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Getting Started with SuccessFactors – About the Landscape

Overview

I received similar questions about SAP SuccessFactors (SF) landscape from our partners and customers; therefore, I decided to write a blog post about common cross-customer questions about landscape management.

This blog is intended for customer admins, and consultants new to SAP SuccessFactors.

The aim is to provide information in a simple way via a FAQ-kind structure. Feel free to share your opinion and areas for improvement.

What is multi-tenant architecture?

SAP SuccessFactors (SF) is using multi-tenant architecture like most of Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors. Multi-tenancy is an architecture used in Software as a Service (SaaS) in which an instance of a software application serves multiple customers. Each customer is called a tenant. It allows SaaS companies to serve even quite small customers. The model, in which a server can be used by multiple tenants utilizing a scalable, available, and resilient architecture. The underlying hardware is completely shared, logically isolated, and with fully centralized services. It also allows SaaS vendors to scale up or down quickly. (e.g. adding 5.000 or 50.000 more users may mean changing some tenancy assignments only and could be done on the fly)

How is the (initial) user management at SuccessFactors?

About the user, authorization and administrator concept, and User management are key topics for admins.

it is common that the SAP order form has a procurement team or senior management contacts therefore these should be replaced once tenants are available. 2768771 – SuccessFactors IT Contact Change request

it is possible that credentials are lost or blocked by a spam filter, therefore you can to request reactivation 2517118 – New Instance Creation & Instance Re-activation Process | Credentials Notification to customers – HCM Suite

How is the SAP SuccessFactors Provisioning, the process of setting up IT infrastructure?

Here the standard provisioning of SuccessFactors BizX platform solutions is explained. Once you have a valid SF contract, prior to the start date (usually within 2 weeks), Authorised administrators per order form will receive an email about landscape and login information. You will receive three tenants if you have Employee Central (EC) otherwise two tenants.

(In this article, I excluded Validated Learning Environments, Onboarding 1.0, WFP/WFA and ECP for sake of simplicity).

Prev%20and%20Std%20Environment

Prev and Std Environment of SF modules

What are the SAP SuccessFactors Preview and Productive Environments?

There are two environments one is Preview environment (PREV) that is used for regression testing (hcmXXpreview.sapsf.com/login?company=YY) and Production Environment (STD) (hcmXX.sapsf.com/login?company=YY). (XX– stands for a two-digit number about DataCenter, YY-stands for the customerID)

Preview tenant is used for the release changes related to program or code changes. There are universal enhancements that are mandatory to all customers and opt-in features which the customer may decide to deploy. It is upgraded about 30 days before production tenants. As of 2022, SuccessFactors offer two times a year release changes in May and November, therefore about 2 months a year the code stack of the preview and production environments differs.

Remark;  Preview and Productive Environments are codestack-related definitions and not their usage. In other words, you may have preproduction and development tenants within the productive environment.

How is the Data Center setup for Successfactors?

A Data Center is a physical location of server/s where the SuccessFactors cloud application is hosted. The data center is generally driven by legal requirements or where most customers’ end-users are from. It is defined in your SAP Order form. The Data Center location’s exact address is not shared, and data center visits are not offered. For more information please visit SAP Trust Center

What are the SAP SuccessFactors Productive and Non-Productive Instance(s) / Tenant(s)?

Instance and Tenant are interchangeably used terms and refer to a single database schema of a platform (product type) for example SF HXM Core (BizX). Each instance when provisioned for a specific customer is assigned a unique alphanumeric identifier, called CompanyID.

A productive tenant (or productive instance) is in a productive environment and only one for every customer number. Customer production instance is always hosted in the Productive Environment.  You may have many other non-productive tenants either in preview or productive Environments.

SAP does not provide service SLAs for non-productive tenants, and these may run on weaker hardware. Non-productive tenants do have some limitations on concurrent usage and should not be released for end users due to compliance regulations.

What is the typical instance landscape during and after implementation?

During Project Implementation 

  • Non-Production instance in Preview Environment – All Development, Testing, and System Integration Testing(SIT) should be done in this environment. 
  • Non-Production instance in Productive Environment – (EC customers only) used for User Acceptance Testing(UAT) & Payroll Parallel Processing. 
  • Production instance in a Productive Environment 

When customers have more than standard (two or three) instances, it gives them greater flexibility e.g. tenants for HR-IS test and trial (could be used for adoption sandbox), for training etc. Customers could request further nonproduction landscapes per their needs. 

During Operation, Business as Usual (BAU) 

  • Non-Production Tenant in Preview Environment – Regression Testing for Releases, Enhancement Development & Testing environment 
  • Non-Production in Productive Environment – Used for Production Support and Payroll Testing 
  • Production Tenant in Productive Environment

What is Instance refresh?

SF landscape – Refresh directions

A refresh is a process of copying all data and configuration from source to target, without impacting the integrations in the target. The source is the instance from which data and configurations are copied to the target instance. The target is the instance to which data and configurations are copied using Instance Refresh.

Refresh is not supported if the target is a production instance if it is a cross-data center request, or during a blackout period (during release changes).

Admins can request the service via Instance Refresh Tool. Please check 2791468 – Instance Refresh Tool for BizX & LMS | Must-know guide & FAQ for further details.

To set up other environments, there is always a need to copy data and configurations from the productive instance into nonproductive instances. To avoid unintended access to confidential live HR data, set up production-like permissions within the test environment, deletion of selected datasets or scramble employee data (Data Anonymization) in all nonproductive instances is recommended.

