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The Development Plan in SAP HCM Talent Management

In EhP4 when SAP introduced the revamped Talent Management and Talent Development module they bought in a new Development Plan. Confusion has reigned ever since about what value this development plan offers, since its concept differs from the “traditional” development plan found in Performance Management. In this blog, I will attempt to provide some insight and answers into the concept of this “new” development plan.

What is the Development Plan?

The Development Plan allows Talent Management Specialists and managers to create development plans and track long-term development for those employees who are important to the operation of the business, potential leaders of the future and/or are successors to key positions. It is created by a Talent Management Specialist and then used by both Talent Management Specialists and managers of the employees for which it was created.


How does it differ from the Development Plan in Performance Management?

The Development Plan in Performance Management sets the yearly objectives for employees, while the Development Plan in Talent Management sets long-term development objectives for either a defined or undefined period and allows tracking, measuring and monitoring of development steps, and the actions that have been defined to complete the development steps.

You might wonder why a separate plan is really needed. If you consider that developing leadership competencies or grooming a potential successor for a key position is a long-term process then it becomes obvious that a yearly development plan simply doesn’t afford the kind of functionality required to track or manage ongoing objectives that might take upwards of 3 years to complete. Since some potential successors might need a 3 or 5-year period to develop the skills and competencies that are required for them to be suitable to move into a planned role, it wouldn’t be possible to facilitate this with the Development Plan that is part of the Performance Management cycle.

The two development plans are not alternatives or are interchangeable – they are actually buddies that work hand-in-hand. The Development Plan in Talent Management defines a number of actions that are required to complete the development steps defined for the employee (= talent in SAP-speak), such as a mentoring role or a training course. The yearly Development Plan in Performance Management can be used to support the completion of these actions. In this way, development is being done in bit-size chunks year-on-year and contributing to the employee’s long-term development.

Let’s take a simple example. A Talent Management Specialist creates a development step for a specific employee to “Improve strategy execution” and this has several actions, such as “Take an executive coaching course” and “Increase business partner awareness of strategic initiatives”. The employee’s manager is preparing the yearly objectives for the employee and reviews their Development Plan. The manager decides that the employee’s yearly development plan should contain “Take an executive coaching course” and “Arrange quarterly meetings with the regional Business Partner to discuss the department’s ongoing strategy”. The manager contacts the Talent Management Specialist responsible for their area and discusses the development plan suggestions. The Talent Management Specialist agrees and these can now form part of the yearly development plan. The following year, other actions of the development step can be incorporated into the yearly development plan.

By performing this type of development planning essentially means that organizations are performing planned long-term development instead of undergoing short-term, uncorrelated and sometimes spontaneous and unprepared development activities that don’t necessarily support the progression of an individual’s competencies or align with the strategic goals of the organization. In order for the organization’s long-term goals to be met, development must be planned long-term and must align with those goals. This simply cannot be achieved solely with the Development Plan in Performance Management – a long-term view is needed to ensure that talent is developed in line with the long-term needs and goals of the organization.

Why can’t the employee access the Development Plan?

Since Talent Management activities can often be sensitive and there is a high risk of jeopardizing the long-term development of a successor or leader, it is not common for some or all of this information to be disclosed to candidates for succession or leadership positions. Some development actions will be made known in the yearly Development Plan in Performance Management and it is up to the Talent Management Specialist and Manager to decide how much information they provide to the individual about the long-term development plan. This kind of strategy will vary from organization to organization, but generally there is a gradual increase in divulging this type of information to the employee. For the employee, it is important that they concentrate on achieving their short-term development plan objectives, as well continue to perform within their current role. It is best not to derail an employee by informing them too early that they are a candidate for other, more senior positions.

What are the features of the Development Plan in SAP HCM Talent Management?

The Development Plan is a fairly simple application and makes setting up a Development Plan quick and easy. Technically, the Development Plan is an assessment form document and is configured as an open-ended document (e.g. with an end date of 31.12.9999) that can be closed once completed.

The Talent Management Specialist creates a Development Plan in the Talent Information application and this automatically makes it available to the Manager via the Talent Profile for Managers and Talent Management Specialists (read-only) and in the Talent Assessment application in MSS. Both parties can freely update the document once it is created. When creating the Development Plan, the Talent Management Specialist can define a number of Development Steps freely or based on a qualification from the qualification catalog. For each Development Step the Talent Management Specialist can define a number of Actions that the employee needs to complete in order to complete the overall Development Step. Progress of each Development Step and Action can be tracked and updated as required by either the Manager or Talent Management Specialist.

MSS+TMS - Talent Profile - Development Plan.png

Actions defined in Development Steps cannot be transferred to the Development Plan in Performance Management. It is up to the business to discuss which actions are needed on the Development Plan in Performance Management and how they are approached both on the plan and when discussed with the employee. Some actions may be altered slightly when added to the Development Plan in Performance Management to reflect the short-term life of this development plan.


