I would describe my HR/HCM experience through the years as “very technical with enough functional knowledge to be dangerous”, so when SAP acquired SuccessFactors in late 2011 and I heard “there is ZERO custom development within SuccessFactors”, my first panicked thought was “Oh no! Where do I fit in?!?! What am I going to do?!?!”. Thankfully, much of my knee jerk reaction was just a lot of “the sky is falling” unreasonable worry. It turns out, there was still plenty of “on-premise” work to be done and not everyone was jumping right over to the cloud. So, for the next several years (read as “up till a few months ago”), I kept up with SuccessFactors but from a distance without digging in much deeper. I would “peek” over from time to time….”Still cannot write custom code and apps? No? Not yet…..ok then…back over here to on-prem work”.(haha) That all changed for me about 3 months ago (you can read about my “journey” in From SAP HCM Techy to SF EC Learner: My Journey to SuccessFactors Employee Central Certification!).

A weird combination of events happened. 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.

With all of that coming together, I took the “hint” and finally decided to “jump” over into the SuccessFactors (SF) Employee Central (EC) world…..and surprisingly enough…I found out that it was much more “technical” than I assumed and that my background actually helped me a great deal on my path to certification.

In no particular order and doubtfully a complete list, this is what I consider as previous knowledge/experience that helped me a LOT in picking up that same/similar concepts over in EC and this actually covers a majority of what you actually do in EC:

  • XML : Having LOTS of web development experience, knowing my way in and around XML was very helpful. A lot of the configuration of EC is done in XML files. You will be exporting, modifying and importing several XML files that “control” what goes on in EC…so you best know what you are doing! (haha)
  • OData : Like XML, having done a good deal of SAPUI5 work and therefore familiar with OData, it helped me understand “under the hood” of EC, as much/most of it is now pretty much OData “entities” in the new MDF framework. Also, SF exposes OData APIs as well.
  • Workflow : While not exactly the same as on-prem workflow, the “concept” of workflow itself is the same. EC workflow is very simple and basic in comparison. However, it does have some similar features such as reminder of days and escalations.
  • Localization : From a development background, localization (ie. translations into other languages) on an enterprise scale is something I am familiar with and for EC, it is not much different, but simply done in a slightly different way. This is where XML knowledge came into play again as well.
  • OM concepts : If you know Org Management from the on-prem world, the similar concepts in EC will be easy to pick up. It is slightly different and wrapping you head around how “positions” are used in EC versus what you are used to might take a little time. After working with it a bit, I actually think organizational management is much more flexible and easy in EC.
  • Wage Types : In the EC world, what we know as “wage types” are what they call “pay components” and work very similarly. You can even group pay components into pay groups (like having our wage types defaulted for a position/job). Having IT0008 knowledge really paid off! (no pun intended….or was it? haha)
  • Effective Dating : Yes….EC uses “effective dating” just like we are used too. They actually made quite a big deal about this in the training, so I was wondering if this is a “new” concept for many people. I guess I have worked with SAP HR for so long that it just makes sense to me. Now, one caveat to throw in here. In EC, there is no “end dating”….it does this for us…and there is really no concept of “time constraints”…which again, might take some getting used to for you.
  • Security roles concept : EC is built on top of what they call “Role Based Permissions” (RBP) , and if you have ever built a security role and assigned it to a “group” of users (much like in the SAP Portal), then you will pick this right up. And again, the way EC implements it, it is actually pretty powerful/flexible…and shall I say “neat”. (haha)
  • Database table creation (table and field definition) : While EC does not have a “data dictionary” per sea, you can do something very similar using MDF which will feel very familiar to you. You create your “object” (think “table”) and define the fields for it as well as their types and much more.
  • Rules : This is one of my favorite parts of EC….but I guess because it is the most “programming-like”. You define/build “Business Rules” using a somewhat graphical interface to construct “If / Then” statements. Again, the training material walks through this in great detail as I guess the usual audience is NOT from a coding background, but for me, this was particularly easy.
  • Hooks/Eventing : Again, if you are a developer, this just makes sense…basically, you have event that you can attach “things” (rules/workflow) to….onInit, onSave, onChange, etc….all makes sense to a developer!
  • Picklists : If you are a web developer, these are just “options” for dropdown lists. Think of this as our “F4” values. Very easy to set up and assign.
  • Job Scheduling and Monitoring : Yes…in EC, you can also “schedule” background “jobs” to run and monitor those as well. This is done for example to sync up your data with other areas/modules of SuccessFactors. If you have ever done any kind of admin work or report scheduling in SAP, once again, this will be “old hat” for you.
  • Reporting and Analytics : If you are a SAP developer and never coded a report, you are a rare bread indeed! EC has several reporting tools/options that should be familiar to you. You can build anything from basic “dashboards” to custom Ad-Hoc reports and even complex reports via their Online Report Designer (ORD) tool.

I do not in any way claim that my background is so very different from other SAP professionals out there, so I am hoping this helps some of those with similar experience to mine that might also be thinking about making that “leap”. It actually is not so bad over on this side…come on over and tell them “Solomon sent me”. (haha) I really hope this helps and as always, I will keep blogging if you keep reading. Till next time…

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4 Comments

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  1. Jarret Pazahanick

    Nice job with this Chris and I hadn’t really considered all the areas where having a development background are a lot easy to understand and learn in Employee Central but makes a lot of sense. On a side note several of the areas you mentioned (ie Business Rules/Workflow/Security) are where a lot of the complexity lies and have seen EC Consultants for a more non-technical background struggle with them.

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    1. Christopher Solomon Post author

      I was very shocked myself Jarret. I had always thought from what I heard that there was really no place in EC (and SF overall) for a lowly techy like me (haha). But to my surprise, I really think I had a neck up on any non-techy trying to learn it as well. Hopefully this blog will make this point clear to other technical folks as well and sway them to come on over to the other side (haha)…..but wait….they will then be my competition! Oh no! What have I done?!?! hahahaha

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  2. Imran Sajid

    Great stuff Chris! This blog will certainly be helpful to others that are transitioning even without a development background. I have always loved your light and joking blogging style. I also have a tremendous amount of respect for how open you are about your journey to EC where as most people are historically updating their LinkedIn profiles to show SuccessFactors EC consultant as if they have been doing it for many years and gone through many implementations.

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    1. Christopher Solomon Post author

      Wow! Imran, I very highly respect you and have followed your blogs for quite a while now (like I said, I liked to at least keep up with what was going on in SF even if I had not quite made the move there yet! haha) So I guess we have a mutual appreciation party going on. haha It really does mean a lot to see you comment here….not to mention your very kind comment as well. I truly appreciate it. As to your last point…I guess that might just be me…but I am open as can be…I tend to think there are others out there similar to me who might be going through the same things too so maybe I can be that voice and/or motivation for them too. Heck, helping each other and cheering each other on is all part of “community” no? haha Thanks again!

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