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Comparing HR Renewal to Employee Central- Part 2- A Platform Primer


Author’s Note: I am going to push the “pause” button on this series for a few months.  My presentation comparing the Employee Central and HR Renewal was accepted for ASUG/SAPPHIRENOW and I want to debut the material there.  You can register for the conference at  Hope to see you there!

Welcome to part 2 in our series where we are discussing SAP’s HCM go-forward strategies—HR Renewal and Employee Central.

In part 1 we laid some groundwork: explained who the blog series is for and defined our objectives. In this installment we are going to compare the architectural foundation of the two solutions.

HR Renewal (and the rest of on-premise SAP HCM) are based on traditional client-server architecture while Employee Central is based on cloud, multitenant HCM.  To explain the difference, please indulge me an analogy.  It involves two shipbuilders who specialize in transatlantic vessels, Onpremise Oversea, Inc. and Multitenant Maritime, Inc.:

Onpremise Oversea

Ship builder Onpremise Oversea builds yachts.   Nice yachts.


Onpremise Oversea takes great pride in listening to its customers and tailoring the yachts to their wishes.  Moreover, customers can add in their touches after delivery—maybe some new brass railings or diving up the cabins in different ways, or possibly even adding a whole deck on their own.  Onpremise Oversea builds a new version of yachts every year.  Each year the technology and the craftsmanship improve.  The shipbuilder will even retrofit a lot of the changes into the older vessels.  But some of the owners of the older ships don’t or won’t take the time to incorporate the changes.  Onpremise Oversea has enormous knowledge of ships after working with customers for so long.  They have great plans for innovations, but they aren’t as fast as they would like because Onpremise Overseas spends so much time servicing so many old models of boats.  They  employ a fleet (pun intended) of naval engineers to help their existing yacht customers maintain seaworthy vessels.  While they are innovative in their own right, Onpremise Oversea must be very deliberate when incorporating new shipbuilding technology in order to ensure that the changes they introduce don’t adversely impact their customers’ existing yachts. 

Multitenant Maritime

Now, let’s visit another shipbuilder Multitenant Maritime.  Instead of building yachts, Multitenant Maritime decided to build a cruise ship.

cruise ship.jpg

The cruise ship takes a while to build. Instead of getting their own yacht, customers are given a stateroom.  The staterooms are very customizable (different décor, different layouts), but otherwise the customers cannot alter the cruise ship itself.   Multitenant Maritime is constantly adding in new elements to the ship: a rock climbing wall, a waterslide, and state of the art navigation.  Moreover, last year when the technology for ship engines takes a quantum leap forward, the cruise ship builder was able to swap out the engine one time and all of the companies immediately are treated to a faster trips across the Atlantic.  While customers do complain about the lack of autonomy that comes with a cruise ship, they appreciate that they no longer have to employ their own captains and yacht repairmen.  The midnight buffets don’t hurt either.

While this analogy isn’t perfect, hopefully it furthers your understanding of why multitenant is gaining such popularity with solution providers and some customers.  It also illustrates two of the pervasive differences that we’ll see between HR Renewal and Employee Central based on their platforms:

  • Employee Central can do lots of things.  But if Employee Central can’t do it, it can’t do it.   With On Premise, you can always customize to do that extra thing.*  Not to say that Employee Central doesn’t have flexibility.  It does, as we will see.  Just means that where the walls are they are hard walls.
  • If Employee Central and HR Renewal can’t do something, it’s much more likely that Employee Central will be able to include the new thing more rapidly. Not only is it easier Employee Central to add in the innovations owing to its multitenant environment, but customers have to do (almost) nothing to take advantage of upgraded functionality when it’s added.  Contrast this to the lengthy upgrade install and testing cycle that many customers face with on premise.

Bottom Line

Hopefully this explains the fundamental difference: absolute flexibility on the HR Renewal side versus rapid innovation on the Employee Central side.  Understanding this difference is extremely important when deciding which direction makes sense for your organization.

So enough pontificating! In the next blog we will start with a high-level functional overview of the two products.

Authors Note: The next blog in this series will probably be delayed for a couple of weeks.  I am working with SAP to get clarification on the direction of HR Renewal/Fiori.  I don’t want to put out the next blog until I am clear on this as I don’t want to cause any confusion.

* Whether you should customize to do the extra thing is an entirely different question.  Searching SCN you can find plenty of blogs on this subject!

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  • Hi Brandon,

    Good explanation of the fundamental difference between a On-Premise and Cloud solution...  I was hoping to see the blog address some functionalities between the two options but I guess your point here to explain the difference between Cloud and On-Premise solution... And most importantly, if "something" is lacking then there is a good chance that Employee Central will get first preference when compared to HR Renewal...

    Hoping to see more on the differences and similarities between both options...

    • Harshal-

      Thanks for the comments.  Stick with me.  We will start looking a the functionalities starting in the next blog in the series!

      • Yes, I am waiting for the next series... BTW... I picked up your book on Self Services... Just got it in hand about an hour ago... will be going through the book in coming weeks...

  • Hi Brandon,

    I loved the concept of this series when I saw the first blog post! Haven't seen anyone take this type of approach and comparison and from reading this one it is clear that you are doing a great job of executing on this concept as well! Looking forward to reading the upcoming pieces!!



  • Hi Brandon,

    Loved the first two blogs in this series. Was anxious to read more, but this one written on 1/22/2015 is the last one I can find. Am I missing the others, or did you stop the series for some reason?