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While many people are taking seasonal vacation I have taken a more deep look at the SuccessFactors Q3 2017 release – internally in SAP sometimes referred to as b1708.

The coding for the Q3 2017 release has been completed and preview has been updated as well as the salesdemo4 environment and Internal Readiness Sessions have been held and client facing webinars likewise. We now have the opportunity to get into more details with the until Q3 2017 hits the production environments in 4 weeks time. The Q3 2017 release will be the last “major” release of 2017 as SAP announced in 2016 that the quarterly releases Q4 and Q1 will be providing incremental adjustments to existing functionalities only.

From a high level there are 270 release items in the Q3-2017 list, matching what we saw in Q2 and Q1 releases. So no change there. A quite high number of the items are related to cross module processes and/or API or integration. So as always: behind any statistics there are details to be aware of. So stay tuned and check out some of my top picks.

For system administrators interested in keeping instances in synch, the Instance Synch just got better. Better support for MDF objectes. Also, templates for performance goals and development goals are now treated as separate artifacts. In the Instance Sync set-up wizard, you can now select and sync Goals Management templates and Career Development Planning templates separately. For each artifact type, you make template selections and choose override options on a single page in the wizard, for greater ease-of-use. This enhancement continues our gradual adoption of a new instance sync framework that simplifies the overall sync set-up process.

  • As more and more clients are using the well documented APIs to integrated, there is also good news. The API administration utilities has also been improved. The look and feel of the OData API audit log has been enhanced making it easier for you to display audit log information such as the time a request was made, time taken for a response, correlation ID, status, and so on. The API Center currently hosts the OData API Audit Log, OData API Dictionary, OData IP Whitelisting, OData API Audit Log, Legacy SFAPI Audit Log, Legacy SFAPI Data Dictionary, Legacy SFAPI Metering Details, Legacy SFAPI IP Whitelisting, OAuthConfiguration for OData, OData API Version Control, and Manage User API Options. From the API Center, you can now:
  1. Configure IP whitelisting when basic authentication is used with the feature OData IP Whitelisting.
  2. Manage optional actions that occur when a user write operation is performed with the feature Manage User API Options.
  3. Refresh and download OData $metadata with the feature OData API Metadata Management.
  4. View API transaction history with the feature OData API Audit Log.
  5. Browse and discover OData APIS with the feature OData API Dictionary.
  6. Graphically display SFAPI transaction volumes with the feature Legacy SFAPI Metering Details.

.. and much more. See the release notes for a full listing (ref API-7379)

