An Introduction to SuccessFactors

  • by Venki Krishnamoorthy, Independent SAP ERP HCM Functional Consultant
  • December 26, 2012
SuccessFactors is a cloud-based talent management solution. Following its acquisition by SAP, many SAP customers began looking for more information about what added value SuccessFactors brings to their business processes. Specifically, users want to learn what functionalities SuccessFactors provides and how SuccessFactors can be integrated to their current on-premise SAP ERP HCM solutions.
Key Concept

Cloud computing is the use of computing resources — hardware and software — that are delivered to the users as a service, over the Internet. With cloud computing, users’ data resides with the cloud provider. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a type of cloud computing. In SaaS, the software or application is delivered as a service to the users and all user data is hosted by the SaaS provider.

For SAP ERP HCM’s on-premise users, deploying cloud-based solutions such as SuccessFactors is a technology and cultural shift. (For more information about terminology related to the cloud, see the sidebar “Cloud-Related Terms.”) Gone are the days when extensive customizations, extended project timelines, and hiring and building teams to support the solutions were options. With SuccessFactors, companies do not have to maintain the applications or the infrastructure. To the contrary, often it is the case that end users with sufficient training can maintain the solution and administrative tasks (for example, setting and resetting the passwords can be performed easily).

The key to this is to gain sufficient knowledge about SuccessFactors — the different modules it offers, the functionalities in each module, and how SuccessFactors can be integrated with their on-premise solutions. This article discusses each of these in detail.

Business Execution (BizX) is the name of the SAP ERP HCM suite offered by SuccessFactors. BizX is a cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. BizX can be implemented either as a single-tenant or a multi-tenant solution, meaning a company can be the sole user of the cloud-based functionality, or can share it with other companies.

As seen in Figure 1, the following modules are available in the SuccessFactors BizX suite:

Figure 1
SuccessFactors modules

  • Employee Central – SuccessFactors’ core HR system
  • Compensation Management – Used in compensation planning and compensation administration
  • Talent Management (Succession icon in Figure 1) – Used in succession planning and talent management
  • Recruiting Management – Used in recruiting
  • Learning – Used as an learning management system
  • Workforce Planning – Used to understand how organizational changes impacts business execution and to identify the right workforce strategies
  • Workforce Analytics – Provides HR dashboards and analytics
  • Jam for Social Learning – Used as social collaboration platform
At the SuccessConnect 2012 conference (June 2012), SAP announced that Workforce Planning and Workforce Analytics will run on SAP HANA.
Cloud-Related Terms

To help you understand this article, here are some common cloud-related terms:

  • Cloud computing: Use of software applications that are delivered as a service over the enterprise network or over the Internet. These applications are accessed by users by using a Web browser, mobile device, or a thin client. The devices used to access these applications are location independent. The vendor providing the application is responsible for maintaining the applications as well the infrastructure that hosts these applications. The software as well the user’s data (enterprise data) resides in servers that are outside the enterprise firewall.
  • SaaS (software as a service): This is a software delivery model, in which the software or application and its related data are hosted on the cloud. Users can access the application from a thin client or over the Internet. SaaS is also referred to as on-demand software.
  • Single tenancy: The users of the cloud application have their own instance of database and the application. (Both the database and the application are hosted on the cloud). Customers of single tenancy have the benefit of having a customized solution, as well as enhanced security.
  • Multi-tenancy: Multiple customers have access to the same applications, and the related data are hosted on the same server. With proper security and authorizations, the users are restricted to viewing their data only. Since the same instance of the software is accessed by different customers, the software application is installed with basic configuration and there is limited scope for customization or enhancements.

On-Premise vs. The Cloud

For many current SAP ERP HCM on-premise users, the cloud option represents a fundamental shift in their IT strategy and budgeting. Today, when these users decide to implement talent-related solutions, they have a choice between SAP on-premise or SuccessFactors cloud-based modules, or they can use a combination of the two, for different purposes.

Traditional on-premise solutions offer users the flexibility of developing a customized application. Many times, developing such applications results in project overruns (extended timelines and overspent budgets) and requires extended support from the technology team (Basis, functional, and technical resources).

With the cloud-based options offered with SuccessFactors, these projects are implemented on time more often. SaaS providers do not encourage a lot of customization. Since the application is cloud-based, there is no guarantee that the customized solution will be used by other customers. Any application inputs provided to the SaaS provider, if accepted, are included in the future product release.

SaaS providers have a shorter cycle for future product enhancements compared to on-premise vendors. Once they are live in production, the reliance on technology support is minimal. This is because the application resides in the cloud, so there is very little requirement for the company to maintain the application or maintain any infrastructure to support the application.

Often the SaaS provider is responsible for help desk and customer support. SaaS customers might have tier 1 support in-house to support issues such as forgotten passwords or Internet browser incompatibility. Since the maintenance requirements are usually simple tasks, such as creating a new user or resetting a user password, companies invest in training the process owners on the SuccessFactors Administration module.