What will the Refresh include?

A refresh will copy all contents of the instance database schema. The Refresh will include all internal instance settings (permissions in Admin Tools, Detailed Reporting Rights, Company System, and Logo settings, etc.), template configuration and supporting content materials (competencies, rating scales, picklists, etc.), user data and history and other content of the instance. The Refresh will also include settings at the SuccessFactors application layer level (Company Module and Feature Settings, SSO Configuration, and IP Restrictions (both Provisioning-based and GUI based in Admin Tools). The only item remaining within the SOURCE is the Company ID (as the Company Name/ID are not updated in a refresh).

SAP operation team, respective to the module, will conduct the necessary Post Refresh Requirements within Provisioning; the GUI based aspects, such as Themes, IP Restriction, and Custom Tiles, etc., are the responsibility of the customer to address Post Refresh.

If you have developed content that only exists in the TARGET, IT WILL BE LOST, so you will need to take steps to save copies of any templates before the refresh process, which you may want to re-establish in the TARGET instance Post Refresh.

Instance%20Refresh%20vs.%20Synch

Instance Refresh vs. Synchronization

What is Instance Synchronization?

Instance synchronization is quite different than instance refresh which copies all configuration and data. Here at synchronization, it is only copying the configuration of your multiple SAP SuccessFactors instances. Instance synchronization enables you to “push” new configurations from one instance to another.

Use Instance Synchronization when you sync/copy the selected configuration from the source instance to the target instance without changing its data or when you want to adopt incremental implementation of configuration or feature. Unlike refresh, you might use production as a target therefore be very careful and aware of the source/target tenants.

Which modules are available for the Refresh?

The Refresh is not an entire Suite Refresh, and only a select set of Modules can be refreshed under the (free) Refresh offering. These Modules currently include:

  1. Foundations (BizX)= Employee Central (EC); Performance Management (PM); Goal Management (GM); Live Profile (LP); Succession (SCM); Compensation (Comp); Variable Pay (VarPay); Recruiting (RCM)
  2. Learning (LMS)
  3. Onboarding 1.0 (ONB), if you have an old onboarding tenant (not part of BizX)

Currently the other modules (Jam, Recruit Marketing (RMK) and Work Force Analytics (WFA), Online Report Designer, and Advanced Reporting do not have a refresh capability.

What is Instance Cloning?

Cloning, Copying SOURCE and creating new TARGET (TARGET instance does NOT already exist), where at Refresh, Copying SOURCE to TARGET (TARGET instance already exists).

A Clone is almost the same as an Instance Refresh but requires an additional process to have a net new instance provisioned by SAP. Were as an Instance Refresh already has a TARGET established, a Clone does not yet have a TARGET and the TARGET is created as part of the process. The significant difference in both is that any net new instance requires proper provisioning.

Does SAP SF support data scrambling(Data Anonymization)?

SAP SF support via add-on solutions (Refer to SAP AppStore) as well as native out-of-the-box and free of cost. EC, RCM and Platform (people profile) information could be scrambled (the fields are enriched further the current list is available for review). The most common problem the Employee Photo Anonymization is also as of b2205 release possible.

2827300 – [Provisioning Opt-In Feature] Instance Refresh Tool | Data Anonymization feature 

What is the recommended frequency of instance fresh or instance synchronization?

It is impossible to give a one-fit-all recommendation, just like on-premise software landscapes. However, twice a year, from production to quality instance refresh, before the new release could be followed.

What is the recommended Successfactors Landscape?

As explained earlier bare minimum is a development and a production instance.

Just like on-premise landscape decisions, it should be tailored per customer need.For example, for multi-phase implementations for three regional templates, when one or more phases are live and others are still in the implementation phase, it requires several tenants. (just like on-premise solutions). Among many other justifications, for a similarly tiered landscape to match the client’s ERP landscape and payroll testing or Secondary testing environments (e.g. Cutover Test, Integration Test, Pre-Production) – used for conducting targeted, isolated tests, generally as part of the final stages prior to a production cutover.

Several large enterprises also use a production-like, non-production landscape by HR-IS for own feature adoption tests or as a sandbox for learning.

One major advantage of SaaS is simple tenant creation and refresh; within days, you can get an additional tenant. Associated costs and required technical skills are insignificant.

Please check, SAP SuccessFactors Architecture Leading Practices (ALP) – Instance Strategy for key topics.

Does the SuccessFactors Platform offer tools for managing data protection and privacy?

SAP SuccessFactors values data protection as essential and is fully committed to helping customers comply with applicable regulations – including but not limited to the requirements imposed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Customers get valuable support in their compliance efforts by delivering features and functionalities designed to strengthen data protection and security per their country’s regulations.

However, it remains the customer’s responsibility to evaluate legal requirements and implement, configure and use the features provided by SAP SuccessFactors in compliance with all applicable regulations. No tool is out of a box complaint since it is a joint effort. 

Summary

Hopefully, this blog helps you better understand the SAP SuccessFactors landscape and Landscape management basics. 

I look forward to getting questions from you, our customers, to enrich the blog further and aim to explain more simply. Happy to get your comments for my other blog posts

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Feel free to check SAP SuccessFactors platform blog posts and  Q&A about the SF platform, to post or to follow questions about the SF platform.

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