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In September 2012 Nakisa held their first Partner Forum, inviting myself and Stephen Burr (whose blog you can read here). There were several aims to the forum:

 

  • Demonstrate new and future solutions
  • Obtain feedback on a variety of solutions, projects and initiatives
  • Re-design the Partner training program
  • Gain input into Certification
  • Record interviews with the attendees

 

The week was extremely well organized by Oliver Huetz, Partner Training and Certification Manager, and thoroughly prepared by all of the individuals who had sessions with us. What surprised me the most was how much everybody took the opportunity to engage with us and collect our feedback. The enthusiasm was vibrant and genuine.

 

I’ve been to Nakisa’s offices in Montreal several times and know many people on a personal basis, so it was great to catch up with these people. As with every company, people come and go at Nakisa and it was great to meet those that I hadn’t met before. What was even better was that they were really happy to meet me. I was amazed at how many people came up to me and knew me from my public photo – I guess I didn’t expect so many people to be using social media.

 

There was a pretty hefty agenda that covered sessions such as:

 

  • SOVN product demo
  • SOVN technical demo
  • STVN product demo
  • STVN technical demo
  • OrgHub for Mobile
  • Partner Training workshop
  • Office of the Architect
  • Support workshop
  • Professional Services workshop
  • Certification session
  • Video interview

 

Day 1

The week started off with seeing the SOVN 4.0 solutions, particularly the revamped OrgModeler solution which hasn’t really changed from version 1.1 up until now. I won’t go over too many details since I usually blog about the new releases and I’ve already tweeted a number of features, but I was impressed with the features around ALE writeback, ALE delta changes in scenarios, standard analytics and KPIs, approval workflow and the enhanced change logs. Raagi Pandya, the product manager for SOVN, is a great speaker and highly passionate, so it was a really engaging session to start the day off with. This was very useful after waking up early because of jet lag!

 

Nakisa’s product strategy has changed to really focus around the value proposition for the different audiences within an organization, rather than offering solutions that just cater to meet business challenges. These audiences are IT Management, HR & Shared Service, C-Level & LoB, and employee.

 

After providing feedback we were treated to a demo of the new OrgHub for Mobile application by Hossein-Gholi Hatefi, which I will be blogging about quite soon. I have seen the previous incarnations of the app and was happy that the final release lived up to my expectations and more. This was followed up with the STVN demo and this was really where I began to feel excited about the future of Nakisa.

 

The Talent Management product team, led by Agatha Kurjanowicz, have gone back to basics with their strategy. Agatha, and her two colleagues Julie Cliché-Dubois and Pablo Velez, began by research exactly what Talent Management is, what a talent is and how they can apply these principles to their next generation of talent visualization solutions. It sounds very obvious, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that other vendors weren’t doing something like this. STVN 4.0 has been given a face-lift and will have a different approach to previous versions.

 

Previously STVN had been four and then three solutions (TalentDasboard, their BI visualization solutions, was discontinued from STVN 3.0 SP1), but now they have been rolled into one product that has 3 incarnations. It’s a subtle but significant shift and provides Nakisa with a better platform to provide services to the three major audiences in Talent Management: HR/Talent Management Specialists & Executives, Managers, and Employees. TalentHub, as the solution will be called from 4.0, consolidates existing functionality and provides an integrated frontend for talent management services. TalentHub will be available in 3 incarnations, all intended to be used in the same Talent Management processes:

 

  • TalentHub for HR Executives
  • TalentHub for Managers
  • TalentHub for Employees

 

One of the features I like the most is the new Development Planning functionality. While I think it is still some way off from a “final” solution, it is definitely a step up from what SAP offers in the Development Plan in Talent Management. The use of Targets and Activities, and a catalog of each, provides a much more robust basis for managing development activities.

 

After the demos and discussion, we ran through the ideas on the Ideas Place that I had created some time ago. I had been told that Product Management was monitoring this and I was pleasantly surprised that they had reviewed every single item that had been raised.

 

This session concluded the first day of the Forum and had already made the trip across the Atlantic worthwhile.

 

Day 2

Feeling a bit fresher than the first day, our first session focussed around the AdminConsole in STVN. The AdminConsole has been freshened up and enhanced considerably in the new release and will provide much more power than before for partners and clients to configure the solutions. TalentHub was actually configured entirely in the new AdminConsole. I am already excited about the possibilities of the new AdminConsole and it will hopefully provide enough functionality that consultants will not be forced into customization, thus reducing errors caused through incorrect customizations or customization mistakes. Agatha and her team ran through a few more of the AdminConsole and technical enhancements, such as creating writeback tasks, adding/configuring TREX listings, data caching and background writeback processing, and performance enhancements for various features.

 

Following the technical demo was the Partner Training workshop with Oliver Huetz and Elena Deryabina. This was the first session where we were going to be active in driving the session, rather than being mostly passive. Our mandate was to help design a new training curriculum that would provide better trained resources and make better use of the time in the classroom. We had some basic discussions about the overall approach, providing pre-course materials to study, introducing prerequisites to help get attendees on the same level and whether it would be practicable to offer virtual learning courses. Following us setting the basic framework for the training program, we set about planning the curriculum. I like writing during workshops, but Stephen took this one step further and suggested we used post-it notes so that we could re-order and model the content as we went. This was to prove invaluable over the course of the rest of the workshop!

 

Before day 2 came to close I had to pop off to do some planning on the Rock Solid Talent Management webinar that Nakisa had invited me to participate in. We had been planning this for 2 or 3 weeks and essentially our original plan had sounded good when put together, but while realizing it we found that it fell short of our expectations. Doing a face-to-face workshop with Agatha, Tak Kusano and Melloney Jewel came up trumps and we put together an outline that we thought would offer a lot of value to the audience. Our intention had always been to hold a thought-leadership style webinar and not a product webinar – and I think we accomplished what we set out to achieve. You can watch the replay of the webinar here.

