About 18 months ago, I joined SuccessFactors as Product Manager for Employee Central. I came from Gartner, where I’d researched HR technology for several years. Gartner and Forrester Research are rivals, but the relationship between analysts is generally cordial. I’ve met Paul Hamerman on a number of occasions, one involving baseball, a game he knows almost as well as he does HR technology. When my colleagues asked me to be involved in responding to the Forrester Wave, I was doubly curious. Firstly, I wanted to see how our product would be perceived today, and also I was interested in how Paul ran the process.

Forrester made a decision to only evaluate SaaS vendors in “The Forrester Wave: SaaS HR Management Systems, Q4 2014.” While many organisations continue to deploy on-premise HRMS technologies, the victors and also-rans in that market are clear.  There are exceptions in some geographies and industries, but the new business is in the cloud.  Tools like the wave are designed to help organisations evaluate new system choices, so the decision to focus on SaaS HRMS in this wave makes perfect sense. 

For several years SuccessFactors has led in the integrated Talent Management space.. However, this is the first report from a major analyst firm that evaluates Employee Central and our other products against the competition in SaaS HRMS. The last report was over 2 years ago, and in that time, much has changed.[1] 

3 years ago, when I first saw Employee Central, I felt it had immense promise, while recognising there was work to do. Over the last 2 years, we have massively accelerated the breadth and depth of the EC product. That trajectory was made possible by the design decisions of the SuccessFactors Architect and Product Manager, both of whom still work on our products. I’m especially thankful to our early customers, who helped forge what the product is today. Our position in the Wave is a vindication for us of that collaboration and of SAP’s decision to acquire and invest in SuccessFactors.

The future looks bright. The insight we glean from our customers, SAP’s unrivalled global reach, and the SuccessFactors “nothing is impossible attitude” sets the stage for this product to achieve even greater success in the cloud than SAP has today in on-premise.  More than ever I am convinced that the combination of SuccessFactors and SAP has created something rather special. 

Permit me to give those evaluating software the same advice I gave when I was an analyst. Use the research as a starting point, but set evaluation criteria that work for your organisation.  Spend time talking to the analyst to understand what they don’t write in the report. Look the people that build and deploy the product in the eye. Talk to customers and partners. Consider integration to the rest of the business, and understand the vendor’s vision and gauge their ability to deliver on that vision. A decision you make today about your Core HRMS platform will be with your organisation for at least a decade.  Evaluate Trajectory, not just a point in time.

I would like to thank Forrester and Paul for a rigorous and robust evaluation. I’m already looking forward to the next one.


[1] Source: The Forrester Wave(TM): Human Resource Management Systems, Q1 2012, Forrester Research, Inc., January 25, 2012.

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6 Comments

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  1. Jarret Pazahanick

    Excellent blog Thomas and I think your final paragraph is a must read for every customer considering making a new HR technology purchase.  I loved the “decade” comment as well as many think that because of the SaaS subscription model it is easy to change vendors but in reality core HRMS projects are complex and there is some lock in with the vendor that customers pick.

    I wrote about SuccessFactors Employee Central almost a year ago in this blog My Thoughts on SuccessFactors Employee Central (and am due for a follow up) but I have been extremely impressed with the speed and the amount of new functionality that has come in the past year.  While there is a long road ahead and additional functionality needed (as there is for the competitors offerings as well) I feel that EC has the least technical debt of any SAP/SF offering and it shows with the amount of new functionality that is being released and will continue to come and that should matter to customers.

    Lastly, I know that SAP/SF cannot share major customer wins unless they have permission of those customers (which is sometimes challenging) but I can tell you have been extremely impressed with some of the big names and big customers that have chosen EC over the past several months so there is some real momentum in the offering.

    I made a choice to focus on EC and ECP shortly after you joined as I saw the trends toward SaaS based HR offering especially in North America, felt you would make a real difference, understood SAP had to make a huge investment given competitive pressure and glad to see the “trajectory” is going in the direction I expected.

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  2. Luke Marson

    Top stuff Thomas and like Jarret I made the move into Employee Central around the time of your appointment when I noticed the direction in which the market would shift. I have written numerous articles and performed multiple Q&As on Employee Central and have watched both the product and market grow. This trajectory is – to a large extent – down to you, your team, and the teams looked after by Marty Pitkow and Steve Schnoll, among others. There are many players throughout SAP and SuccessFactors that have helped drive the product along and fully expect to see continued growth over the next few years. I am extremely excited to be involved with this and look forward to continuing to support you and your colleagues in the goal of making Employee Central the #1 cloud core HRIS.

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  3. Himanshu Kapoor

    That’s certainly a great blog Thomas. There is no question that SF as a product had remarkably grown in last year and half which reflects the commitment and determination by SAP/SF team. There had been a lot of doubts and speculations over flexibility or sustainability of cloud HCM software in the market after SAP’s acquisition. But the continuous innovation and ongoing developments from you guys has really helped SF to emerge as a more mature product and has knocked down all the critics.  Glad to be a part of this journey of transformation. Thanks to all of you to bring such great insights and discussions in various forums.

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  4. Morgan Zhang

    I think Employee Central is a great core HR product for many companies who has fast growth in China, but the price in RMB is expensive and that will be a big obstacles for the wide use of EC in China.

    Recently we have a prospect in retail industry with more than 2000 employees have to choose SAP HCM instead of  SF Employee Central because of the price.


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