Skip to Content

SAP and SuccessFactors – what does the future hold for Nakisa?

I, like many people, have read a lot of blogs in recent days about the decision by SAP to spend a whopping $3.4bn on SuccessFactors. Not many of them have mentioned Nakisa, but those that have mentioned Nakisa haven’t been so kind. Some of the quotes include:

  • “SAP is going to have to quickly make a lot of important decisions on which products they move forward with and my guess is that SAP will initially focus on the integration between Core HCM OnPremise and SuccessFactors and not add much new functionality to the on-premise offerings that overlap with SuccessFactors as well as eventually end their partnership with Nakisa.” – Jarret Pazahanick
  • “…product roadmap concerns remain big questions for SAP customers. What about Nakisa implementations, one of SAP’s current talent management partners? And how should customers approach enhancement packages that augment much of the functionality in their on-premise systems that SuccessFactors could deliver on-demand?” – Courtney Bjorlin (SAP-SuccessFactors: Good News, But Integration, Roadmap Concerns Remain)
  • “Nakisa is screwed. Why would SAP continue to use Nakisa when it doesn’t own them and is not aligned with the rest of the On Demand platform?” – Mark Ingram (The SuccessFactors Acquisition)


I’ve spoken to a few influencers in the last couple of days, spoken to some people at SAP, read all of the blogs and done a bit of homework. Now that the dust has settled I think it was time that I gave my opinion on the subject in regards to Nakisa.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Nakisa will not be going anywhere in the short or mid-term, although I can’t really see far enough into the long-term without knowing SAP’s long-term on-premise strategy for Talent Management. While many of you would expect me to say this, the simple fact is that there is lot more to it than just Talent Management functionality. Many people tend to forget that Nakisa do not focus just on Succession Planning, but also have several OM solutions that are not catered for by the SuccessFactors suite. Some of the reasons why I think Nakisa will be around for some time include:

  • SAP and Nakisa offer 8 solutions (see What is Nakisa? … or Everything You Need to Know about Visualization Solutions by Nakisa (VSN) part 2 for details) covering OM, TM and BI/BW – most of which don’t all have equivalent functionality in SuccessFactors
  • SuccessFactors don’t have an on-premise Talent Management solution
  • SAP HCM Talent Management has a lot of momentum and STVN SuccessionPlanning plays a major role in the SAP strategy
  • SAP and Nakisa have a long-term strategy for development of Talent Management solutions to include integration with Development Planning and Recruitment
  • Some of the blogs I have read have questioned the quality of SuccessFactors User Interface and after seeing a video today I can see why
  • I haven’t seen any evidence of a strong org charting solution – and SOVN OrgChart is a good solution
  • SAP bought SuccessFactors for on-demand, not to replace on-premise – the purchase of SuccessFactors accelerates SAP’s existing HCM roadmap
  • SAP also bought SuccessFactors because Workday is becoming a major rival and a big player in the on-demand space for HCM and Payroll
  • SuccessFactors is not fully integrated with SAP HCM like SOVN and STVN solutions so there is a lot of time and investment required to get them up to scratch
  • Many on-premise SAP HCM customers who have their infrastructure handled internally will not want to move to an on-demand solution and some clients have already stated this to SAP
  • Outsourcing partners who service the infrastructure of those on-premise customers will not be recommending business-threatening on-demand services!
  • Many of the leading analysts and influencers (those quoted above fit into these categories) didn’t even mention a threat to Nakisa or on-premise SAP HCM Talent Management
  • On-premise is not going to go away any time soon!
  • SAP use Nakisa!


I don’t think SAP will end the Nakisa partnership because SuccessFactors don’t have any rival solutions except in the Succession Planning space and these are not on-premise. For org charting and organisation modelling SAP’s only solutions of any real value are the Nakisa solutions (SOVN OrgChart and SOVN OrgModeler). It’s well known that there is a shortage of skilled consultants in this area and SAP have, until recently, been very expensive in terms of licensing. In isn’t well documented that SAP altered its licensing model for SOVN and STVN solutions when 3.0 was released and this made it more affordable for organizations to invest in these solutions.

However, up until now SAP has been selling SAP HCM Talent Management with STVN against SuccessFactors and this does concern me since they will soon offer 2 competing products. Saying that, while they are competing products of similar ilk they do compete in different spaces (on-demand v on-premise) and for different audiences. SAP have and will keep their on-demand and on-premise businesses separate and likely keep their strategies aligned but distinct.

