After working with XML (Extensible Markup Language) data models, I thought that a blog covering the SuccessFactors data models would be helpful to the community. This is not intended to be a crash course on XML (see the W3 Schools XML Tutorial to get an understanding of XML), rather I want to enlighten you about XML data models and eradicate any fears in understanding them. All of the XML Gurus out there may find this an over simplified version but the goal is exactly that; to start from the basics for XML novices.
So let’s start by seeing why XML? The following picture summarizes the key benefits of using XML.
Now let us compare with how it complements the design of Employee Central and for that matter any of the solutions in the BizX suite that leverage XML data models. The value proposition of SuccessFactors BizX suite is founded on the following principles:
- Ability to progressively advance product features
- The organic design warrants a platform where making changes is not time consuming and with minimal retrospective compatibility challenges
- Align the existing features with enhancements being requested by customers
XML is the preferred language to deliver the above-mentioned values to customers. All of this makes for an exciting world for a SuccessFactors consultant!
So let’s look at some of the frequently used data models in Employee Central. The Employee Central chapter in the SAP Press book SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM will cover this topic in more detail.
Before we step further, here are a few basics:
- What is the best XML editor?
- There are a number of choices, I compared Oxygen and XMLspy and settled for Oxygen, works perfect for my dear Mac Users.
- XML parser in Oxygen is more effective and you don’t have to wait to see errors until you are uploading the data model in Provisioning. It is easier to troubleshoot errors when you are validating your XML.
- Oxygen support is responsive, I have troubleshooted with their help!
- Do I need to know HTML, XSLT, coding etc. etc.?
- No you don’t, these data models use DTDs (Document Type Definitions).
- You generally should not have to tinker with these but I have had to add a number of attributes after the 1302 release.
- What is a DTD?
- A DTD is a document type definition that defines the document structure and elements of your XML. For example, if a new hris-element is introduced in a new release and the DTD does not contain that element or any related attributes you will receive errors that you cannot move past.
- What do I have to do after I have defined the customer’s requirements in the data model?
- In Provisioning upload the data models to your customer’s instance. Any errors that may not have been caught by the XML parser will be caught here so don’t be alarmed if you see errors here.
- The most frequent mistake is trying to upload a data model through the wrong link in Provisioning. Unfortunately currently you don’t see an error but the processing will happen endlessly before you wake up and realize your mistake.
Now that you know all that you need to know about data models and DTDs let us cruise through the 4 main data models used in Employee Central. There are 3 others used for workflow, rules, and Propagation.
Note: Propagation is the feature in Employee Central that allows for foundation data to be automatically populated on the HR data objects. For e.g. if you stored the time zone on the location foundation object, you can build a propagation such that the time zone is automatically changed on employee data based on the value of location selected.
1. Corporate Data model
- Used to define the organizational structure
- The foundation objects are configured here
- There are standard hris-elements that you work with in this data model. Each element in turn has standard and custom fields with attributes that determine their behavior on the UI.
- Associations are built in this data model
- Below is an example of a corporate data model showing the Company code hris-element. The attributes defined determine the UI behavior visibility determines whether the field is edit, view or both. “Required” determines if the field is mandatory or optional. The following is the text view in the Oxygen XML editor.
2. Country Specific (CSF) Corporate Data model
- You define the country specific features for elements already defined in the corporate Data model
- This data model comes with some standard delivered localization elements like National ID etc.
- You have to define a hris-element in the Corporate data model in order to specify the country specific behavior for that element
- Below is an example of the country Specific Corporate Data model showing a few countries and delivered hris-elements. You can add any hris-element defined in the Corporate data model to add country specific requirements. The following is the grid view in the Oxygen XML editor.
3. Succession Data model
- You define the HR data (Person and Employment) in this data model. This data model is called “data model” in Provisioning
- With the rapid advancement of the Meta data framework customers can configure most of the elements on the OneAdmin UI
- Below is an example of the personalInfo hris-element in XML
d. The same element can be configured in the Metadata Framework via OneAdmin UI by going to Manage Business Configuration
4. Country Specific (CSF) Succession Data model
- The country specific succession data model is used to define country specific requirements for elements defined in the succession data model
- For example, if you want to define US specific fields to store Global Info you will do that in the Country Specific (CSF) succession data model, similar to the CSF Corporate data model
You will be working most frequently on the standard hris-elements hence selecting them for discussion. There are a number of things you can do with the background elements in the Succession Data model, such as create custom views for the client and it is synced with the Employee profile and other integrated products of the BizX suite.
I hope this blog helps to unravel some of the mystery and open questions in your mind with regard to data models and gives clarity of thought if you are one of the many SAP consultants looking to transition to SuccessFactors. Your openness to the new way of doing things in the SuccessFactors world will determine your success. Use your SAP expertise to design the architecture that is right for your clients. The transition to SuccessFactors does not require letting go of skills, but acquiring new skills and using both in synergy to deliver value to customers and make them efficient and profitable with an engaged workforce.