From SAP HCM Techy to SF EC Learner: My Journey to SuccessFactors Employee Central Certification
Noob, fledgling, newbie, fresher, beginner, novice, learner, or FNG….call it what you will….I had made the big decision to not just “dip my toes” in SucessFactors (SF) Employee Central (EC), but to “dive in” wholeheartedly and pursue certification. This was by no means an easy choice for me!!!!
Briefly, I would describe my HR/HCM experience through the years as “very technical with enough functional knowledge to be dangerous”. Therefore, the very thought of “shifting” over to SF EC was daunting for me to say the least. My perception was that I would be starting fresh and have to forget all that I had learned during my many years of SAP work. Thankfully, I was very wrong. You can read more about the “transition” to EC in my other blog, The Transition to Employee Central from a SAP On-Prem Developer’s Perspective . During my study and training in preparation for my certification exam, I somehow had the presence of mind to keep track of it. I was actually curious just how long it would take to “go from zero to hero” so to speak. (haha) What follows is a chronological journal of my roughly 2 month journey to Employee Central certification…
DISCLAIMER! I am not saying this path is for everyone. I am “one of those” that although I have an end goal in mind, I will also follow side paths for a deeper understanding. For instance, I might be studying “business rules” in Employee Central using the metadata framework, but will see mention of YouCalc rules and want to know “what is YouCalc?”, “when/why did SuccessFactors acquire YouCalc?”, “what else does YouCalc do?”…you get the idea. So yes, possibly not all the information I tried to absorb will be useful for you, but it did help me understand the overall bigger picture with topics I was learning.
5/28 through 7/2 ,2015 : openSAP An Introduction to SuccessFactors Solutions (SF1)
I actually LOVE openSAP and take many of their FREE courses. As I was “keeping up” with SuccessFactors from a distance (more in the blog linked above about that), I made a point to at least go through any SF-related courses they offered. These are good for a general understanding of “what” SF is and “how” it works. But at this point, I was not “sold” on SF nor even considered getting certified.
Fast forward a bit….as I explained in the blog above, a “weird” series of events happened that led me to make the decision to pursue certification. First, I rolled off a project and did not have another to start into right away. That gave me some “free” time to spend on whatever I liked. Usually this meant reading up on new things coming in SAP, doing coding academy/tutorial sites in other areas like React or Angular 2, or working on other “side” projects for non-SAP related “stuff” I do.Second, while checking out job sites, I noticed that a lot of the newer posting for even on-prem work for things like ESS or MSS or HCM P&F would all list “SuccessFactors Employee Central certification” as a requirement or “nice to have”. This made no sense to me (and still does not), but it defintiely caught my attention. Third (and last), I had two people in the SAP HCM world who I respect a great deal both send me random and independent emails asking if I had considered getting into SuccessFactors yet and that now was as great a time as any. Like I said, I have a great deal of respect for them and knew their advice was not just “marketing” for SuccessFactors. These are people with fairly deep “techy” skills too.
Before I decided to go “all in”, as well as spend a good chunk of money (about $3000 USD), I thought it best to do my own due diligence and get advice from others on:
- the value of certification
- the market (especially for consultants)
- the future for SF EC (as best one can speculate)
- given my background, would EC even be a good/logical fit?
As a SAP Mentor, I am thankful to have access to some of (what I consider) the top experts and professionals in the SuccessFactors space. Many of them should be familiar to you. Being a SAP Mentor by no means gives me “special” access as these are the kind of good people who I am sure would gladly field the same questions and offer up the advice for anyone. In fact, many of them actively blog about these very topics! So over the course of about a week or so, I set up calls and/or exchanged emails with the following:
8/19/2016 11 am: call with Luke Marson
8/22/2016 : several emails exchanged with Former Member
8/23/2016 3 pm: call with Ben Marsh
8/26/2016 8 am: call with Jarret Pazahanick
8/26/2016 9:30 am: call with Jeremy Masters
ALL of them were extremely helpful and supportive. The take away from each call was “yes Chris, you can do this. Yes, Chris, the market is hot. Yes, Chris, this is a very good time to get in.”. That pretty much had me set at that point. I was going to give it my all…at least for the next 2 months or so (as I estimated my training and study would take before I was “exam ready”).
