The Reality of Integrating SAP HCM with (anything)
The buzz around integrating core SAP HCM with SuccessFactors is spreading fairly far and wide these days. About half my clients have mentioned they are ‘looking into SuccessFactors’ – often at the urging of their SAP accounts reps it seems. Integrating these two pieces of HR software so that clients get real value instead of real headaches is challenging, but not impossible. SAP HCM consultants have been integrating the product with other HR systems their whole careers; I’m not quite confident that developers without that experience can create an effective integration model. And the ease with which clients will be able to take advantage of any sort of integration pack from SAP will primarily depend on how well they have stuck to SAP’s delivered HR data model. I’ll explain why.
Every SAP HCM implementation project contains significant tasks for data conversion from the old HRIS and interfaces with various other systems. The technical part of these tasks isn’t so complicated but the data model mapping sure can be. I’ve worked with clients to convert historical data from almost every legacy HRIS platform into SAP HCM, and most of that work is determining how to translate the legacy data model to that in SAP. For example, we have to determine how to map the data from an Integral system into an SAP system with Concurrent Employment, or from PeopleSoft into SAP HCM, or Tesseract, JD Edwards, Infor – pick a vendor. They each have different data models. Mapping from system X to SAP HCM is something SAP HCM consultants do often.
The other type of data model mapping we do is to support interfaces from SAP HCM to other providers, and every implementation has them: external TM systems, Talx, Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, Schwab, ADP and even internal systems. And they all want it their way – we can’t just send unfiltered and unformatted infotype changes to them and there is a dreadful lack of standards among vendors. Most of the time we are mapping to a flat-file type of structure, but the main task is still to determine how to map SAP HCM objects to and from the target system. When this isn’t done well, issues abound! It really does benefit clients to put good effort into making sure the data models are mapped well before coding anything.
If every SAP HCM client implemented the software the same, this wouldn’t be so big of a task. Do it once and reapply. But of course, SAP HCM gives clients a lot of flexibility and many of them stretch that to the limit. And honestly, some get poor consulting that leads to poor implementations of the SAP HCM data model. I’ve seen OM and PA infotypes misused in many implementations and just all messed up. And once clients have production data and processes in place, it’s difficult to straighten out those data model issues. Difficult but not impossible.
So as I think about SAP and SuccessFactors creating a comprehensive real-time integration model, those real-world issues and experiences come to mind. If they deliver something that is developed to fit a perfect-world situation then there may be a lot of unmet expectations from clients, and considerable consulting effort needed to make it work. I hope they learn from the consulting community about how their systems have been implemented in the wild, and build those lessons into the integration functionality they choose to deliver. Clients will sure benefit more from the latter approach.