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Firm overcomes code troubles, deploys SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe

Despite code glitches that ground its human resources system to a halt, one firm is using SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe to simplify its global HR self-service operations.

Computer Sciences Corp.'s (CSC) plan to consolidate several SAP HR systems into one global instance included a rollout of SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe, but what the consulting firm hadn't counted on were some significant response problems with the code.

Soon after the Falls Church, Va.-based firm began implementing Interactive Forms on its self-service HR website in 2008, it ran into some snags with the Universal Worklist (UWL) code that SAP supplied with the forms. The code allows managers and HR representatives to see and review leave and reimbursement requests, among other types of requests.

“We found that any queue that had more than 500 items in it. The response was just abysmal,” said Eric Bernhard, systems architect for CSC, an SAP global partner.  

Those issues affected anyone using the company’s HR portal, not merely those with inordinately long worklist queues, Bernhard said. Opening a form could take as much as a minute or two, a problem made worse with employees trying to use the new system at once.   

“Demand spiked up; everybody wanted to go in and see the new system and start using it,” he said. “So we were running into peak user load at a time when we had some code problems. We basically had to ask people to get off the system, which was kind of embarrassing.”

To help identify the problem, CSC used the Wily Introscope, an application monitoring tool made by CA Technologies of Islandia, N.Y., but included as a part of SAP Solution Manager, Bernhard said.

“We used that a lot on go-live to try and figure out all the communications between the different nodes and what was stacking up,” Bernhard said. “That’s how we identified how the UWL was really bogging things down.”

In the end, SAP issued a series of OSS (Online Service System) notes that fixed the flaws in the code. The worklists then ran more smoothly regardless of the number of requests that were in the queue.

“Basically, there were some inefficiencies in the way it was trying to process the lists, maybe the way it held the items in memory,” Bernhard said.

SAP Interactive Forms for HR
CSC is deploying Interactive Forms as a part of an overall effort to roll up all of its 95,000 employees worldwide onto the same SAP HR instance on SAP ECC 6.0. The company’s India operations, as well as part of its U.S. operations, are now a part of that one instance. The rest of the U.S. operations will join early next year followed by divisions in other countries.

In North America, the project has also entailed moving off of its SAP HR system running on R/3 4.7 while getting rid of some third-party templates that were part of the old employee self-service portal, Bernhard said. The third-party templates were supposed to provide user navigation, showing users where they were in the process or what the next step was. But in the end, it was more trouble than it was worth, he said.

“It was hard, going back and customizing the code if you wanted to change that process. [The vendor], once we deployed the initial offerings, was not interested in spending more money on essentially a custom look and feel,” Bernhard said. “So we didn’t even deploy our full ESS  (Employee Self-Service) functionality that was available.”

With SAP Interactive Forms by Adobe, CSC has something that’s easier to develop and maintain. Out-of-the-box capabilities allow employees to do things like submit leave or reimbursement requests and update records with milestone events like marriage or having a child. Bernhard said he expects that list to grow as the company adds more functionality in the future.

Having a more simplified, uniform way for employees to change or add information has cut down on the number of calls CSC’s help desk gets.  It’s also reduced the amount of paperwork that gets generated, according to Bernhard. Plus, he said, the data itself is more consistent.

“The amount of errors and manual handling has gone way down," he said. "Part of what the forms provide is that you get some data validation at the data entry point.”

For example, the system will stop users if they put a name in a date field, say, or miss a required field.    

“That way, we don’t get information in the system that needs to get referred back or sent back," Bernhard said. "There’s no bad data going into the system.”

Other uses: SAP SRM and mobile 
While CSC is only using the interactive forms for HR self-service, it's considering adding forms to the front of its SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) system to let employees and managers purchase products for projects they’re working on.

The company has also thought about using forms for material master changes and new vendor requests as well. 

Right now the company’s mobile capabilities include only its recently deployed SAP CRM, but that too may change, Bernhard said.

 “We haven’t looked at providing mobile access to the Adobe forms -- yet. That’s something we’ll be looking at as we complete these next deployments. Obviously, people are coming to the workplace with their own mobile devices and expect to be able to do that,” he said.

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