During that week, I also knocked out another openSAP course that came up just “in case” I decided to really pursue my certification. I was still a bit on the fence at this time.
8/24/2016: openSAP – Run Simple HR with SuccessFactors Employee Central (SF2)
The first step for me was figuring out “what” I needed to learn. I looked at training.sap.com for the “Employee Central Academy” (THR81) class. I looked at it as well as any/all per-requisites they suggested. I was VERY confused at first. The class showed that it was about $6,000, but there was mention of the SAP Learning Hub but if I checked the EC certification (c_THR81) on the same site, it mentioned the SAP Certification Hub. All these “hubs” and things?!?! I was thoroughly confused. Once I figured out that the $6000 was the “on site” training (ie. me actually going to a classroom for training) and that I could more easily sign up/subscribe to the SAP Learning Hub for online training at my own pace for much cheaper, I then needed to figure out “how” I could get “on” the Learning Hub. (NOTE: There are SEVERAL “dump” sites you might find around the interwebz for the training material and exam prep, but these are largely SCAMS and/or contain outdated material. Be warned and steer VERY clear!)
I looked into Learning Hub and Certification Hub for several days trying to understand what was needed and how to get there. Even the SAP Learning Hub subscription was not cheap…$2,750 (I also found out the basic “discovery” level does NOT give you access to the classes you need…you have to get the “big” one. haha) I read Sven Ringling‘s great blog (SuccessFactors Delta Certification ) about his certification experience and he mentioned possible ways to get a LH subscription at a reduced rate.Per Sven’s suggestion, I tried reseller (K2) for LH but they dragged their feet getting back to me. During that “wait”, I very luckily found a discount code for TechEd2016 (TechEd 2016 discounts ) and went from there.
8/31/2016 paid for Learning Hub professional subscription ($2,750 USD) but used TechEd2016 discount code and got it for $2,475 USD…as an independent consultant, I just considered it an “operational expense”.(haha)
It took a while for confirmation and even then when I first went onto the Learning Hub, no content showed for me. Around noon, it finally got sorted out, and I was able to “sign up” for THR81 (EC academy) and all it’s suggested prerequisite courses. The real journey was about to begin!!!!
8/31/2016 : started Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Academy (THR80e)
9/3/2016 : finished Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Academy (THR80e)
9/3/2016 : took exam for Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Academy (THR80e) (passed)
9/4/2016 : started/finished Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Q3 2016 Delta Content
9/4/2016 : exam for Introduction to SAP SuccessFactors Q3 2016 Delta Content(passed)
On to the next course…
9/5/2016 : started/finished SAP SuccessFactors Meta-Data Framework (MDF) Foundations Academy (THR99e)
9/5/2016 : exam for SAP SuccessFactors Meta-Data Framework (MDF) Foundations Academy (passed)
And the last prerequisite course….this one I would consider fairly optional….it is like the updated version of the old ASAP project methodology. Great info, if you have the time for it.
9/5/2016 : started SAP Activate for SAP SuccessFactors (HR802e)
9/6/2016 : finished SAP Activate for SAP SuccessFactors (HR802e)
9/6/2016 : exam for SAP Activate for SAP SuccessFactors (passed)
So now the REAL work started…..the actual academy/exam prep class….
9/6/2016 : started SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy (THR81_EN_Col62)
As I started the class, it mentioned several “hands on” exercises….but I had no SuccessFactors system to utilize. What was I suppose to do??!?! What do others do?!?! Again…this is NOT real clear. I stumbled around and found the SAP Live Access site. From it, you can purchase “time” on a practice/example system. When you sign up/buy time, it will ask you what course it is for. In this way, you get a system all preset for what you will be doing. It is VERY nice….but of course, this was another surprise cost I would have to pay.
9/7/2016 : purchased SAP Live Access “block” of time/contingent (20 hrs for $165 USD)
…and the learning continued….
9/7/2016 : continue class THR81-001 SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central – Introduction
in classes, a few things stand out….
- what’s with these screens?!?! “Save” is a nightmare….scroll here, scroll over, click this, then scroll up a bit and click “save feature”, then scroll all the way up and click “save” (the other save?) again….easy!
- Provisioning screen is a nightmare!!! Is that why they don’t want customers on it? (haha)
- from class material, you should work in Admin Center in one browser (Firefox) and Provisioning in another (Chrome) in order to be logged into both at once. WHAT?!?!?!?
- Class exercises make no sense….no detail in them so you can’t try to “figure it out”….you have to skip right to the solution and follow its steps.
- Time Off needs better explanation on how the pieces all tie together and how accruals work/determine
- Global Benefits was really glossed over
9/13/2016 : got email from SAP Learning….they credited me back 2 hours of time lost on my SAP Live Access system when their site was down last Friday..appreciated it…and the FAST response!
9/16/2016 : finished class THR81-001 SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central (THR81_EN_Col62)
9/16/2016 : exam for THR81-001 SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central (passed – 46/ 48 – grade 96)
9/17 through 9/24 2016 : Out of Country/vacation
What better way to celebrate getting done with the THR81 class than to take a vacation?!?!! (haha) It just worked out that way. I do yearly surfing trip (you read that right) to Costa Rica, and it was during this time. Let me tell you…Employee Central and the exam was probably the farthest thing from my mind that week! (haha)
9/25/2016 : back home…found out that my SAP Live Access account somehow resumed late Frdiay afternoon and then completely ran itself out. WHAT?!?! I had only used 13 hours of the 20 in getting through my course exercises and now all that extra time I had hoped to use in exam prep was gone. Oh well….
Monday and Tuesday after my trip were “vacation recovery” time…and because of that, I totally forgot about Alex White’s SAP Learning Hub – Learning Room classes on Monday and Tuesday…DOH!!!
9/28 through 9/30 2016: Alex White / Live Demonstration Sessions/webinars from the LH Learning Room for EC …these run in 2 week segments from 9 AM till about noon each day….I missed the first week while on vacation, but these were GREAT! Alex goes through the exercises in detail and answers any and all questions thrown at him! Many people do his sessions as they work along on the same unit.
9/30 through 10/6 2016 : started reading the 1602 EC Implementation Guide Q1 2016 (@418 pages / 20 chapters)….I did not have access to the 1608 version at this point….the EC Imp Guide is like your “bible” of EC and makes MUCH more sense after going through the THR81 course than trying to read it first straight away….I spent each day covering about 4 chapters to spread it out.
Around this time, the “new” version of THR81 was released…the “e-learning” version based on 1608. As I took time going through the THR81 the first go around, I was able to get through this one much faster. It was more just to reaffirm what I had learned.
10/10/2016 : started SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy (THR81e_EN_Col63)
10/11/2016 : continue SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy (THR81e_EN_Col63)
10/11/2016 : exam for SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Academy (passed – 48/48 – grade 100)
Oddly enough, it finally occurred to me that they questions on the course’s “final exam” are just a consolidation of all of the same questions from the end of each unit/lesson. (haha)
10/11/2016 : started/completed SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Q3 2016 DELTA (THR81D_EN_Col63) (passed exam – 6/6)
10/12/2016 : 6:15 am….up early and did practice exam questions from SAP Training/Certification site for THR81 Q3 2016…..10 questions….got all 10 correct!
At this point, I think I heard a deep voice in my head say “It is time…”. (haha) So now, I was ready for the certification exam, but “where” do I actually take it?!?!? Again…this was not so straightforward….and again, I found out that SAP has a “thing” for that and this “thing” will cost more money again! I found out that I needed to subscribe to the SAP Certification Hub. The nice part of that is that it gives you up to six certification exams in a year. So maybe EC is just the start? (haha). And also nice enough, I found another “discount” for my subscription!
10/12/2016 : subscribed to the “Certification Hub” ….$550 but used TechEd2016 discount and it was $467.50
I immediately scheduled my certification exam!!! I was set for Friday 10/21 at 9 AM. It began to feel VERY real at this point.
I spent my time leading up to the exam just going back through everything and re-reading and re-reading.
- re-read Luke Marson’s SCN blog “The SuccessFactors Employee Central Organization Structure” …and comments!
- re-read Luke Marson’s SCN blog “Extending SuccessFactors with the Metadata Framework”
- re-read Luke Marson’s SCN blog “Rules and Picklists in the SuccessFactors Metadata Framework”
10/14/2016 : re-took all unit and end of lesson exams (THR80 and THR81)
10/17 through 10/20, 2016 : Megan Fife / Live Demonstration Session /webinar from LH Learning Room for EC covering each module (9am – noon) ….like the sessions from Alex White, this is 2 weeks of daily sessions….where Alex covers the exercises, Megan covers the material in each unit. BOTH were exceptional and I can not stress enough how valuable I think BOTH are. GREAT job by the SAP Learning folks!!!! The classes are fairly informal…you can ask questions whenever…and after going through it each day with the same people, it almost becomes a little family….almost(haha) Shout outs to MikeS, AK, Vinoth, Ram, Michael, Efi, and all others for keeping it FUN!!!!
10/17/2016 : read the 1608 EC Implementation Guide Q3 2016 – Employee Central Workflows guide (68 pages)
10/18/2016 : review all of my THR80 notes
10/18/2016 : went through the certification set-up/pre-reqs as suggested from the SAP Certification Hub (and actually did the “system check” each day just to make sure)
- install Questionmark software
- ran Questionmark “secure assessment” test
- ran SAP’s Questionmark “Conduct System Test”(failed/hung because no Webcam se up)
- insure Adobe Flash is enabled and updated
- set up webcam
- re-ran SAP system test (all passed)
10/20/2016 : review exam prep questions
10/20/2016 : re-read THR80 notes and skim the EC Imp. Guide 1608
10/21/2016 : EXAM MORNING!!!!
6 AM – redo end of lesson exams / skim 1608 EC Imp Guide
8 AM – took a break
8:45 AM- online….it begins!
From here, I ran into SEVERAL “technical issues” that day. I detailed these…as well as give you tips on how to avoid them…in this blog, Troubleshooting and Tips for SAP Certification Exams via Questionmark Browser.In the end, I had to reschedule 4 times and took the exam finally at 5 PM that day. The proctor was very helpful and we got through all the pre-checks quickly (showing ID, checking your environment/desk/setting, etc). You have 180 minutes to complete the 80 questions. I went through them with 2 hours left. Make no mistake….it is VERY hard! I was sweating some of the first several questions until I calmed down and told myself “you got this…relax…you know this stuff”. Maybe it was just the frustration of the day all building up (haha). So I used the extra time to go back through EVERY question again for a “sanity check” (and actually found I few I had marked wrong so I corrected…watch those trick questions, folks! haha). I was done again after about 15 minutes. I told the proctor via microphone/headset, “I think I am done…now what?”. He directed me to submit the exam, and I would know the results directly. Let me tell you, that was one of the hardest web page buttons I have ever clicked! It felt like it weighed a ton! (haha) I clicked it….and……as I saw the word “PASSED” appear on screen, the adrenaline shot through my body. I was “on a cloud”. It was time to celebrate……oh, and trust me…I did big time!!!! (haha)
NOTE: Before you ask/comment below…DO NOT ask me for “example”/sample/practice exam questions. I take the certification very seriously (and you should too!) and want to be proud of what I accomplished and the HARD work I put into it. Therefore, I will NOT give any information about the exam itself to anyone (sorry, Mom). I will also advise you against searching the web for such sites and info (again, as mentioned above, most are scams and/or have outdated information). Also, SAP has been very good about policing this, and from what we were told in Megan’s sessions, if they see/find any of the exam question elsewhere online, they are immediately removed and replaced in the exam. The best advice I can give…just STUDY…if you know your stuff, you will do just fine on the exam. Good luck!
So that was my journey….maybe not for everyone….but hopefully it might help others in preparation. For those “playing at home”, my final cost was $3,107.50 USD due to discounts ($3,465 if I had no discounts!). Looking back, it was quite a lot to take on in a short time, but the reward in the end seems to have paid off for me. I can now add that one to my resume! And wouldn’t you know it…irony as it is….the Monday following the Friday I got certified for SF EC, I started a new on-premise Employee Self-Service project for the next several months. (hahaha) Such is life, I guess. Well, as always, I will keep blogging, if you keep reading them. Till next time….
At the beginning of the blog, I thought et tu Chris..
Half way through I thought What if..
And you finish with >>.....I started a new on-premise Employee Self-Service project
As always,Thank You once again for sharing your journey!
Once again, Suresh....with my new found knowledge, I am now slightly more dangerous. hahaha Thanks for the comment and good to hear from you OLD friend! haha
Excellent Chris and love how you documented the journey is such detail as gives perspective to the amount of time/work/cost/confusion that will be part of anyone considering the journey to becoming SuccessFactors Employee Central Certified.
haha Thanks Jarret! Glad you picked up on what I was putting down.
Chris - Congratulations! I also became certified in August of this year and can appreciate your sense of humor throughout the process. And yes I felt the same pain. My route was very different as I came from the client side to the consulting side, but yes also panicked at the first 3 questions.
Best of Luck!
I knew it!!! I was NOT alone! haha Grats on your cert too…and the jump over to the “Darkside” (haha) as well.
I kind of feel like I picked the WORST possible time to try to do this. They were "in transition" from the previous content to the new (1608), and I got caught in it. Ugggg. Poor planning on my part, eh?
@Sarah Ullman - thanks for sharing the post!
@Chris, welcome to EC. Glad you've decided to join. I've been implementing EC since 2011 and have struggled through the leanings every step of the way, so I certainly enjoyed reading this! "Provisioning?! Is this why they don't want clients to have access?" Classic! Furthermore, I'm sitting here in Costa Rica and couldn't help to imagine running into a fellow EC implementer one of the days. I married a tico and so I tend to spend months at a time down here - though I'm yet to have to take an exam while here! I wrapped up my Q3 Delta 3 days before I took off just to make sure it was "one" of the things I could leave behind. Pura vida! And welcome to the club!
Oh and yes, I am EXACTLY the same type of learner (hence my struggles). I call it the rabbit hole. I could be in the middle of studying Time Off and next thing I know I'm in the Onboarding content before I realize I don't even implement Onboarding, what am I doing over here! I'm too curious of a consultant to not peel apart every layer to grasp a full understanding. The curious consultant is the successful one!
Oh wow! Yes, Costa Rica certainly has that affect on you! I have been going for about 7 years now and consider many of my friends (Ticos) there as family. We go to Tamarindo (sadly, it has gotten more and more "touristy" each year)...and yes, right where the crocodiles are is where our surf camp (Witch's Rock) is. (haha) Some of the group I go with have been going since 1998...when the airport was basically a pasture. (haha) Brandon Toombs (mentioned above) who "pushed" me over to EC also goes to CR....in fact, he will rent a house for 2 months and just "work" down there. THAT is the life! (haha)
Anyways, thanks for all the kind and supportive words...and Pura Vida!!!!
Thanks for sharing. Especially clearing confusion around so many "hubs" SAP Learning Hub, the Certification Hub. Also especially helpful is the clarification around EC Academy whether in class or online and hence the difference in cost. This is of tremendous help!!
Your welcome! Like I said, I did this hoping to help others who might be going through the confusion I had. Given your comments (and others above), it looks like I am not alone. Perhaps SAP will see this and take steps on their end to make it much easier.
Congratulations Chris and welcome to the club!!
it was like reading a story.
Thanks and thanks. I think all those technical writing classes in engineering in college forced me to be very details.....and long winded. haha
Kudos & Congratulations, Chris!!
Well articulated and vividly written blog to clear all required details and it's technicalities. I am sure this valuable blog would clear most of the doubts that are currently having with fellow practitioners and consultants. Thank you once again & waiting for your next existing blogs on EC topics.
Thanks! And please check out the other one I wrote (and linked here) on my "techy" perspective on EC....much shorter too! haha
One stupid query. Is it must to have access to learning hub and complete course there before registering for SF certification on cloud ? Can't i directly register for certification exam ?
Not stupid at all! Yes, you can simply register for certification directly. You can do it via the Certification Hub but then also I think you can pay for "one off" exams too (at least I know at TechEd they have exams there for some certifications) if you don't want to pay the Cert Hub subscription fee. However, you will need to find a way to "study up" on the material....which means your best bet is the Learning Hub content (which gives you access to Learning Rooms that have a community for Q&A, live sessions with instructors, etc)....or taking the class itself with an instructor (pricier but more guided).
First and foremost congratulations Chris!!!
I shared the learner journey with you and ended up certified also.
Fully recognise most of what you describe, including the cold sweats several minutes into the exam ha ha!
As you say, study and study some more,,,, you have to attend the online seminars to have a chance really, the e-learning on its own won't get you over the line!
Thanks Mike! You (and the crew haha) made the online web sessions VERY fun and kept me engaged.....and we got to share our exam experiences too! Glad to be in the "club" with you. Hopefully, this blog helps others get there too!
Hello Chris, wow congrats and what a great article! this really is an eye opener for me!!!
I have a question for you... i have been considering making that transition from a purely HR
generalist background to starting a career in SF EC...
My "BIGGEST" problem is, I am not sure where to start,,,, what would be your advise? unlike you, i
have no techy background, though i did study SAPHR some years ago, but never got round to
certification or worked in that capacity...
Step 1....WHAT area(s) of HR do you enjoy?
Hi Chris, tnx for the prompt response...
I enjoy; recruitment & selection, training & development, managing performance/capability,
workforce planning, talent acquisition, employee engagement, org development, etc...
Ahhh well there you go!! You have LOTS of options for …..
step 2…pick a module(s) of SuccessFactors that most closely matches what you enjoy doing.
….and if you are in consulting….I would HIGHLY suggest that you keep your skills up in BOTH camps….on prem/traditional SAP HCM and SAP SF in the cloud…..you will be more valuable if you are confident on both and “walk the walk” (not only “talk the talk”).
Tnx Chris, i will keep that in mind... really appreciate your advice (real gold nuggets...)
In your experience, which one do you think i shd master first? i was thinking of retraining in SAP
HCM to certification... start working with it and then...SAP SF... but will appreciate your
professional advise on these...?
Again...it will depend on which one you find most enjoyable first to "master". Now as for HCM on-prem certification, in my opinion, it is not that valuable especially for the time you put in....it is a "nice to have".....but SF certification is a "must have"....so I would focus any kind of certifications on SF (I have seen people with certs in every module and have NO idea how they can do that! haha).....as many will tell you, these certifications are really just "product certification" (ie. you know where to go to do "what" and "how") whereas your overall process knowledge and experience will be way more valuable. With that, if anyone throws any kind of requirement at you, you will know not only how to do it with the "tool" of choice (SAP HCM or SF) but can also question and advise them on the requirement itself. Make sense?
Thanks once again... you are such a great inspiration... pls i will keep coming for more professional
advise... hope you dont mind?
How is EC associate exam question different from Learning Hub questions ? Do one have to read implementation guide along with taking learning Hub questions or Learning Hub is sufficient to prepare you for certification exam.
Without saying too much.....the LH course questions (like the ones at end of each chapter/lesson and course exam) are MUCH more "basic" and easier". Those really seem to just test "did you actually go through the lesson material" where for instance if the question has 4 possible answers, 2 are just crazy, obviously wrong and of the other 2, the correct one is obvious. You can almost guess your way through and do well. However, the actual cert exam questions are MUCH harder and will test your overall understanding much more....it will make sure you understand how all the pieces connect....if that makes sense.
As for how to prepare for the certification exam, I highly recommend you follow EXACTLY what the certification exam page tells you....for example, it says it is good to go through the implementation guide....and I agree!.....another way to say this.....the LH course(s) give you a good basic understanding....the implementation guide goes into more detail and covers more of the specifics including exceptions, special considerations, etc.
Overall, the more you go through material...the LH course, openSAP courses, community blogs, implementation guides, the online LH events/webinars/demos, etc.....and go through them again and again.....it will all prepare you much better. For example, even thought I had done the whole course twice, I found it VERY helpful to sit in on the LH live demos/webinars and try to help answer people's questions in chat....it reinforces your own understanding and helps you identify weak areas too.
Hope this helps!
Amazing article Chris!!!!
Thank you for sharing all details on how to become SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central certified. I really appreciate time line, subscription information including cost, list of courses and details on ups and downs along the process. I kept coming back to your blog over and over again along my journey to make sure I am on a right track. It helped me to become certified in January this year. Next step is to find a project to get a real experience.
Thanks so much! ......and congrats! Welcome to the club!
Very welcome! Hope it helps you on your own journey!