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How will you glue it all together?

Integrating HCM With SuccessFactors

Companies and corporations are actively exploring the options offered by cloud solutions, and as they do so – either by corporate mandate, compelled by HR strategy or upon IS/IT request, HCM often is a strategic first consideration, because of HR’s visibility across the organization, extensive reach and standard processes.

Adding new applications to an existing landscape shifts the project focus from process rendition and system customization to the best ways to connect SaaS tools with on-premise toolsets. The multiplicity of tools available to do this are often confusing and unclear.  This paper proposes an outline of the choices, depending on the environment and strategy.

  Fig1.pngFig. 1

As you read this blog, you have probably already seen the image above, and spent some time wondering about the best way, if there is a best way, or what approach makes the most sense for your company. While there is no cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all approach, my opinion is that integration is the differentiator.

Integration is critical because in each of these three outlined situations (Hybrid, Side-by-Side and Full Cloud), the processes must be assembled end-to-end. In a classic HR management approach (see fig. 2), all the HR process areas are linked together – data flows from one process to the next, as well as from HR processes to almost all corporate functions.

  Fig2.pngFig. 2

When we look at the processes from a system point of view, it is easy to see the need to facilitate data circulation across all technological barriers, keeping in mind three areas of integration:

  • Data: ensuring that data is available where it is needed, without  multiple data entry, bypassing the related waste of time, low user acceptance and poor data quality
  • Processes: aligning internal processes and synchronization of operations in real time
  • User Experience: ensure that users can access system(s) with a unified, logical approach, leveraging Single Sign On, and provide a standard, similar UI look and feel.

Yet, there is still a surprising lack of clarity when it comes to figuring out what tools (middleware) can be used or should be used in each different options.

In other words, what is a “Productized Integration”, and what is in that gray box in fig. 3 below?

Fig3.pngFig. 3

In an over-simplification, the schema above summarizes the different tools supporting the SAP developed and maintained integrations. As the term iFlows, previously used to refer to these pre-defined data sets and tools, is being retired, going forward SAP has re-named these integrations Productized Integration.

Option 1: The Hybrid approach

The hybrid option has been adopted by many customers, synchronizing the core of HR to a set of talent applications in the cloud. Combining SaaS technologies with an on-premise environment can be seen as the best of both worlds, and a method to move HR to the cloud in a gradual and controlled wa; addressing specific strategic pain points, companies can start with any module of the suite and proceed at any future time with additional functionalities, in a completely modular way.

Thanks to the productized integration, the input of talent data into the core of ECC is a controlled operation.

What are my tool options?

The middleware options that can be adopted with a hybrid approach are:

  • FTP – File based integration. FTP was the first tool provided by SAP in the Add-On 1.0. It provides all required basic mappings and easy-to-use file extraction programs, resident on SAP ECC. Data extraction can be automated using batch jobs that then import data into the SuccessFactors environment.

As many of the Talent processes are run on a defined periodic base, this method is ideal for many situations, particularly if there is a roadmap with more ambitious modules and integration to be added at a later stage. Simple can be good.

  • SAP NetWeaver PI (Process Integration). PI is a process integration platform introduced by SAP to provide a single point of integration for all systems, without impacting the network of legacy systems that may exist. SAP PI is enabled on-premise, and is part of the systems put in place by a customer.

With cloud scenarios like SuccessFactors, PI can act as an exchange platform, and is a cost effective method if the customer already has the tool installed in its landscape.  PI licenses are paid based on data volume exchanges from SAP products to non-SAP. Since SFSF integration data is considered an SAP-to-SAP exchange, the data is “free”.

At the time of writing, over 4000 SAP customers are leveraging NetWeaver PI for their integration requirements (not all are using SuccessFactors applications).

  Fig4.pngFig. 4: NetWeaver PI

  • SAP HANA Cloud Integration – or HCI. This is the PI equivalent for the CloudProvided from a platform hosted in SAP HANA Cloud, HCI can support all kinds of integrations from cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-on-premise. The platform provides out-of-the-box connectivity support, security features and a core supporting routing, processing and transformation of messages (content).

Compare in Figure 4 and Figure 5 how the integration layer is situated in one case in the customer’s environment, and in the other in the SAP cloud.

  Fig5.pngFig. 5

*Common acronyms:

SAP ECC: ERP Central Component

FI – Finance

CO – Cost Center Accounting

HCM – Human Capital Management

CRM – Customer Relationship Management

SRM – Supplier Relationship Management

BW – Business Warehouse

Option 2: Full Cloud

In the Full Cloud approach, all HCM is in the SuccessFactors (…an SAP Company) cloud.

So wait, I hear a question: is integration still required? yes, and it is absolutely critical.

For most customers, Human Data is required by many activities, SAP modules and downstream systems. That makes HCM Systems the start of many processes across the ERP, with Specific data sets provided to support many processes, such as Finance or Travel Expenses. Data is passed along, and a mini-master is built to centralize the information, enabling Employee Central to act as the only system of record for all HR data maintenance.

There are multiple types of data that may be integrated, each with its specific data sets and functionality, including employee data replication, organizational data replication (such as enterprise structure and reporting lines), and cost center replication (from SAP FI to SFSF Employee Central). I personally counted several hundreds of use cases across the SAP ERP applications.

What are my tool options?

The middleware options with the Full Cloud approach are much more streamlined;  with Boomi as your choice, for 2 excellent reasons.

  • Boomi is packaged with the Employee Central tool, so as you get ready to install the Core of HR in the cloud you will realize you have free licenses.
  • Other options are not a good fit: SAP PI is an on-premise tool, not fitted to cloud-to-cloud integrations, and FTP cannot support the necessary process triggers.