Considerations and Best Practices When Moving to the Cloud with SuccessFactors

What are some of the trade-offs that companies can anticipate if they implement SuccessFactors’ cloud solutions? One drawback is that users should not expect highly customized solutions; as a result, the ability to make innovations is limited. For example, users cannot expect developers to develop a functional module or enhance the XML to develop customized solutions.

Prior to the start of a SuccessFactors implementation, it is a best practice for users to determine the scope of the project; in addition, they should review their business processes and determine what efficiencies are gained when the project goes live.

Another potential drawback is that the current pool of experienced SuccessFactors implementation team project leaders and consultants is a small one compared to the resources available for on-premise implementations. Therefore, it is important for companies to thoroughly vet their implementation project teams prior to the start of the project.

Finally, companies need to develop an internal review system to determine what efficiencies are gained by moving to the cloud. They also need to get sufficient details about SuccessFactors in order to completely understand the costs involved. As part of this cost-control effort, the service -level agreement needs to be well defined at the outset, so that the company’s interests are protected in terms of application upgrades, system administration, system support, and pricing.

Hybrid of On-Premise and Cloud-Based Deployment

It is common for SAP ERP HCM customers to implement cloud-based SaaS solutions. Even before SAP acquired SuccessFactors, there were many SAP on-premise customers who implemented SuccessFactors and other cloud-based solutions.

This type of deployment – a mixture of on-premise and cloud – is referred to as hybrid deployment. Usually, in this kind of deployment, the core HR modules (such as Organizational Management and Personnel Administration) are on-premise with the other modules being in the cloud (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Hybrid deployment flow chart

In Figure 2 the delivered integration is the adapter that provides data synchronization between SuccessFactors and on-premise SAP ERP HCM applications. Currently, SAP has started delivering the integration and Support Package 2 for the integration add-on.

When on-premise SAP ERP HCM users decide to implement cloud-based SuccessFactors talent solutions, they need to understand how to pass the required data from SAP ERP HCM to SuccessFactors, as well how SAP ERP HCM receives the relevant data from SuccessFactors.

For example, if you implement SuccessFactors Performance Management and SAP ERP HCM is on-premise, then the employee and organizational details need to be sent to SuccessFactors, as shown in Figure 3. From SuccessFactors, you need to send the details for the objectives, ratings, and comments provided for each objective (mid-year and year-end assessments).

Figure 3
Data synchronization between SAP ERP HCM and SuccessFactors

If you have SAP Process Integration (PI) in your landscape, then you should be able to provide data synchronization easily. If you do not have SAP PI installed, then the data synchronization needs to happen by developing customer-defined function modules. This process can be scheduled as a nightly job, so that any new hires and changes in organizational structures are updated on a daily basis in SuccessFactors. Similarly, the required data can be read from SuccessFactors and updated against the employee profile maintained in SAP EPR HCM.

Irrespective of the method you choose (SAP PI or customer-defined function modules), it is important that the process orchestration and data synchronization processes are seamless.

In late 2012, SAP announced the integration between SAP and SuccessFactors for certain modules. Before undertaking an integration of SAP and SuccessFactors, review the latest announcements from SAP and apprise yourself of the general availability dates. If you determine that the available integration doesn’t meet your requirements, you should develop your own integration strategy.

With the proper authorization level, the performance management administrator is able to import overall scores from the legacy application into SuccessFactors. The import file should be a comma delimited, CSV file. You can import scores related to performance, potential, competency, and objectives. This import process is executed asynchronously, and the administrator receives an email once the import process is completed.

If you currently have SAP NetWeaver Portal (ESS and MSS) installed in your landscape, then you can create a seamless usability experience for the users of SuccessFactors. To do this, create customer iViews to call the individual SuccessFactors modules, and enforce a single sign-on as well. With single sign-on, users need to log in only once (to the SAP NetWeaver Portal) because they can access SuccessFactors directly from within ESS or MSS.

Venki Krishnamoorthy

Venki Krishnamoorthy is an author, speaker, and SAP ERP HCM talent management solutions subject-matter expert. He is currently an independent SAP ERP HCM functional consultant. Venki has over 10 years of experience as a functional lead, project manager, and program manager in the HCM space. Besides implementing SAP HCM solutions, he has implemented and acted as a trusted advisor on SAP ERP HCM talent management implementations, including E-Recruiting, HCM Performance Management, Succession Planning, SAP Talent Visualization by Nakisa, Learning Solutions, and Employee Self-Service and Manager Self-Services. He is the coauthor of three books: E-Recruiting with SAP ERP HCM, SAP ERP HCM Infotypes: Your Quick Reference to HR Infotypes, and SAP Transaction Codes: Your Quick Reference to T-Codes in SAP ERP.

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3/4/2014 5:50:12 PM

I met and heard Venki in Las Vegas 2013. It was an enriching experience learning about Successfactors.

Thanks and regards,

Rovan Barboza

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