  • In Compensation Executive Review report we often hear from clients that they want to include additional report filtering fields than those defined by the platform. In fact, I heard this request back in 2008! Finally the wait is over. You can now select which succession data model filters are included in the Executive Review filter. This includes the standard fields of department, division, and location, as well as the 15 custom fields. Go to “Plan Setup > Design Worksheet> Define Plan Level Executive Review Filters”, to define Compensation plan level filters to be displayed in the Executive Review (ref CMP-14158, CMP-14159). Although it may be available for non Employee Central customers at this stage, this is a very nice improvement.
  • Compensation forms (Variable Pay had this already) now supports client specific number format rule to format numbers in different ways in Admin Centre, for example, with a decimal point or rounded to the left of the decimal. This is also a long time favorite, and being non-US I have just grown used to seeing numbers in US format; now I have to get used to seeing them in clients formats I guess.
  • Compensation Profile has historically just been a 1:1 replication of fields from the salary form. Now it is possible to hide certain form fields in the compensation profile such as the salary positioning section.
  • Compensation forms utilising coloured sections (I guess everyone is using this feature) also got a nice makeover. Planners may expand or collapse worksheet column groups with one click (default behavior, which will likely annoy some is that it is collapsed), using an arrow button. In addition, the “Budget”, “Approvals” and “Instructions” panels can be undocked, and moved to a different area of the page.
  • In Career Development Planning we are seeing several improvements to the fairly new Mentoring feature. This release introduces open-ended mentoring programs as a new option. Open-ended programs have no end date and are not managed by inviting participants but rather by allowing all employees or a subgroup of employees to see and sign up freely for a program, The target participant population for open-ended programs is defined via dynamic employee groups. Users can sign up as both mentor and mentee in the same open-ended program. You can also set up open-ended programs so that users signing up as mentors require approval either by the mentoring program administrator (or owner) or by their manager. If approval is by program administrators or owners, users must upload supporting documentation with their application. If approval is by manager, an email notification is sent to the manager to approve the user’s application as a mentor.
  • In Learning Management, Assessment Builder is now available to create quizzes and exams. SAP is replacing the legacy exam and question tools with a new, modern SAP UI5 interface. SAP is are making quizzes a type of assessment (to build a quiz, you go to Content > Assessments and build an assessment of type quiz). SAP finalized the question import and export for exams, allowing you to include images in questions and to manage the availability of a variant. Taken together, the new assessment functionality provides a more stable and usable tool that builds exams and quizzes for your users. To migrate your questions from the legacy question editor to the new question library, export the old questions and then import them again. If you have many questions, you should set aside some time to manage your upgrade. If you have created quizzes, they automatically appear in the new assessments tool (Content > Assessments).
  • For External Learners you can edit the content of the page footer for external users of SAP SuccessFactors Learning extended enterprise. You can upload a new logo and enter your own custom text which will appear in the footer on all pages in the HCM Suite. You can also upload a new favicon image. To do this, go to Theme Manager, open the theme you are using for external learners, and use the “External User Styles” theme settings.
  • For Performance Management adminstration the Q3 2017 release brings an end to two admin features that have been replaced. Previously, “Mass Create Form Instance” and “Manage Scheduled Mass Documents Creation” options were used to launch forms. Going forward both of these options have been deprecated and are no longer supported. Now, when you type “Mass Create Form Instance” or “Manage Scheduled Mass Documents Creation” option in the tools search field, a message is displayed with two options: to either use the Launch Form Wizard or Continue using “Mass Create Form Instance” or “Manage Scheduled Mass Documents Creation” to launch forms.
  • In Continuous Performance Management, while creating or editing an achievement, you could previously link it only to an activity. The achievement would then get linked to the performance and development goals linked to the activity, if any. However, with this release, besides linking directly to an activity, you can now link an achievement to a performance goal and a development goal. Now, when you add an achievement and link it to an activity that has a performance goal and a development goal linked to it, the achievement is automatically linked to the goals. This indirect linking of goals to the achievement saves you the time and effort of linking the achievements to the same goals that are linked to the activity. However, you can choose to link the achievement directly to a different performance goal or development goal. In such cases, the achievement will have both directly and indirectly linked goals. Note that while creating an achievement, if you link it to a performance or a development goal before linking it to an activity, the indirectly linked goals will not replace the goals you’ve already selected.