SuccessFactors implementations are focused on integration; SAP HCM Talent Management (and SOVN) implementations focus on process design, solution design and solution configuration. SuccessFactors don’t seem to be truly integrated with SAP and it took Nakisa around 1 to 2 years to get their solutions fully integrated. In fact, many SuccessFactors clients had to build their own interfaces to link up the solutions – this is not going to be something on-premise customers are going to be prepared to do when SAP already offer a solution that has this integration ready and working.


If Nakisa have based their future strategy on on-demand then they could be in for trouble – but from what I know they are committed to on-premise and I understand that SAP have never intended for Nakisa’s solutions to be on-demand. I understand they are looking at on-demand services but their focus is on delivering innovating functionality for both OM and Talent Management solutions.

One of the biggest risks for Nakisa is the fact that many analysts, including influencing analysts like Gartner, are advising SAP HCM on-premise customers to delay any decisions on Talent Management until a clear SAP roadmap has been announced. This kind of roadmap could be 6 to 9 months away, especially given that the SuccessFactors purchase will not go through for another 3 or 4 months. There is already confusion about SAP’s strategy and roadmap, particularly now that there are two similar offerings. SAP need to clear up this confusion quickly and I understand that SAP have a senior executive who is willing to clear this up directly with customers who need clarification.

Another risk is that SAP Sales are incentivized to sell on-demand over on-premise solutions. SAP need to recoup their large investment and if SAP Sales are given more incentive to sell on-demand then of course sales of STVN SuccessionPlanning will suffer as a result. As long as SAP Sales are aligned with SAP HCM on-premise strategy then I cannot see an impact in terms of STVN. I don’t believe there will be any impact for SOVN solutions either way.

There is also a risk if SAP decided that they can no longer justify using a 3rd party Talent Management solution extension when they own a Talent Management solution. However, I only find this possible if SuccessFactors develop an on-premise solution. I’ve not seen or heard anything to suggest that SuccessFactors are looking to add on-premise to their business strategy and I can’t see that this will come into the fore with Lars Dalgaard looking to focus on the on-demand business for the whole of SAP. I don’t think the on-premise side of things interests a visionary like Lars, especially with an increased role to play in on-demand.


I think the bottom line is that there is no evidence that SAP want to end the Nakisa partnership. SAP have already invested a lot in Nakisa’s solutions (ok, not quite $3.4bn!) and now the acquisition of SuccessFactors provides customers with a choice of either on-premise (existing SAP HCM along with Nakisa) and on-demand (SuccessFactors) solutions. Nakisa remain a key strategic partner for SAP and I don’t believe anything will change for Nakisa in the mid-term and possibly the long-term. For me I don’t think there is any reason for on-premise SAP HCM customers to fear in terms of investing in or getting support for SOVN or STVN solutions.

You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
  • Great article Luke as there are many unknowns until the deal closes and SAP provides some specific clarity on their roadmap.

    It will be good for us to look back a year from now and see how accurate we were but it takes a lot of guts provide the community with some strong view points so kudos for that.

  • Luke. I agree with many of your points made. SAP already has multiple customers using the OnPremise solution for talent management. I don’t see these companies ripping and replacing many of those solutions. I think it is in the best interest of SAP to have a fully qualified HCM solution for OnDemand and OnPremise. This in my mind means means they need to make the OnPremise talent management as good as the OnDemand talent management. In reverse, the OnDemand core HR functions like payroll etc. need to be made as good as the OnPremise functionality. So it is a 2 way street. The interesting question to me will be where the consultants that do talent management focus their future efforts? As we know, there are different skillsets for implementing OnDemand versus OnPremise. Also, I don’t see top dollars been paid for OnDemand since the “implementation”, in my experience anyway, is done by the vendor. This is what haapened when we integrated SuccessFactors and SAP. SuccessFactors did the implementation. So I see those $100+ per hour rates going away for the OnDemand model
    • Hi Howard,

      Thanks for your comments and I’m glad you agree (e.g. I’m glad I wasn’t talking complete rubbish!).

      I agree that SAP needs to have both an OnDemand and OnPremise solution and my discussions with SAP have indicated that this is the way they wish to go, particularly as some of their customers simply do not want to go to OnDemand. Period.

