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Successfactors in an hybrid model – Top 4 challenges you will face from customers

The Successfactors buyout is old news now. It has generated a lot of interest among customers, vendors and consultants alike. I believe most of the SI’s while submitting a response for an SAP HCM implementation are including Successfactors as an option.

Here I am trying to share what I think will be the top 4 challenges that will be faced by an SI while trying to propose Successfactors as a solution in an hybrid model. The points mentioned below are based purely on my personal experience and some inputs from other people in the industry.

On the bright side most customers seem very positive about what Successfactors has to offer in terms of user experience, mobility, etc however the key questions that they ask or what dissuades them from adopting Successfactor immediately are:

  1. Cost (Licenses): There is an additional cost involved in implementing Successfactors. It is not included within the licensing cost of implementing ECC. So if a customer has already invested in SAP Talent Management on premise, they will have to pay extra to implement Successfactors. Moreover they are not sure whether a minor tweak in the licensing model will increase their cost in the future. Remember in a cloud based application the licenses are based on subscription.
  2. Lack of Integration: Yes SAP and Successfactors have started in earnest the process to integrate the two products but we know seamless integration will take a good few years. There is also the precedent set by SAP while trying to integrate other products like Business Objects and Sybase. Customers are smart and they draw their conclusions based on past experience. They look at lack of integration as an additional deterrent.
  3. Lack of Customisation: It’s a fact that there is no ability to customize the Successfactors solution for a specific business requirement. This just makes the customers a bit uneasy when they compare the flexibility they have with on premise SAP. In this context I think some customers may be hasty in drawing a conclusion without doing a product evaluation but they do consider it as a disadvantage as opposed to what the cloud champions may want them to believe.
  4. Readiness: Cloud is not a fad and is becoming a reality but I am not sure whether most organisations are ready and have a roadmap for hosting their systems and applications on cloud. They know they will get there in the future but maybe not just yet. 

I would like to add the usual disclaimer that the above are just my personal views and not that of my employer’s. As always I will be  happy to hear from you about your viewpoints and experiences or if you would like to extend this list.

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      Author's profile photo Sujith E M
      Sujith E M


      Good effort

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Sujith

      Author's profile photo Jarret Pazahanick
      Jarret Pazahanick

      Enjoying your blogs and here are my thoughts

      1. Licensing - This is a very important topic especially around areas like Compensation where SAP ECM is a very solid offering that is included in the base user license as well as customers looking to "rip and replace" already running Talent Management offerings.

      2. Integration - SAP will get this right but think it will take longer than many of us (and customers) would like to see. The current integration is pretty weak but the roadmap points  to Q4 as delivering quite a bit.

      3.Lack of Customization - While it is true you will never be able to customize a SaaS vendor like SAP (and for many customers that is a GOOD thing) with SuccessFactors new MetaData Framework coming next year customers will be able to create objects that will have effective dating, reporting, security, translations, rule based validations and approvals within a configuration user interface and have the ability to import/export between environments. In the SAP world when new business requirement cause a change in the core it can often be very complex requiring configuration/development/conversions and from the functionality I saw SuccessFactors has planned it will be a lot easier.

      4.Readiness - I think with the inroads and Workday have made combined with the big push SAP and Oracle have made via acquisitions it is becoming obvious to customers that this is something they should be strongly considering

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Jarret.

      Agree that the licensing bit is as important for ECM as it is for E-recruitment. I have experienced it first hand.

      Re customisation while I personally think that in some cases not having complex technical development is good, its still a change for customers who have worked and enjoyed the flexibility on on-prem SAP.

      Thanks for sharing the info on metadata framework as well.

      Author's profile photo Chris Paine
      Chris Paine

      To carry on from Jarret's point. There is a certain amount of customising that can be carried out in SuccessFactors as it stands today, not withstanding the new framework that Jarret mentioned.

      I think there is a false belief that SaaS == no customising of solution.

      This is definitely not the case for modern SaaS solutions like SuccessFactors. I would certainly not describe as

      It’s a fact that there is no ability to customize the Successfactors solution for a specific business requirement


      as I do not believe this to be true. Even in the reduced functionality Professional Edition (for SMB market) of SuccessFactors there is the ability to adapt and customise to different business requirements.

      On the integration front, the current roadmap we have seen is for the greatest part of integration to be done by next year. There is still a bit of fuzziness about exactly (at a low level) will be delivered, but I think SAP and SuccessFactors team are aware of the wariness of the community around this area. I hope, and currently believe that it won't take "a good few years" but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

      thanks for putting your thoughts out there!



