addition, SAP has announced SAP Fiori will be integrated with Microsoft Intune, the same management capabilities used by Office 365 mobile apps. It will allow SAP customers to build and deploy customer mobile hybrid SAP Fiori apps on SAP HANA cloud platform with an open standards plug-in framework, while being protected.
Both the Office 365 and Intune integrations will be available by the third quarter of this year, the company said.
McDermott and Nadella both confirmed this latest partnership is just the start of more to come between the two tech firms, which continue to build on their alliance of 20+ years.
The partnership follows on from another announcement SAP made with Dell this morning, where the pair announced they were deepening their partnership to make it easier for Dell shops to deploy SAP solutions in the cloud and quicken the pace for data analysis as well.
1. SAP and Microsoft announced SAP HANA will be run on Microsoft Azure making it easier for integrations between SAP and Microsoft Office 365.
2. The announcement means organisations, particularly with large workloads, will be able to deliver critical applications and data analytics, as well as run development, test, and production workloads on Microsoft Azure.
3. SAP continues to closely align its business with Microsoft to give businesses the ability to speed up workload delivery and analytics processing.
Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to 2016 SAP SAPPHIRE NOW courtesy of SAP.
Since completing a degree in journalism, Aimee has had her fair share of covering various topics, including business, retail, manufacturing, and travel. She continues to expand her repertoire as a tech journalist with ZDNet.
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SuccessFactors New Release Focuses On Returning to Work – HCM Technology Report

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SAP SuccessFactors launched new features to help employers return employees to the office after 12 months of remote work. In addition, its 2021 first half release included new tools to optimize workforce planning and improve the employee experience.
The update’s primary feature is a free health and vaccination monitoring portlet, added to SuccessFactors Employee Central. The portlet allows employees to share their vaccination status. That data can be combined with other employee and company information to help create reopening strategies and provide travel recommendations. The system can also identify and support employees who are considered at high risk because of their location, age and area of work.
Meanwhile, Work Zone for HR, the digital workplace launched by SAP last year, added a new guided experience to provide personalized information and recommend actions employees need to take before they return to the office.
Within SuccessFactors’ People Analytics, the Stories reporting feature was expanded to include data from SuccessFactors Learning, such as information on training compliance and skills development.
Several items included in the update are meant to provide users with a more consumer-grade experience. Among them:  
Earlier this month SAP competitor Oracle launched Oracle Journeys, which extends its approach to guided employee actions within Oracle Cloud HCM. The company describes Journeys as a platform HR can use to create and deliver customized workflows to address personal and workplace tasks.
By using, HR teams can help employees access resources and tasks across the organization. Employees can access and complete their Journeys on any device including desktop, mobile, chat applications, or Oracle Digital Assistant.
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SAP technology helps Stater Bros. recover from pandemic-related challenges – Grocery Dive

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Though many retailers closed their doors during the pandemic, grocery stores flung theirs wide open. As essential businesses, grocery stores were tasked with providing the population with food as the nation battled COVID-19. Unexpected supply chain disruptions left many grocers with bare shelves, frustrated customers and a sudden shortage of critical frontline staff.
Stater Bros. Markets, a grocery chain operating 170 supermarkets with 18,000 employees across seven California counties, quickly recognized the need to pursue digital transformation as a means to avoid future challenges like those faced during the pandemic.
Like other grocery sellers around the United States, Stater Bros. found their existing technology solutions tested as COVID-19 began to spread. Constantly shifting health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), California Department of Public Health and local governments required the retailer to communicate rapidly changing policies across its workforce.
“Everything was moving quickly in the grocery space,” said Gil Salazar, senior vice president of information technology for Stater Bros. Markets. “We’ve got 18,000 team members across the company and our biggest challenge was our ability to connect and communicate with them.”
The legacy system used by Stater Bros. wasn’t built to handle the workforce challenges generated by a global pandemic. The existing technology lacked the proper functionality to track COVID-19 infections among employees and manage related leaves of absence associated with mandatory quarantine periods. It also hindered the company’s efforts to rapidly hire new team members.
“Other industries were crippled by the pandemic, while demand for our products grew significantly,” Salazar said. “We had to go through a pretty rapid hiring and onboarding process, and our current systems didn’t facilitate an easy transition. At the height of the pandemic, we ramped up hiring to about 3,000 additional teammates. That created significant stress on our existing resources to do the majority of that in a manual way.”
Though the company got the job done with its existing systems, the Stater Bros. leadership expedited a search for a new Human Capital Management System (HCMS) that would help them better manage their employee base in the future.
“We established enough confidence in our foundational systems to take a step back and focus on what the pandemic did and how we should respond as a business,” said Salazar. “We unanimously agreed as a leadership team that our number one focus should be replacing our foundational HCMS. It became obvious we needed to do something dramatically different.”
After an exhaustive RFP process that included input from across the Stater Bros. organization, the retailer awarded SAP’s SuccessFactors talent management solution as its new HCMS solution. SuccessFactors was selected for its organized structure, granular capabilities and ability to streamline a transition from existing legacy technology.
“Within the SAP SuccessFactors platform, everything is at our fingertips,” said Salazar. “We have full 360-degree contributions from all angles of our business. The foundational organization chart was appealing to the HR team; retail evaluated how different capabilities would impact the employees out in the stores; the distribution and warehouse leaders explored how they could create advantages for their teams through the platform; public relations focused on the ability to connect and communicate with all teammates in stores and the distribution center. We collectively came together and recognized that SAP’s capabilities led in these areas.”
The digital transformation at Stater Bros. Markets didn’t stop at talent management. Prior to the pandemic, the grocery chain had already initiated a sourcing process for a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. COVID-19 put that search on hold, but the need for a new ERP became clear as the company managed a volatile supply chain.
Stater Bros. has 12 major systems focused on moving products to stores, supply chain replenishment and customer delivery. The existing legacy mainframe and associated solutions perform these functions in batch processes, offering little in terms of useful data or real-time supply chain management capabilities.
“We have to be in a position to make rapid decisions, especially when you think about the challenges the pandemic presented. We were faced with stockout situations where our suppliers weren’t able to deliver in a timely manner. They were actually eliminating SKUs to focus on products they could move quickly. We were challenged in our ability to maneuver, adapt and respond to the changing market,” Salazar said.
While most of these challenges weren’t new, they were definitely exacerbated by the pandemic. Stater Bros. had already planned to change the way it aggregated, batched and processed data. Like other companies using legacy systems, Stater Bros. found its foundational system had become difficult to maintain due to a lack of skilled COBOL programmers who could understand, support and modify it. As with their HCMS solution, they turned to SAP after a similar RFP and evaluation process.
“SAP was a clear winner for us for its ability to solve the majority of our business needs and help us become a more responsive and data-driven company,” Salazar said. “Today we spend 80 percent of our time wrangling the data and 20 percent making business decisions on the data. We’re really trying to reverse that and get to a point where it takes us 20 percent to wrangle the data and 80 percent consuming the data and making critical business decisions. We feel like we’re in a good position to actually do that by leveraging SAP’s capabilities.”
Given the purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon, recent news of technology investments by Kroger and similar grocery industry news in recent years, the leadership at Stater Bros. recognized the need for an ERP that would empower data-driven business decisions. As more grocery retailers strive to recover from the pandemic and pursue organization-wide agility and resiliency, digital transformation efforts will undoubtedly accelerate in the grocery space. 
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Customization tools like shoppable recipes and product recommendations are helping consumers cut through the clutter of center store. But retailers are only scratching the surface of what's possible.
Grocers are finding that offering tech-enhanced, customized tools can deepen loyalty among customers shopping online and in stores.
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