Updates to the SAP SuccessFactors release cycle for 2017
At SuccessFactors, we periodically review our release processes, specifically the schedule and frequency of software releases, to see how we can make it easier for customers to adopt the innovations we bring to market.
In 2015, we adjusted our quarterly release cycle to first apply releases to customer Preview/Test environments, and four weeks later, apply the same release to customer Production environments. This simplified the release process for customers who until then were either on a Standard or Premium release schedule. The new approach brought all customers on the same release schedule. This model also allows all customers to test release features in Preview environments over four weeks prior to the Production upgrade. Since this change, we have tracked customer activity in the Preview environments, and have seen that customers are indeed taking advantage of the opportunity to test new releases. For our Q3 2016 release, we tracked more than 27 million customer logins in the Preview environments prior to the Production upgrade.
In 2017, we will introduce a new adjustment to our release cycle. We will continue with the quarterly release schedule, but the Q1 and Q4 releases will have deliberately restricted content. In those releases we plan to only include features that are additive to existing functionality, generally opt-in by nature. And we do not plan to include redesigns of existing functionality in the Q1 and Q4 releases. So for example, we may release new features for Recruiting, Learning and Employee Central, but we will exclude architectural improvements for modules from the Q1 and Q4 releases. We are taking this approach to reduce the amount of regression and integration testing that customers perform. For the Q2 and Q3 releases, we will continue to include new functionality as well as architectural improvements to existing capabilities. We expect the Q2 and Q3 releases to be larger in content. And we generally expect that customer release testing will be lighter for the Q1 and Q4 releases, and more intensive for the Q2 and Q3 releases.
Why did we select Q1 and Q4 for lighter releases with only additive functionality? Why not have an alternating release schedule with one release lighter, next release heavier, and so on? Our choice of schedule is completely based on our observations of customer usage of our solutions. The most intense HR processes tend to be concentrated in Q4 and Q1 when most of our customers are conducting performance reviews/focal cycles, goal setting, compensation reviews, succession plans, and talent reviews. As a result, customers have lower capacity to perform deep testing of new releases in this period. On the other hand, customers tend to have more flexible capacity to test new releases in Q2 and Q3. These updates to the release cycle are part of the customer commitments we made at SuccessConnect 2016.
We anticipate that the Q2 release will likely be the largest in our calendar year, as that’ll be the first opportunity to introduce features and designs postponed from Q4 and Q1. The Q1 2017 release (known internally at SuccessFactors as “1702” because it will be deployed to customer Preview environments in February 2017) will be the first under this new model, with scope deliberately restricted to additive features only. And the Q2 2017 release (internally called “1705”) will be the first release of the year with both architectural changes and additive features.
I welcome your questions about the SuccessFactors release process, and your feedback on the 2017 release cycle as the year progresses.