HANA Cloud Integration (HCI) will be a tool of choice in the future, but the content is not available yet for this use case.

SAP HCI is expected to launch by the second half of 2015 as there are still functional gaps, and there will certainly be  beta customers, before the option is available to all. Today, HCI only supports Employee Central to third parties and partners integrations (such as Kronos), but not Employee Central-ECC. While its functionality overlaps with what is currently provided by Boomi, SAP communicate that the existing integrations developed with Boomi will remain supported long term, due to the large investments made both on SAP and customers.

Alternative tools can be used instead of Dell Boomi, but the licenses need to be purchased separately (MuleSoft and Cast Iron are examples); standard Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) designed by SAP can be used with both tools.

Option 2b, a tweak of this model: Employee Central Payroll

It is essential to understand that EC Payroll is in fact a hosted SAP HCM Payroll, with the same capabilities, complexities and integrations. Configurations should be mirrored as much as possible to facilitate the process, as formatting and aligning data is a requirement for a seamless integration. It is likely that multiple integrations will be required to cover the full HCM functionality.

The tools in this case can include:

  • Boomi, for the Employee Central integration, can be used as described above.
  • Application Link Enabling technology (ALE) when integrating Cloud Payroll to FI or other SAP ECC tools.
  • File based (FTP) in other cases
  • Others, depending on each specific customer landscape

Option 3: Side-by-Side

This medley solution could also be called crazy quilt. The flexibility of this solution is high, as you can mix and match ERP HCM with SuccessFactors’ Employee Central. This comes in two flavors:

  1. Consolidated: Employee Central is the system of record and SAP HCM is legacy – so all integrations are directed to upload data into EC. This situation is handled leveraging the same tools and processes as the Full Cloud approach.
  2. Distributed: The workforce is split between two different systems of record, with processes run in both systems for different populations; employee data is kept synchronized. Employee Central User Interface (UI) is the tool of choice for accessing Employee Self Services (ESS) and Manager Self Services (MSS) is used from on-premise HCM. This solution allows users to synchronize only ONE instance of SAP HCM.

Employee Data needs to be replicated from SAP HCM to Employee Central. This step can be accomplished using Boomi or alternative tools, and the standard data mappings must be reviewed, enhanced (if required), and confirmed. This solution is often adopted as an interim approach, to support a phased roll-out of cloud applications.

Appendix and references: HANA! Or, different products sometimes carry a similar name.

    • HANA – is an acronym for High Performance Analytic Appliance, and is a new type of database (or data platform) developed by SAP SE. Because of its architecture – column oriented, in-memory, relational  – it handles high transaction rates and complex query processing. In other words, it is fast, and can handle transactions; and because it is by definition real time, it can guarantee a higher data quality.
    • It can be installed on premise, or can be accessed as a cloud service. And this bring us to….
    • SAP HEC – or SAP Hana Enterprise Cloud is what happens when a customer wants to leverage HANA database for application, as a service. Set up as a private managed cloud, it allows to run all kind of SAP applications in a scalable and secure environment. It runs the Business Suite, and the sERP offering (Simple ERP), as it ramps up.
    • SAP HANA One is BI in the cloud and is limited to the query processing use cases.
    • SAP HCP – SAP HANA Cloud Platform takes the concept to a different dimension. Something like a cross between a HANA in memory data base, and a PI platform: it creates an environment for development or extension building on HANA, as well as for running said new applications. An extension for SuccessFactors applications enable customers to enhance and harmonize user experience, develop additional tools and deploy integrations.
    • SAP  HCI – HANA Cloud Integration is designed to connect cloud applications to SAP and non-SAP software. It leverages pre-build integration blocks to help accelerate go-live. It may eventually be included as part of the more extensive HANA Cloud Platform.

Tools and references

I can only suggest a use without moderation of any and all the following references:

SAP Service Marketplace

This content has been published earlier in separate chapters in:

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      Author's profile photo J. Pazahanick
      J. Pazahanick

      Very nice job with this blog and at the core integration is NOT easy for SAP and SuccessFactors customers as many get the impression (or are sold) plug and play and due to various factors they have to do a LOT of heavy lifting to make things "just work" like they expect.

      I also believe SAP/SF have made a strategic mistake by charging 7.5% of overall SF subscription for HCI especially when they have Boomi bundled with EC for example.  I ruffled some feathers with this blog over 2 and 1/2 years ago (time sure flies)

      The Real Truth about SAP and SuccessFactors Integration

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for the comment, Jarret. In many ways, this blog is a logical continuation of your one - and thanks for pointing that out.

      You are right with the cost. My goal in writing this blog was to provide some guidance about what tools make sense in each situation - and of course, $$$ come into the picture at some point.

      As for HCI, I am waiting for the delivery of SAP HCM content - the billing rules do change...

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Good Blog Chiara and valid comments Jarret. I think Dell Boomi will be used till the time HCI is available and Boomi is a time tested tool and available with EC so i am not sure how HCI will take over though i could see that some of the modules can be integrated only through HCI and not Boomi.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Chiara - you nailed it with "integration is the differentiator"! Greetings, Johannes

      Author's profile photo Luke Marson
      Luke Marson

      Good job with this Chiara!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks a lot, Luke. Appreciate the endorsement!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Awesome stuff! this is my day in and day out work at SAP. but it's great to have one place where I can reach out for any information I need. Your blog is Right on!!

      Author's profile photo Thomas Neuhauser
      Thomas Neuhauser

      This blog is outdated.

      Please find updated information about integrations between SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and SAP Business Suite here: