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Author's profile photo AJ Whalen

Stories from SuccessConnect: Why Extensibility Matters to HR

At the recent SuccessConnect conference in Las Vegas, I had the honor of moderating a panel discussion with two SAP SuccessFactors customers on the topic of extensibility. During the session, we learned how Microsoft and NTT DATA Corporation each addresses demands on talent and technology facing their respective businesses. We also heard how each creatively meets new process needs with both configuration and application extensions. 

Extensibility Drives Innovation

When cloud-based HR technology was first introduced, some critics warned of homogenous, rigid applications that may not meet the needs of on-premise HR software customers with heavily customized systems.  

More than a decade later, few people still view cloud-based HR software as homogenous or rigid. Why is that? As HR technology like SAP SuccessFactors (and cloud software in general) has advanced, so have the opportunities for its customers to extend the solutions to meet their needs.  

Extensibility can come in different forms. Extending an application sometimes means adding a single field, UI, or workflow to meet mandatory business requirements. Other times, extensibility describes the development of applications that can meet rapidly changing business demands, create a competitive advantage in talent acquisition, or increase employee satisfaction to retain existing talent. For SAP SuccessFactors customers, extensibility is driven by in-app extensibility tools like the Metadata Framework (MDF) and, more importantly, by the evolution of application development tools that are part of SAP Business Technology Platform 

Perspectives from the Customer Panel

To provide NTT DATA’s view on extensibility, Vicki Furnish, Vice President of Global People Solutions, Operations, and Analytics, joined the panel. Vicki led off the Q&A by discussing NTT DATA’s approach to extensibility. Extensibility, Furnish said, is a critical component of her organization’s HR technology design and they’re creative in its application and use. While NTT DATA uses extensibility to enhance functionality of its Employee Central solution, its use goes beyond SAP SuccessFactors and includes integration and connections with vendors, partners, and other internal applications that are critical to their HR business processes. Vicki pointed out that the ease-of-use of the SAP SuccessFactors extensibility framework allows them to expand functionality without some of the significant investment that would normally be required to support other development activities. 

Not all extensions are intended for long-term use. Vicki also explained how NTT DATA often relies on extending its solutions by creating new fields or workflows, sometimes on a short term or temporary basis. One such example is the use of extensions to support merger and acquisition activities before a full integration with a newly acquired entity has occurred.  

Manoj Lakshmanan, Senior Software Engineering Manager, joined the panel to discuss Microsoft’s use of extensions in its SAP SuccessFactors solutions. Microsoft uses both MDF and SAP Business Technology Platform to build extensions that extend their enterprise solutions in HR. Many of their extensions are built to increase usability or enrich user interfaces, to reduce complexity of business processes, or to automate more routine or mundane tasks. Microsoft has found that taking advantage of existing SAP SuccessFactors frameworks, workflows, and business rule engines is a key to building efficient extensions and to reducing maintenance of its new objects and applications. For example, Microsoft has enriched its user experience by building extensions with SAP Fiori, providing its users who are accustomed to the look and feel of Fiori design with a unified user experience.  

One specific Microsoft extensibility use case Manoj mentioned was the creation of an application via SAP Business Technology Platform that was used to capture the hybrid workplace preferences of employees. After the initial application was completed, it was enhanced to capture more complex data dimensions, including work site, working hours, and work location change preferences. The application had nearly 8,000 hits on launch day and captured 120,000 entries within the first three weeks that it was rolled out to the entire company, enabling Microsoft to gain critical information about the work preferences of its global workforce. 

It became apparent during our panel discussion that while each SAP SuccessFactors customer chooses its own extensibility strategy and tactics, there are commonalities in the benefits they see from their efforts. Extensions across SAP SuccessFactors suite drive greater productivity, accelerate business processes, and improve employee experience. It was also clear that when it comes to building extensions, platform matters. Microsoft’s use of SAP Business Technology Platform reduces development time and helps them build scalable applications. To read more about how a platform like SAP BTP can benefit HR, I encourage you to read Constellation Research’s report, “How SAP SuccessFactors Makes Platform a Differentiator for People Success” 

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