Luke Marson is a SAP Mentor and Senior Solution Architect at Gavdi Group, a leading international consulting firm for SAP® ERP Human Capital Management (HCM). Luke specializes in designing, developing and implementing tailored best practice SAP HCM Talent Management, Visualization Solutions by Nakisa and SuccessFactors solutions. He is a co-author of the SAP PRESS titles “Talent Management with SAP ERP HCM” and “SuccessFactors for SAP ERP HCM” and recently authored a HR Expert Special Report on SuccessFactors.
What does "cloud" mean to you?
Cloud means a simpler and easier approach to living and working. It means real-time access to information anytime, anywhere, any place. The cloud has opened up a new world of possibilities for me that didn’t exist before; social networking, information sharing and real-time news about world events. I was an early adopter of the Internet; I remember during my teens having a state-of-the-art 128Kbps modem that allowed me to find a wealth of information on UFOs (the X-Files was popular at the time), downloading BASIC code snippets (for my inner geek) and accessing music tablatures (when learning the guitar). Of course, these days I have very different uses for the Internet! Recent developments in cloud infrastructure and early web software technology have resulted in the rise of web-based mail, mapping, social networking, and enterprise software services. The cloud is changing both how my peers and I are working and how we are living.
Cloud based technology has already had a profound impact on the behavior of the younger generations; enterprise software is evolving to meet the expectations and requirements of this new workforce. Gone are the days of clunky mainframe systems and client-server systems. Although large ERP systems will remain in use for a considerable period of time, cloud services are flexible enough to sit on top of these systems and extend their value. This means no more “rip-and-replace”, instead solutions will compliment the technology that organizations have already invested in. For me, this is part of the value proposition of the cloud – it can build on what already exists to provide better services and a superior user experience; evolving the way we work rather than replacing it.
What cloud solutions are you currently using?
I’ve been using less traditional Cloud systems like Hotmail, Facebook and Twitter for some time, but more recently I’ve been using Google’s range of applications and SAP Jam. Of course, as a talent management specialist, I’m regularly using SuccessFactors BizX suite. I’ve also been involved in the new Nakisa Cloud platform, which provides a range of organizational and visualization applications in the Cloud.
The real benefit of using all of these is that I am not dependent on a specific device or location – all I need is a device and an Internet connection. As time goes on, the Internet is becoming more widely available – with free access more often than not. For example, in Belgium (where I live), my Internet provider Belgacom offers a service called Fon. After signing up for Fon the customer’s WiFi router becomes a public WiFi hotspot that other Belgacom customers can use. This type of accessibility gives me flexibility to access different services wherever I am from whatever device I have on me. It’s also a bonus that I don’t need purchase as much software than I used to!
How has the cloud made direct differences in your day-to-day job?
To me the real benefits are helping a customer achieve their goal and providing business value – the platform is not always relevant. That being said, the better the platform, the better value it can bring to a customer. SuccessFactors BizX suite takes enterprise software to the next level and enables users to become more engaged with their work. The younger members of the workforce (and even some of the older ones!) have become accustomed to the slick and sexy apps that they have on their smart phones and tablet devices.
At Gavdi, we’re using SAP Jam a lot and the SAP Mentors have also recently started using Jam instead of StreamWork. I find Jam easy-to-use and full of features that I’ve been using with other social media applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. This makes contributing fun and drives collaboration within our organization. We’re seeing more and more engagement across the board because of SAP Jam, I’m looking forward to using it first hand with a variety of customers.
How has the cloud enabled you to do business better, smarter & more efficiently?
Well, I just mentioned SAP Jam and how it has introduced new capabilities that we simply didn’t have before. Although similar tools exist, SAP Jam is the next generation of social collaboration solutions and the first tool I’ve used that demonstrates results from day one. This makes our business smarter; knowledge sharing has increased from occasional emails to regular sharing in focused interest groups. It is almost like employees compete to share more – as a result, everyone wins.
Cloud has also enabled us to provide better services to our customers. We can offer them innovative Cloud-based HCM solutions, whether it is SuccessFactors or the cloud version of Visualization Solutions by Nakisa. Accelerated collaboration and knowledge sharing improves the quality of our services and the benefits go directly to our clients.
What advice would you give others when selecting a cloud solution/vendor?
I would always recommend that customers find out if what they are buying - is just a piece of software or a business solution? Although both are technically the same, a solution doesn’t just help you automate operations; it helps you solve business problems and provides a better process for executing business strategy, improving efficiency and profitability.
Being able to deliver on corporate strategy is the focus of every business, however too often companies implement software to digitize processes rather focusing on the big picture: optimizing business strategy. Digitizing improves efficiency and cost benefits (such as moving from paper-based systems or using unaligned spreadsheets), but the real value comes when software actually introduces a better method to performing tasks or helping to create connections amongst employees, their work, and supporting business goals.
What do you see as the future of the Cloud?
The cloud will definitely play a fundamental role in the future of personal and enterprise computing. Consumption of IT is increasing, but the costs of IT cannot continue to grow exponentially – it’s not sustainable. SMEs and growing enterprise-level customers cannot justify some of the large capital expenditure of on-premise systems and Cloud offers an innovative and durable alternative.
Looking forward, I think we’ll see more defined security standards, flexible systems, and a shift in mentality – all of which will accelerate the growth of cloud adoption. Today, there are still concerns around security as well as whether Cloud solutions can support complex and dynamic business requirements. The reality is that many organizations simply are not mature enough for the Cloud yet. Another factor that influences adoption is a perceived threat by the reduced reliance on IT. Many organizations also see a benefit to their balance sheet of purchasing an “asset” like an on-premise system and with the Cloud there is no similar value versus the subscription expenditure. This is not to say that companies are not getting better value from the Cloud, it just means that from an accounting perspective there seems to be a disconnect between how companies justify the expenditure without owning anything additional.
The Cloud delivery model accelerates implementation and provides value to customers more quickly, but for Systems Integrators it will be challenging to maintain the same level of revenue and profit from projects as in the past. Coupled with the challenges of transitioning to the cloud (ie. training, winning first projects), there could be resistance from traditional SIs to embrace the new world order, impacting the growth – at least in the short-term. Despite these issues, there is a real excitement and appetite for the potential of cloud solutions long-term. I’m confident that organizations with a focus on delivering customer value will embrace the cloud with open arms.
SAP Cloud People Blog Series: how the Cloud is affecting the day to day lives of people.
2013-03-01 : Cloud People: Bodo Klečka, BOA Group
2013-02-25 : Cloud People: Luke Marson, Gavdi Group
2013-02-11 : Cloud People: Mark Ridley, reed.co.uk
2013-01-23 : Cloud People: Sascha Rauhe, AICOMP/VCXI Group
2013-01-15 : Cloud People: Brian Kinion, SuccessFactors