 

Day 3

Day continue with our Partner Training Workshop, which was scheduled for ¾ of the day. At lunchtime we were lucky to see a product demo of a future product from Nakisa, but due to the sensitivity of product design and development it would be inappropriate of me to provide details right now. What I can tell you is that I was blown away by the level of detail that had gone into such an early version of the solution.

 

After lunch we continue with finalizing our new Partner Training curriculum and briefly presented it to the passionate James Fabbi, VP of Alliances. I genuinely think that one of the best things to come out of the week was this new training program and I am excited about the value this will offer once it becomes available.

 

Once the Partner Training Workshop came to a conclusion I went off to do a dry run of the Rock Solid Talent Management webinar and Stephen visited the newly formed “Office of the Architect”. More on that later.

 

Day 4

Day 4 began bright and early for me as I arrived at the Nakisa offices at 6:45am ready to dry-run the Rock Solid Talent Management webinar, ahead of the live webinar at 10am. We performed a dry-run, prepared and then delivered the actual webinar. Following this it was time for the Support Workshop, in which we had an interesting session with Walid Elguebaly, Customer Support Manager. It was interesting that Nakisa get monthly reports on the number of OSS messages logged and the feedback ratings they receive after OSS messages are closed. Unsurprisingly, since 3.0 SP3 there has been a sharp downward curve on opened OSS messages and an increase in feedback ratings into the 9.0 to 10 bracket (ratings are out of 10).

 

It was encouraging that Nakisa Support are already trying to put in steps to prevent the number of OSS messages being raised and escalations being made. It is disappointing that a number of issues get stuck at SAP’s side and thus Nakisa have to deal with the fall out of this. Although Walid and his team had many ideas, they still found some interesting ideas from the session that can further help the process. The big thing that will help Nakisa Support is the new Partner Training program that we devised and Walid was definitely in favour of this. Around 30 messages raised a month (around 40%) are because of customization or implementation issues and not product bugs.

 

During lunch I recorded a video interview with Abbas Khatamian, Director of Marketing. While the final video will come out seriously, there were some quite hilarious bloomers and lots of swearing involved during the session. I quite enjoyed this and will be interested to see the final video when it is published on YouTube. I hope to be able to post it here once it is available.

 

The next session was with Professional Services. Unfortunately this session was reduced in scope due to the illness of Paolo Mazza, Director of Professional Services. Makram Dagher, who was planned to support Paolo in the original meeting, lead the session and we discussed the various ways in which Professional Services can support partners and how the partner packages might be best offered. Note that a follow-up session with Paolo will go ahead via conference call this week.

 

The final session of a busy day was the intriguingly named Office of the Architect (OOA). This is a newly formed team headed up by Nakisa’s Executive Architect Sebastiaan Bos. Sebastian is a Nakisa veteran and Nakisa guru and has assembled an experienced team of professionals from different areas of the organization to act as a design authority and as a business partner between Nakisa’s partners, professional services teams, support, and product management. Their job is to find the pain points of these audiences and prioritize the most important developments in the solution suites. While they cannot force the hand of product management, they do have an influence in what should be a priority.

 

Sebastian was joined by Vipin Kumar and we discussed a list of pain points that had already been identified by the OOA, as well as some of the pain points that I had come across. This was one of my favourite sessions of the week as it was really focussing on issues that weren’t entirely product specific, but were definitely important when implementing Nakisa’s solutions. We touched on items such as the Staged Extractor, security, documentation, languages, and AdminConsole functionality, among other topics. I can see the OOA playing a pivotal role in accelerating the type of developments and progression in Nakisa’s products that will make implementations easier for everyone.

 

Day 5

The final day was only a morning session on Certification with Oliver Huetz. I have spent a significant amount of time working with Nakisa on their previous Certification program with the former head of Alliances, before she left last year. I was very glad to see that the notes and correspondence we had created around the program had been retrieved and reviewed during the current preparations that Oliver and his team had done. I think the new certification will provide real value to help organizations identify individuals who possess the right skills and experience to properly implement Nakisa solutions.

 

With that session coming to end, our work was done. A formal feedback session was held with those that had conducted sessions with us and with that came the closing of the Partner Forum. Babak Varjavandi, founder and CEO of Nakisa, and James Fabbi called us into a meeting to discuss the week and find out if we had any feedback that we hadn’t given in the formal session previously. Such was the quality of the week that we hadn’t anything additional to say! We had a good conversation and then went to say our goodbyes. It was kind of lucky that most people were out at lunch because it could’ve taken a considerable amount of time!

 

And with that, it was time to head to the airport and return home.

 

Summary

Nakisa provided a week that provided excellent opportunities for us to learn more about what they’re doing, while also allowing us to influence their strategy and operations. Nakisa gained a lot of value from our opinions and expertise and, if put into practise, will help them move forward.

 

Despite the acquisition of SuccessFactors earlier in the year, Nakisa are surprisingly upbeat and the vibe in the office is unquestionably positive. There is no doubt that they see many opportunities that they didn’t see before and they have strong strategies in place to help them move forward at a time when you would expect them to be on the back foot.

 

There are many more people that I met with who I have not mentioned here and, along with the people I have already mentioned, are the backbone of a fine organization. In the current period of HCM it was refreshing to see Nakisa find opportunities to grow and improve as an organization, as well as find new ways to develop solutions that will provide real value to SAP’s on-premise HCM customers.

 

The only thing left to say is a big “Thank You” to everyone in Nakisa who organized a terrific and informative week.

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