One of my biggest frustrations with enterprise software vendors is their eagerness to showcase partnerships with Tier One services partners - at the expense of amplifying a new wave of cloud-savvy partners.
Without that new wave of cloudy, vertically-focused partners, I fail to see how customers will be able to complete their so-called transformation journeys - or even get a basic value out of their SaaS investments.
SAP was the latest vendor to miss the chance to showcase up-and-coming partners at TechEd Vegas. I wasn't impressed, and I hope they do a better job of it at TechEd Barcelona.
SAP's missed opportunity is worse because partners that extend SAP's cloud solutions on the SAP Cloud Platform can literally change a customer's view of what SaaS can do - and win business for SAP in the process. Some of SAP's competitors still present SaaS as a rigid option where you must standardize your processes to win (winning in this case means taking advantage of regular updates and not getting stuck on old releases). So, with SAP TechEd Barcelona right around the corner, what better time to show what is possible?
That brings us to EIR, and the nifty work this firm has done on SCP with their Compensation Analytics extension. At SuccessConnect 2018 Las Vegas, I had the chance to sit down with France Lampron, President and CEO at Enterprise Information Resources Inc. Next-gen partners need two things in particular: deep cloud experience, and software development chops. So how did EIR get there?
The need for SuccessFactors extensibility
Lampron told me prior to EIR, she owned a company called NouveauSoft that sold compensation systems. That company was acquired by Plateau, which was then acquired by SuccessFactors. That meant migrating all of their prior customers to SuccessFactors. Lampron:
That's how we got into the SuccessFactors ecosystem, by converting our old customers. We came into that ecosystem with a background in software development, although this whole cloud thing was fascinating, and new, and so different.
The year was 2012. Lampron was impressed by SaaS, but she wondered about extensibility:
No longer did you write a little code, you just did configuration. It was amazing how much you could do just with configuration within SuccessFactors. But we longed for [extensibility]. We have all these customers that have all these needs, and you can't quite resolve it with configuration. Wouldn't that be nice if we could kind of extend it?
Then, at a SuccessConnect event, everything changed:
It must have been the 2012 Success Connect. We went to a partner briefing, and somebody said, "Well, we have this thing, it's called HANA Cloud Platform. And it's going to allow you to... I was like "ding! ding! ding, ding, ding!" Because we used to sell similar products.
Lampron's team immediately began researching was possible on the SAP Cloud Platform in their focus are of compensation:
We got it. It's our passion, and we work with very large companies, and we try to solve their end-to-end problems. We're dedicated to the world of compensation, and there are so many different use cases sometimes that come about. It's impossible for SuccessFactors to meet them all. In fact, if they tried, the product would be so complex.
For Lampron, that's a far better value proposition than on-premise:
So the extension makes it possible to add value or to extend customers based on their needs - without affecting the original cold base. If we look at the old days of SAP, you had to put all this code in. And then when you have to upgrade, forget it.
One key here is that the extension-savvy partner must also be the roadmap-savvy advisor. Before building an extension - or paying for one - a customer needs advice on when, or if, the vendor will ever have this functionality in their own updates/roadmap. In her conversations with customers, Lampron helps to assess this - and the urgency of the need.
In some cases for us, when we tell that to customers, it might just be an interim thing, while the vendors are catching up, and really adding more features to the product based on community needs. But for some companies, two years is a long time, and they need to have that gap temporarily fixed.
Building Compensation Analytics - a customer co-innovation
So EIR built the first version of their Compensation Analytics extension on the SCP (then called HCP). Before too long, they had their first customer. CVS was struggling with a makeshift process:
As you know, CVS is very large; they used to have a home-grown tool to generate their compensation analytics during the cycle. What they used to do, they'd download from SuccessFactors, put that into to Access or whatever, generate the little chart, and give them to managers - but by the time they'd give them to managers, it was already outdated.
Other approaches had performance problems at scale. Compensation Analytics on SCP solved that:
HANA is just amazing in terms of how much it can react to these things. I had followed HANA just because, from an innovation standpoint, in the space that I've always been in, in COP, the issues is always performance... It was so amazing, the first order we made of the SAP Cloud Platform, we signed the form, three days later we had the platform, one day later we had the whole thing running.
Not having to manage a HANA instance was a bonus:
We didn't have to know how to set up HANA; it's all within the platform.
Since then, EIR has built several related extensions, all addressing aspects of compensation. One of my big questions is: will customers support the re-usability of custom apps and extensions? Because otherwise, you're build a bunch of one-off solutions. Lampron:
That's how we're trying to sell it to customers. I think that's what they're looking for because a lot of customers come to us and say, "Look, I've committed to SuccessFactors, I've committed to EC, that's going to be my platform. Now I have all these old apps out there that were internally built, and now I don't have any resources to upgrade them so they work well with SuccessFactors." Basically, they want to get out of the business of having internal apps. They want us to commit to making these things into a product, or into an app.
Turns out customers want a community of fellow adopters:
Not only did they get the platform as a service; they also want software development as a service. They say, "Hey I'm going to help you build it. Obviously you're going to take care of my requirements, and I hope that you're going to find, and I'm going to help you, if I can recommend you someplace else I'm going to do that. I hope you find other customers to adopt this so that we create a community of customers who care about this application." It's kind of like a co-op concept.
This is our story when we sell that to customers. And they like that story.
And, finally, the most important question of all: do extensions help you sell more SuccessFactors?
Totally. Like I said, our customers are fairly large, and our culture is customer for life. Around compensation, if we weren't able to creatively solve their problems, I think they would look potentially someplace else... What's going to happen more and more, we will begin doing business with the customer with the product. And then they'll see our passion around compensation, and they will also use us for servicing their regular SuccessFactors compensation work.
Expert partners for the win
I love hearing from partners that fuse their expertise into new cloud offerings. But one characteristic of an effective partnership hasn't changed: a close relationship with the software vendor. How is EIR's relationship with SAP?
It's fantastic - and they didn't pay me to say that.
Lampron cited Michael Adekunle, an SAP Partner Service Advisor, for special kudos and a job well done. I know from talking to SuccessFactors expert and customer advocate Jarret Pazahanick that he'd like to see more aggressive growth in the SuccessFactors apps store than what's he's seen to date. But an equally important part is shining a light on the partners that pave the way. SAP would be wise to do that next week in Barcelona.