Extending Standard Cloud Based Solutions
More than ever there is a continuous, never ending demand for attractive, cloud based functional business applications. SAP Cloud Platform is the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) designed to meet your needs and help you to extend your business in the cloud. When implementing cloud based solutions like SAP SuccessFactors you often come across the need to extend the delivered functionality with a certain mission critical process; industry specific or company specific. If it is not part of the standard solution, and no viable configuration capability exists – what to do?
SAP Cloud Platform is the enterprise platform-as-a-service with comprehensive application development services and capabilities. It enables customers to achieve business agility, create a truly integrated and optimized enterprise, and accelerate digital transformation across the business – all without the requirement of maintaining or investing in on-premises infrastructure.
Quickly extend cloud or on-premises applications to deliver on company goals. Personalize your existing applications or choose from 1000+ prebuilt applications from SAP partners that integrate seamlessly with SAP applications. Bring together entire IT landscapes, build IoT or Big Data applications or “mobilize” existing legacy applications – all in weeks and months, not years.
With its comprehensive services and capabilities SAP Cloud Platform provides a large amount of services to build better cloud applications in less time. SAP Cloud Platform is an enabler for simplification, innovation and agility in your digital transformation.
1.1 Why is this interesting?
For many companies moving to the cloud, SAP SuccessFactors is a cornerstone in the Human Resources space and whilst it is very flexible and can be configured to suit requirements from organisations of any size, all software suites has their limits. Being able to either build entirely new applications or extend existing applications is what SAP Cloud Platform is all about.
The SAP Cloud Platform is not limited to SuccessFactors but is rather an SAP initiative. Nevertheless, SuccessFactors customers have a strong incentive to use SAP Cloud Platform instead of other providers due to close cooperation and existence of a SuccessFactors connector kit – available for free as part of the package. Moreover, SAP offers data centres for SAP Cloud in roughly the same locations as SuccessFactors.
The promise of SuccessFactors cloud is to deliver standard, effective processes wherever possible. The promise of SAP Cloud is to allow companies to build cost effective custom lightweight applications on a secure platform, without disrupting core business applications. And you need to be agile to be effective, and vice versa.
1.2 What is it ?
SAP Cloud Platform is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) designed to meet your needs and help you to extend your business in the cloud. With its comprehensive services and capabilities including the in-memory-power of SAP HANA, it provides an unprecedented amount of flexibility and productivity for you to build better cloud applications in less time.
SAP Cloud Platform is the platform of choice to extend SAP’s cloud solutions or build new next-generation cloud applications.
SAP Cloud Platform is a scalable, secure, modular, and open-standard platform as a service (PaaS). It includes comprehensive functionality designed to enable customers and partners to rapidly build cloud-based business applications that connect to and extend the value of SAP and non-SAP enterprise software. Operated by SAP, the platform is engineered for multilevel security and certified to meet the latest industry cloud standards. SAP Cloud Platform also leverages the real-time, in-memory SAP HANA database.
Some people consider SAP Cloud Platform just a hosting service. But this is a little too simplified. Because unlike a hosting service you also get additional services, value and benefits from the SAP Cloud Platform.
1.3 Example use cases for SuccessFactors
SAP Cloud Platform allows to build HTML5 as well as Java applications. These can be integrated with the SuccessFactors suite via the Odata API, which is well documented and reflects all standard as well as custom objects you create in SuccessFactors. SAP CP allows you to build simple applications that mimic the SuccessFactors UI as well as complete portal sites complete with own home page and tiles. Your requirements, your design, your solution.
Below is a high level graphics that explains the architecture behind a SuccessFactors extension.
The SuccessFactors extension package also allows for single sign on from SuccessFactors to your custom app, respecting the authorisations in SuccessFactors (via Role Based Permissions). This means you can utilise SuccessFactors extension objects (company car, security incident, employee data) and display in user friendly screens, add business processes and requirements via code – and still use SuccessFactors Role Based Permissions to control access and SuccessFactors Online Report Designer to report on it all. Combined with Business Rules and Workflows you have all the building blocks to effectively build beautiful applications in no time.
We at GP Strategies have been looming over the SAP Cloud Platform since it was introduced a couple of years ago, especially considering the use cases in the area of HR. These are some possible ideas:
- SuccessFactors solution extension. Need support for busineess processes in SuccessFactors and MDF objects and business rules are not heavy enough ? With SAP Cloud you can build customized business processes in SAP Cloud Platform as extensions to SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central e.g. for industry and local needs or mobile and portal access. This could be better security incident report as an example. Or data maintenance, data searching capabilities
- Enterprise Collaboration. Leverage SAP JAM to connect solutions or embed SAP Jam capabilities into your applications via predefined UI widgets or REST/ODATA APIs
1.4 Key criteria and questions
Wether to use existing standard functionality, wait until it becomes available or enhanced, or build your own requirements as extensions is a business decision. These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself to determine whether SAP Cloud Platform should be used
- Is the business need valid and justifiable
- Do we need to control the innovation cycle
- Do we have cloud as strategy
- Is mobile use key for us
- Do we need a solution with low, no downtime and generally non-disruptive to existing solutions
If you answer yes to most of these, then SAP Cloud Platform could be relevant to your organisation.
1.5 Getting started with SAP Cloud
SAP Cloud Platform is licensed from SAP and not part of the SuccessFactors license subscription.
To learn SAP Cloud Platform there are several courses available on both OpenSAP as well as SAP LearningHub to get you started, both from a technical perspective and business perspective.
There are multiple software vendors and SAP partners who have built applications and are marketing these via the SAP App store, which can also be used for inspiration.
Below please find some links to get started.
Main entry page for product information, pricing models.
The official SAP App store where you can browse published applications for inspiration. To find SuccessFactors related apps, use the Technology filter and select SuccessFactors.
The free MOOC provided by SAP. Search for SAP HANA Cloud platform or SAP Cloud Platform. Self service courses are provided regularly. Go to SAP LearningHub for paid courses.
Mostly content for implementation partners
1.6 Concluding remarks
Innovation continues – that’s all we know. SAP has fantastic ideas about where HR & IT is heading. But to be honest, we cannot predict what a HR IT user interface will look like in just 5 years from now, we do not even know what drives the human-system interaction and what new features everyone will be using. We do not even know which platform we will be running systems on (mobile, tablets, PC’s, something new?). Only time will tell. The thing to remember is to keep track of innovation, stay tuned on releases and system capabilities and have an organisational agility that will allow you to adopt regular updates.
SAP Cloud is a strong offering that can be utilised of there is a need. SAP Cloud Platform is still in it’s early stages, but rapidly maturing with new capabilities added every quarter. We at are also sure that the large group of 3rd party vendors who have invested in developing applications and extensions will spend a lot of time explaining why companies should use (their) custom built solutions rather than rely on standard features (that may only support 85% of your requirements). So do make a solid business evaluation before making any decisions, as recommended above. The concluding remark is nevertheless that SAP Cloud Platform is likely to be adopted by a majority of customers in the next 12-24 months as Employee Central is settling in as a trusted IT platform at more and more companies. So we at GP Strategies expect SAP Cloud Platform to be a must-have feature by the end of 2017 for all companies using Employee Central.
Erik Ebert, GP Strategies