The Development Plan in SAP HCM Talent Management is a valuable tool for creating, tracking and managing the long-term development of key talents within the organization. Alongsidethe Development Plan in Performance Management, the Development Plan can facilitate the management and execution of the long-term development of an employee in an organized and forward-thinking fashion. Instead of thinking short-term, this enables the organization to think long-term about development of the most important assets in their businesses and ensure that development is aligned with the goals of the organization.

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    • Thanks Jarret – it’s much appreciated. I hope the community find some value in it, since I know there is some confusion over the use of the 2 development plans. Obviously for top level consultants this is not a problem, but there are many junior consultants out there who might not understand the difference.

  • This is a really good, clear plain English summary of the functionality.

    Thanks Luke!

    Now let me point out some of the problems I encounter with this functionality! 😏

    The biggest problem with Dev plans are that they are static and do not automatically respond to changes in the employee’s state. For example, the employee gets promoted to a position that they have been marked as a successor for, the development plan needs to be manually updated to cater for this new information. There isn’t a automatic prompt (as far as I know – would like to find out if there is 🙂 )

    Likewise, reporting on and tracking of/notification due to overdue goals is not as simple as it should be. The ability to use the details of the development plan in talent management is fairly limited – breaking down into the sections of the plan is best shown by actually opening the plan, making employee to employee comparisons tricky (this ability to for example nine-box on component of the plan can be achieved, but not as easily as I would like.)

    Another problem is where employees are supposed to be allowed to view their plans, there really isn’t a simple way to allow this! One could argue that employee based dev plans should be found as performance management appraisals, but then those do not tie in well to the talent management side. If you have a company that is committed to openness with its employees (probably very few large companies are there right now, but plenty of smaller and rapidly growing companies are) then you have to do some creative work to allow this development plan to be open.

    Have you come across any other restrictions/issues that have caused you problems in the past? Or have you perhaps come across some of the ones I have here, and found simple solutions for them?

    Thanks for a really useful and readable blog.

    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comments. You make some excellent points about the potential challenges associated with the TM Development Plan. I didn’t cover these enough in my blog, although I always try to be positive 🙂 🙂 .

      The integration of the Development Plan is fairly poor; I mentioned in the blog that development steps and actions cannot be automatically transferred and you make a good point about the document being static. One of the biggest things missing from this feature is integration with other talent modules, such as Performance Management and Succession Planning. I wish there was some workflow or reminder mechanism (a la Outlook) to force managers and the TMS’ to keep on top of the tracking part of the Development Plan.

      I know of a workaround to get the Development Plan to become available to employees, but it is tricky and unnecessary really – there should be a customizing switch to allow this. Most organizations I work with are fairly large, so they haven’t opened this up to their employees – but I have heard of other cases where this has prove a sticking point.

      Generally – and quite surprisingly – most of my clients have had no qualms about the functionality. Some would like more integration, but they understand that their TMS teams have to have regular discussions with managers and, in reality, they often discuss and make changes to the Development Plan form.

      As I mentioned above, my biggest bugbear is the lack of integration to and from the Development Plan. I would love for an option to transfer competency gaps discovered during/after creation of a succession plan to be available on the Development Plan form and then for a TMS to be able to automatically move one or two options straight to the PMP development plan.

      Nakisa are releasing a development planning solution later this year and I am hoping it will solve a number of the issues we face. I don’t think the PMP integration will be there, but we might see some of the other issues resolved.

      Best regards,


  • Thanks for your Excellent value added information for the learners-Talent Management.

    Appreciated and looking forwarded your further post 🙂

    Thank You.


  • Hi Luke,

    Like the others I agree that the information you provided was very helpful. When working with clients I find that they use the Performance Development plans for all employees in the organization and then they utlize the Talent Development plans for only those employees that are considered High Potential/Top Talent etc. It’s a little bit of an overlap and some extra admin activities from a manager’s perspective but overall it’s useful. I also agree about using workflow as a reminder. I’m not certain if workflow is used at all in Talent Management (or at least I couldn’t find it) and I know it’s not used in Nakisa so I think it would be helpful if we could have some type of workflow functionality in the future.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your comments. I believe workflows can be activated for parts of Talent Management, but there isn’t really such ones that I’ve seen for the Development Plan.

      Best regards,


  • Thanks Luke for the insights.

    May I know does it offer any I integration with LSO module?

    As such there’s no Development Plan available with LSO. During Training need analysis, too we need to view existing Development Plan.



  • Hi Luke, Thank you very much for your blog. it helps me a lot through my journey implementing talent management module.

    I just knew that employee cant see the development plan ( as Chris Paine said above ). And my client is one of rapidly growing companies that allow employee to see their development plan, especially the candidate of talent.

    is there a way so  that the employee can see the development plan?



    • Hi Atria,

      I think there’s a way you can do a huge amount of customization to make it possible, but it’s not the intention of the program.

      Best regards,