Intro by Henner Schliebs, Analytics Product Marketing, SAP
The Flow of People by Enrico A. Palumbo, SAP Global HR, SAP

People walking on office concourseBig Data – or HUMONGOUS DATA as some satirical souls would name it to raise attention (thank you, Tom Davenport) – is everywhere. We are hearing about the internet of things, machine-to-machine communication and learning, and also about crystal balls in the form of statistical modeling, data mining, and pure magic – all if possible in the so-called CLOUD. But often times all of this doesn’t resonate with the business audiences we’re trying to address – it’s more like “this IT thing”. A head of HR wants to understand what’s in it for her, a CFO wants to know how this can help him to grow margins, the CMO wants to create a perfect experience for his customers.

I’m very excited and happy to have a partner in crime within our valued SAP corporate HR organization, an analytics aficionado: Enrico Palumbo.

Enrico’s team of Tomas Havel (HR Shared Service Center), Charles Gadalla (Advanced Analytics Solution Management), and I have gone the extra mile and created a strong use case to support strategic workforce intelligence and pulled data from the existing HR infrastructure into SAP Predictive Analysis for advanced analyses. The reporting engine (SAP Lumira) has delivered on the promise of real self-service visualization, and the predictive engine has helped to do advanced career path analyses without being a Ph.D.

Please read carefully what Enrico has come up with. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Enrico, Charles, or me. If you get excited…spread the word. If not, please give us a call and we’ll elaborate on how this will help SAP and our customers to become even more successful.

The Flow of People

No doubt, the most advanced corporations with good HR IT structure have had access to Big Data for a while. They have data about potential recruits of the future, data about those who left the company, and plenty of data about current employees – skills and competencies, career path, internal network, learning behavior, performance ratings, peer recognition, and so on. Ignoring this data was o.k. in times when the commonly used tools didn’t have the abilities to be on par with the amount of data (let´s ignore the legal restrictions that differ from country to country).

Unknown Opportunities

The game has changed with the market offering smart solutions to visualize data that allow a different and self-service approach to analysis. Most remarkable – you don´t have to be a number freak anymore to draw meaningful conclusions of your data analysis. Also, predictive analysis doesn’t need to remain a domain of super experts but can become a standard skillset of the future as new solutions allow users to optimize forecasting and decision making. It’s also useful for those not gifted with a deep expertise in statistical analysis.

So, here we are. We have (or easily can get) the data and we have the tools.

What HR practitioners around the world still miss to a big extent are the ideas about what to do now. How can we make a difference for the business? Corporations try to find out how they can improve existing processes based on Big Data, but also try to understand what new opportunities this data can offer, for example, business processes out of reach before, insight and intelligence never dreamt of. In a similar way, HR can now watch out for completely new ideas to use data and thereby redefine the value proposition of HR over time.

Looking Through the Keyhole: Optimizing Career Management with Predictive Analysis

One of our first ideas was to challenge the traditional perspective organizations have on career pathing, i.e. showing associates what it takes to be eligible for promotion to a specialist position, then showing specialists  what it takes to be eligible for a senior specialist role. These career concepts and all related advice on career pathing are built around a “vertical” career concept.

However, in the modern workforce we see different concepts of career arising, those that are less attached to vertical moves, status, and title and instead are more attached to collaboration, learning, and influence to transform experience. Today, people are moving not only within their job family, but across job families  (technical consultant to strategy consultant) and across functional areas (from research and development to services). However, these movements are usually the result of individual choices, and aren’t monitored, evaluated, or proactively managed by organizations.

We believe that this “Flow of People,” the internal move of talents, offers tremendous opportunities to increase productivity and agility of the organization and at the same time support the development and engagement of individuals. Were the job movers successful? Did the performance go up or down? Did they stay in the company or leave? If they left, did they go back to their old job family/functional area? What can we predict about the future success for movers based on the historic information we have, or even the risk of losing high potentials or high performers? How can we improve onboarding programs based on the findings? What conclusions can we share with recruiters to avoid frustration for the individuals and minimize costly talent attrition for the organization?

Analyzing the flow of people to identify the nature of successful internal moves and unhealthy patterns can help individuals to avoid career setbacks following unsuccessful moves, create awareness for alternative career models, and allow specific recommendations based on statistical analysis. Ultimately, this would allow an optimized and broader career path management and more proactive turnover detection. Please stand up if this wouldn’t be critical for your business!

Sounds All Too Easy?

Doing the proof of concept using SAP Predictive Analysis was fairly simple. The real challenge comes – as for all HR analytics – with taking the actions that make the real impact. Getting the numbers, and identifying the clusters of people and their commonalities is the easy part. Turning this information into tangible and sustainable changes in the business practices and processes is more complex, yet the second would never work without the first.

A wall in my office is adorned with a framed copy of the International Herald Tribune cover page from July 22, 1969 with the headline “Spacemen Fly From Moon After Fulfilling All Tasks.”  Why do I like it? It reminds me that getting there is just the beginning. Completing the job is what makes the difference.  Acknowledging new solutions in analytics should be just the beginning for HR professionals. Trying, failing, and succeeding when using them to make a difference for the business makes the leap – giant or small.


Henner Schliebs is a Senior Director for Analytics Product Marketing at SAP. With over 12 years of analytics experience, he is responsible for driving the adoption of Analytics Solutions across all departments (outside of IT, focussing on Finance, HR and Operations), tearing down silos.  “Everybody should be an analyst – and everybody should have the chance to make better decisions through Analytics.” – this is Henner’s credo that he evangelizes in 2013. Henner held various roles in the analytics area with several software vendors including consulting and presales across all industries as well as roles in management consulting.

Enrico Palumbo is a Senior HR Expert with over 12 years of international experience in strategic and operational HR work in all pillars: HR Business Partner, Center of Expertise and Shared Services in leadership roles, as project manager and business consultant. His current fields of interest are HR Strategy, Talent Analytics and HR Effectiveness. Enrico has working experience in Czech Republic, Germany, India and Italy.