      It’s very interesting in what you say about implementing SF. I got the impression that it’s very vendor driven and it’s mor about integration, which definitely isn’t going to make many consultancies push it. That said, many consultancies cannot implement Nakisa’s solutions with the vendor so there isn’t really a benefit from going either way in that respect.

      Thanks for your comments and best wishes for the festive season and new year! It’ll be an interesting year for us I feel! 🙂

      Best regards,


  • I think it’s also worth pointing out that SAP will start distributing the Nakisa org charting component without (as per my understanding) any additional licensing as part of the MSS AddOn 1.0 (MSS in Web Dynpro ABAP) solution – which should be GA any day now.

    I think Nakisa will be part of the solution for a while yet 🙂

    • Hi Chris,

      That’s an excellent point and one that had slipped my mind while writing this. The NAkisa OrgChart MSS add-on is actually already available with EhP5, so many people moving towards portal based processes (like SAP HCM Talent Management is) will be familiar with the Nakisa UI. This certainly makes adoption of the SuccessionPlanning solution much easier.

      Thanks for your comments and have a great Christmas and new year!

      Best regards,


  • After having a chance a reflect on my viewpoint regarding SAP ending their partnership with Nakisa I dont believe that is correct.

    It is important to note that SAP has organized roadshow worldwide in the last year to heavily promote both Nakisa and EFM which strongly help push the product to customers. Given the cost the extra licensing costs this is a not a product that sells itself in most cases.

    I find it very hard to believe that SAP will not be using a majority of their marketing energy to promoting SuccessFactors products going forward which do have some overlap with Nakisa.

    I also think that SAP will focus a majority of their energy on fully integrating SuccessFactors with OnPremise (smartly so) and other major project like the core renovation which will call into question what will be left for OnPremise products and 3rd party product may come even after that.

    So the combination of not being heavily promoted, having a competing talent management product being marketed and potentially not a lot of new development could slow the adoption of Nakisa’s talent management offering EVEN if it offers a more robust product offering. For true experts like Luke there will be lots of work for many  years but hard to see Nakisa growing their SAP footprint as rapidly as they have moving forward.

    • Hi Jarret,

      Thanks for taking the time to post 2 comments on my blog. It’s only fair to say that any man who holds up his hand in public and says “I was wrong” is a true gentleman.

      I do think your updated view point is fairly accurate and I think I’d picked up on the fact that while SAP probably have no plans for putting SF on-premise (this is what I’m hearing at present) if they decide to do that then it will definitely be difficult to sell Nakisa solution.

      However, given the difference in the solutions and how tightly integrated the on-premise Nakisa solution is, there is definitely a long way to go for SF to catch up Nakisa in those areas. I think there’s definitely some legs left in Nakisa and I think this will help drive innovation in the product suite. Any further innovation is going to hamper SF who will no doubt put their efforts in to true SAP integration for the on-deman solution.

      For me the main difference is the fact that SF is only Talent Management and Nakisa also offer 4 OM solutions and a BI solution. This is definitely a good selling point for SAP because even they don’t offer solutions that are as good as these (OrgChart, OrgModeler, DataQualityConsole and OrgManager).

      There are definitely interesting times ahead! Thanks for your comments and best wishes for the festive period and new year.

      Best regards,


  • Hi Luke,

    Great analysis. Thanks for sharing your input. My last client had an interesting mix of all these products. They have SAP HCM with core modules and Nakisa for Org Chart. Recently SF was added as the the talent management suite only when SAP announced the acquisition 🙂 . That would be an interesting road map for HCM internally for them.

    • Hi Sanghamtira,

      Thanks for your comments. I had a meeting with the owner of Talent Management solutions at SAP yesterday and they admitted that it would be an interesting challenge!

      Best regards,


  • Hi Luke,

    Very interesting post. He dates 3 years back – what gives some very interesting insights. We can see nowadays SAP is still on the partner listing – like you thought it would be. I am not sure if Oracle was 3 years back (it is now).

    While Nakisa is not excluded from a partnership with SAP, it is SF that is pole positioned by SAP in the race for customers. Logic, and also in line with your blog above.

    Best regards,


  • Hi Luke,

    Just a quick question. I really liked your article. I have 3 years of retail experience however, I want to do my Employee Central Certiifcation (Successfactors). Would this be a good time to do this? Also, I’m from a commerce background have no coding background. I’m looking to become a functional consultant. Please advise.