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comments.

      Re customization I am a bit surprised that one can customize the solution. We recently received a demo from someone at SFSF and they reiterated the statement that "Customization is not possible". what I learnt was that there is flexibility in terms of how the solution can be configured but there was no possibility for enhancing the solution through custom development. Can you please elaborate a bit more on what sort of customization is available as I am sure a lot of people will be interested to know.

      Secondly regarding integration, I attended a webinar last week, hosted by SAP America on the integration path for SAP and SFSF. I have added my comments  to the blog by Luke Marson  - .The roadmap that was shared with us only talks about as far as the first half of 2013 and this covers just Compensation and Recruiting from a process point of view.

      . Therefore I still believe it will be a few years before seamless integration will be available. I am more than happy to be proven wrong 🙂 as it will be in the customers interest to get this done as quickly as possible.



      Author's profile photo Jeremy Masters
      Jeremy Masters

      Hi Vinay,

      Nice post.. Also a few weeks back, I wrote on a few more challenges:

      Seems we have hit on a few common themes here. Great to hear another perspective.



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Jeremy,

      Loved your blog. You touch upon some some very important aspects around data model, concurrent employment and security. Workflow  and notification bit I think should be relatively easier for SAP to address.

      Regarding Usability and user experience, SAP and SFSF are in the process of addressing this even before the data model. SAP made available a single sign on cookbook which is now available on service marketplace -Media library. I also saw a demo where the SFSF talent management application were called from Netweaver portal and the user experience seemed pretty good.

      Thanks for the comments.


      Author's profile photo Jeremy Masters
      Jeremy Masters

      Hi Vinay,

      Thanks for the additional information. Looking forward to seeing more of the user experience/usability elements. I saw a demo "on device" at one of the conferences this year which ping-ponged between SAP and SFSF apps, and it was clear which apps were SAP and which were SFSF.  I will check out this cookbook, but it's more than SSO - I am talking more about navigation, taxonomy, look-and-feel, etc. But, as you say, it seems like SAP and SFSF is working on improvements in these areas.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Jeremy,

      If you are interested in watching the demo which was part of the webinar on SAP and SFSF integration then you may want to check this link, kindly shared by Vasiliy Baranovskiy.

      The demo which shows the integration side of things between SAP Netweaver portal and SFSF starts at about 47:50 mark.

      Author's profile photo Luke Marson
      Luke Marson

      Hi Vijay,

      This is a good blog.

      I think organizations will have to review licensing options carefully. SF requires licensing on a 3-year basis and when you look at some of the current on-premise solutions (such as Comp as mentioned by Jarret) versus what you have to pay for continuously with SuccessFactors then it can be tough for organizations to make the business case. Nakisa SuccessionPlanning is one-off license and in some cases can work out cheaper than licensing the entire SuccessFactors BizX suite. However, some organizations will almost certainly find cost savings from "outsourcing" their hosting costs to SuccessFactors, but other organizations who are tied in with big infrastructure organizations (CSC, Wipro etc) will find it much tougher to break those contracts - and a resistance from their partners who will get $0 for a switch to the cloud.

      I t hink we all know that integration will improve significantly in the coming years. SAP have confirmed that their long-term goal is to have real-time integration between the systems, but this requires architectural changes to SuccessFactors and SAP to achieve and thus SuccessFactors needs to be evolved as a product before hardcore integration can be introduced.

      I think Chris makes a good comment about the myth around "customization". I think with SuccessFactors you might be technically correct, because the software is "configured" rather than "customized" and there are many configurable options. I think configuration provides a number of selectable options versus customization which allows unlimited (but incredibly bastardized) options. This is a much safer option for organizations to maintain, but does stop certain compelx business requirements being met. For this reason I think on-premise will always remain - some organizations need a mature, customizable solution to meet their complex (or crazy) business requirements.

      I think your are spot on with readiness. A number of organizations just aren't ready for "cutting edge" solutions and services yet, even just the latest on-premise Talent Management technology.

      Good work with the blog and keep it up.

      Best regards,


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Luke,

      Thanks for the positive comments.

      Regarding customization or the lack of it in SFSF I had made a brief reference to this subject in my previous blog -

      and I think for organisations going down the route of cloud applications be it SFSF or Workday, it will be a decision they will have to make by keeping on balance  the benefits of a cloud application and its ability to meet complex business requirement.

      Thanks again. I am pretty encouraged by the views received from you and all the people above Jarret Pazahanick Chris Paine Jeremy Masters as it has helped me understand SFSF a bit more.