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Author's profile photo Patrick Blume

Why You Must Incorporate Leading Practices in Your SAP SuccessFactors Solution Implementation

Blog One in a Two-Part Series

So you’re preparing to implement SAP SuccessFactors software – congratulations! You are just a few weeks or months away from realizing the benefits of true digital transformation across your HR department that will make your organization more efficient, effective, and attractive to top talent than ever before.

Digital transformation does require a commitment to doing things differently, and not falling back into old habits (hence the word “transformation”). So, it should come as no surprise that you’ll likely need to approach this implementation differently compared to past deployments of traditional on-premise software. Whereas before, you needed to spend countless hours in meetings defining requirements and customizing software at great expense to align the software with how your business works, now you can simplify this process by adopting leading HR practices.

Using leading practices built into SAP SuccessFactors solutions not only helps ensure that your implementation is fast, successful, and low risk, but also gives you the opportunity to consider and try industry-proven HR processes. These processes can mature your organization and make it more mobile and employee-centric – qualities that millennials look for when evaluating companies looking to hire them. Equally important, by standardizing on a leading practices template, you can swiftly and cost-effectively harmonize processes globally while ensuring local compliance.

So what ARE leading practices? And how are they different from best practices? Let’s take a closer look.

Leading practices versus best practices

Best practices can be defined as the most efficient (i.e., require the least amount of effort) and effective (i.e., deliver the best results) way of accomplishing a task. They are based on repeatable procedures that have proven to be highly effective over time for large numbers of organizations. Ideally, they also provide standard ways of doing things that help organizations stay compliant and add value to the business.

But customers who have successfully adopted SAP SuccessFactors solutions tell us the same thing: Tailor to your business. You don’t have to utilize best practices verbatim. You can and should adjust them to best fit your business. Make sure to account for your internal best practices as well. This is key because sometimes a best practice is not applicable or is inappropriate for a particular organization. Your goal is to balance the unique qualities of your organization with the best practices it has in common with other similar organizations.

The concept of leading practices better fits the reality of SAP SuccessFactors solutions transformation projects because it implies that the company culture, local legal requirements, and the current state of the technology are considered constraints for the organization implementing a leading practice. Leading practices are also considered “leading” only at a particular point in time; they are acknowledged to be continuously developing, and thus so are SAP SuccessFactors solutions.

The benefits of considering leading practices

I know what you’re thinking – My organization is so unique that no standard best practices will work for us. We need to customize everything. Right?

Think again.

In our work with thousands of customers, not only do we have the visibility into what actually works in the real world, but along with our customers, we are defining real-world leading practices that are driving real business results. By considering leading practices with SAP SuccessFactors solutions, you are getting access to tangible, useful, and proven guidance that has been collected over years of helping over two million people become successful.

So considering them is a good idea!

In addition, leading practices are the springboard for your solution design and provide a framework for a cloud-based HR transformation. They allow you to benefit from the countless “lessons learned” by other companies like yours – without the risk, learning curve, and wasted time – and is by far the least expensive way to implement SAP SuccessFactors solutions. We’ve documented a good portion of this knowledge and experience in the Process Library for SAP SuccessFactors solutions and built it into our software as standardized processes that can be configured, if needed, to meet your unique requirements.

Leading practices provide other benefits as well. For example:

  • Leading practices accelerate implementations, lower their cost, and reduce risk while making your solution more future proof.
  • Rather than wasting time and resources reinventing the wheel, you can simply use one that someone else has already constructed – and with the input of many companies to refine and optimize it far more than your organization could do on its own.
  • Even if your SAP SuccessFactors solution does need to be tailored to your needs, you still benefit from learning about the leading practices built into the software so that you understand what standard SAP SuccessFactors solutions can offer you. Reading about leading practices helps you understand why processes were designed as they are – and why you may want to adopt standard SAP SuccessFactors solution processes end-to-end as they are, or with minimal changes. Doing so also helps you see how to use SAP SuccessFactors solutions in a more integrated way to unleash its full potential.
  • The more standardized your processes, the more stable your project will be. By definition, these practices are proven and continuously being improved.
  • Utilizing leading practices as much as possible frees your organization to dedicate resources to those areas of the process that require more extensive configuration.

Learn more

SAP has always tried to share leading practices to make its customers successful – both through SAP consultants and partners and resources such as the following:

The process library for SAP SuccessFactors solutions will be particularly valuable for you as you plan your implementation because it provides an end-to-end, in-depth business view of all processes supported and explains why they were designed as they are and how they can help you transform HR.

I encourage you to explore these valuable resources!

Learn more about leading practices and SAP Model Company for HR in this white paper, “Turning People Strategies into a Catalyst for Change: A Prescriptive, Preconfigured, and Leading-Practice Approach to HR Digitalization.”

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      Author's profile photo Brandon Toombs
      Brandon Toombs



      Great blog.  SF has certainly done a lot of work in this area that deserves to be publicized.  As a consultant on the front lines (and who has come in after the fact and seen some questionable configuration decisions made by previous consultants), I believe it's important that we establish Leading Practices not only as accelerators but also as a means to ensure that the end-product is high quality.

      A couple of quick questions (maybe you're going to cover in part2):

      1. How are the "Leading Practices" arrived at?  Is there any way to provide feedback in case there are any points that consultants or customers would like to see incorporated in "Leading Practices"?  I think there would be a huge appetite if this process was made more public so that the community could provide input. (Count me in!)
      2. What is the process to ensure that the Leading Practices are kept up to date with innovations?  For those of us with an SAP background, we have been promised "Best Practices" before only to have SAP lose commitment a few months later.  Anything you can provide to show this is going to be a continuous activity (i.e., "we have a team devoted to analyzing the quarterly changes and will commit to have an updated version of the Leading Practices out within 2 months of the quarterly release")--that will go a long way to overcoming skepticism.

      Again, I think this is a GREAT initiative!  The whole SF community benefits when we ensure that all implementations are of high quality.

      Author's profile photo Patrick Blume
      Patrick Blume
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Brandon,

      thank you! And congratulations, you hit the nail on the head.

      The definition and quality of Leading Practices depend obviously on the input, which has been used. Leading Practices are valid, until something better comes around the corner. Quarterly updates of the SuccessFactors software demands a regular update of leading practices, too.

      We are proud that the definition of the Leading Practices was a real team effort. SAP Product Management, Pre-Sales, and many SuccessFactors consultants around the globe contributed to this project. We have published them in the SuccessFactors community, one by one in blog posts, and a summary on a landing page. We hoped to use the community and the feedback functionality of the blog posts, to engage everyone in an intensive discussion what works best and what does not work. To be honest, I think it has not been used as much as we thought, but this hopefully will change in future, when the Leading Practices become more popular.

      How to keep up with innovations and does SAP show commitment to Leading Practices? I want to be very honest here - our initiative is competing with many other great initiatives at SAP for budget and resources, as in any other company. What makes me hopeful is that the Leading Practices have been the foundation for the Model Company for HR, and the Model Company initiative is for sure very strategic for SAP. Many of our consultants are using the Leading Practices in their projects, and many partners and customers have adopted them to create RFPs for SuccessFactors and to support the Explore phase in projects. Thank you again for your comment, it encourages us to continue.