  • And, if you have troubles with your Continuous Performance Management configuration, the validation tool helps you to verify if the product has been properly configured and is running as expected. The validation tool, which is available on the “Admin Center > Continuous Performance Management” page has now been moved to the top of the page for easier access, and it has been renamed to “General Configuration”. A new “Validate” button has been added to enable you to trigger the validation, as and when needed.
  • We are also seeing better support for the Employee Central Global Assignment across modules. For example, The auto-complete search component used in the “Get Feedback” popup has been updated to support “Global Assignment and Current Employment” employment records. When “Global Assignment or Concurrent Employment” is enabled, users will now see all employment records for a single user when using this autocomplete search field. While the change was made to support Global Assignments and Concurrent Employment, the user interface for the auto-complete search box in this component has been universally updated.
  • From a security perspective this one is interesting, but may not be good in development and QA environments. For enhanced user privacy, you can now disallow concurrent active sessions by the same user in your instance. By default, the same user can log in to the SuccessFactors application on different browsers at the same time. You can now choose to have concurrent sessions disabled. If this feature is enabled, password users who already have an active session are prevented from logging in on a second browser and are prompted to close their initial session or wait for it to time out. Users of SAML 2.0 Single Sign-On are redirected to the “invalid login” URL configured for your instance. To get this privacy feature, please contact SuccessFactors to have the “Disallow concurrent login session” setting enabled.
  • Another major improvement for customers is better visibility into who has provisioning access to your instance. You can now view and control who is allowed access to Provisioning for your instance. In the Admin Center, you can view a list of users with Provisioning access and you can remove this access from anyone on the list . You can also approve users to apply for Provisioning access. Only users you have approved can be granted access to Provisioning for your instance, upon request. Before, you could not see or control who had this access. To start using this universal feature on the new Manage Provisioning Access page, you must be granted either of two separate permissions, one to view and one to manage users with Provisioning access.
  • Recruitment Management has been updated to the new Fiori UI. For customers with Fiori styling enabled, the Internal Posting Detail and External Posting Detail pages in the Job Requisition > Job Requisition Detail windows will now have the new Fiori-style user interface. This is a personal favorite for me, but as more clients are moving to Recruitment Marketing I guess it is not so super critical – but good it finally made it.
  • In Recruiting Management we are also seeing better support for Employee Central / MDF objects. You can now maintain and define Foundation Object and Generic Object field types in Job Requisition and Offer Detail templates using the Manage Templates page. You can also define the field criteria between these field types using this page.
  • Recruiting Management now also supports the use of business rules triggered from the Requisition and Offer approval create/edit pages. You can configure rules to trigger on initialization of the page, change of field values, or when saving (ref RCM-37190). I am keep to see how this will go and what we can do with it.
  • In Recruiting Management, administrator can reassign active offer approvals using the “Reassign Offer Approvals” feature. This allows admin users to reassign the user currently assigned to the Offer Approval workflow step.
  • Another cross module improvement between Position Management and Recruitment has come. You can now choose to display Position Number information on the Job Requisition List page in Recruiting (ref RCM-37696).
  • In Succession Management, Talent Search has once more been updated. With Talent Search v2, you now have the option of defining default search fields for all users, allowing you to recommend which fields to use for advanced searching. Previously, when users accessed Talent Search, they had to select from all searchable fields defined for their role via role-based permissions. Users can also save their search criteria as a personal “Saved Search.” Now, if you configure default search fields, via “Admin Center > Talent Search Settings,” users will start with just those fields. The system validates the default fields, defined for all users, with the searchable fields assigned to the logged on user’s role and only displays the fields that match both criteria. Users can still save a set of search criteria, just as before. The system also remembers recently used search criteria and suggests those to users the next time they access the page.
  • In Talent Search when you enable Documents as a search field, users can search by attachment. Previously, the search only considered the document name, which is assigned by the person who uploads the attachment to the Employee Profile. Now, there are two search fields : ‘Document,” which searches attachment names; and “File Name,” which searches the actual file names of attachments. Both fields are free text entry and utilize a wild card search.
  • Workforce Analytics on HANA was made Generally Available with Q2 2017. However, with Q3 2017 we are seeing it mature into a much more stable product and we at GP Strategies expect a lot of Employee Central clients will consider WFA in the near future due to the business value it promises and simplicity of implementation. Furthermore, Investigate queries were previously not supported in Online Report Designer. Now users can embed an Investigate query (chart or table) into Online Report Designer or from Report Center, if Report Center has been enabled.
  • Reporting has been a big focus area for SAP in this release and we are seeing multiple improvements to make the reporting tools simpler to use, simpler to administer in one reporting user interface. Now you can also create new reports from Report Center > New. These reports include: “Report – Canvas” template (Online Report Designer), “Report – Table “(Ad Hoc Reports), “Tile”, and “Dashboard”. “Report Center” unifies all the Reporting tools under one UI. If you have enabled “Report Center”, you have to navigate to reports through “Report Center” and navigation when linking to reports is routed through “Report Center”. If “Report Center” is not enabled, you can see the legacy navigation paths. “Workforce Analytics” and “Workforce Planning” (both Headcount Planning and Strategic Planning) are accessed through dedicated navigation “Workforce Analytics” and “Workforce Planning” tabs respectively.”
  • In Report Center, custom labels can now be defined on reports to help with report organization. Report owners and editors can add custom labels to report. These custom labels appear for anyone who can see or run the reports.
  • For Employee Central clients using Global Assignment or Concurrent Employment you can now choose to disable the display of multiple employments on the org chart, employee quickcard, and global search results. By default, if you are using Global Assignments or Concurrent Employments in Employee Central, you can view a person’s multiple employments in the user interface. If this is considered confidential information in your organization, you can now hide it and only display the person’s home or primary employment in the user interface (ref UI-11065)
  • In Employee Central you can perform data migration in parallel to other jobs using the Scheduler. The Employee Extraction Report runs in the background based on the selected data. The scheduler performs these jobs in batches, improving the run time and reducing the time taken to integrate the Employee Master Data. When you run this program for the first time, the program extracts employee data for the all employees that you have defined using the transformation template group specified on the selection page.
  • In the Company Structure Overview feature you can now launch the configuration utility from both the Company Structure Overview and the Admin Center. This also includes a new config UI which guides HR administrators through the process of configuring company structure definitions and then deciding what data should be displayed for each structure definition. The UI enables the user to configure and structure data in a very intuitive way, since the changes are displayed with the look and feel of an org chart.
  • From globalisation perspective several incremental improvements have been added, most should be available in Upgrade Center. For example, The Iqama ID for Saudi Arabia is now available under Work Permit. Iqama is a residence or work permit for foreign citizens renewed annually, and the employer processes the renewal close to the expiry date. There are also new fields available under Global Information for Egypt, South Korea, China (Number of Children), Japan, Vietnam (Religion) , Belgium (Disability Percentage, Person at Charge) and USA (Legal Separation Date). There are several other country specific enhancements, see detailed release notes for more.
  • A nice improvement is in the Employee Central Data Replication Monitor now provides a mass deletion option. You can use it to delete entries you no longer need for monitoring, for example, because they were created during a test phase. We also provide a new permission, which needs to be explicitly enabled for the role assigned to the user or users in question. Users will only see the Delete option in the Data Replication Monitor when this permission is granted.
  • Employee Central Global Benefits is moving too, thank you SAP. Previously, during open enrollment period, the employees enroll to benefits one by one which requires a lot of time and effort. Now, employees can enroll to multiple benefits from one screen. They can select benefits of their choice and enroll in bulk for all the chosen benefits. This feature is supported for Insurance, Pension and Deductible allowance Benefit type only (ref ECT-58975). Furthermore, previously it was only possible to have one screen for enrollment or claim. Now, you can control various sections of the screen based on different benefit types.

Wow … I could go on! Our friends at SAP have certainly not been taking much time off the past few months. Although I missed I did to see any references to “Analytics in EC” but I have been told it is released as a beta opt-in feature so I have high hopes this will make it into the Q4 release fully. I also noted that there were no references to “HANA” at all in the initial release notes. Knowing that SAP is moving SuccessFactors from Oracle to HANA and that the plan is to complete this in 2017 I am keen to learn if these plans still count.

Even though you can get breathless, I actually expect the innovation pace to continue it’s acceleration as the SuccessFactors solution matures and integrates more and more with SAP ERP, S4/HANA, CRM, Procurement and countless other SAP systems to complete the SAP vision of the fully digital enterprise. Anyway, I have some summer vacation to attend before commencing what looks to be a fantastic second half of 2017 for us at GP Strategies. The above list were just some of the obvious top-picks that I am really looking forward to getting my hands on to and see in action and discuss with our clients in the weeks to come. The preview instances were updated on the weekend of 4/5 August and Production 4 weeks later on September 8/9 (just before SuccessConnect Las Vegas).

If you need to know more about the release consult the SuccessFactors Customer Community. If you are a partner review the internal release readiness (IRR) webinars if ot already.

Best regards

Erik Ebert

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