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Five SuccessFactors Employee Central myths busted

Luke Marson addresses five common SuccessFactors myths, including a misperception that the suite is just SAP ERP HCM in the cloud.

Despite the tangible business benefits of using a modern, global, 21st-century core human resource information system (HRIS), there are still a number of myths about the true capabilities of SuccessFactors Employee Central. In this article I will attempt to debunk five of the biggest myths around Employee Central.

Employee Central is not for enterprise-level customers

The biggest myth around SuccessFactors Employee Central is that it is not suitable for enterprise-level customers. Huge global companies like PepsiCo, Timken and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) are already showing that Employee Central can meet their core HRIS needs, given there is genuine enterprise-level functionality within the product.

Employee Central has a robust and flexible enterprise structure that can be configured any way that a customer requires -- so it reflects their actual business and not how the system defines their business to be. It has built-in self-services, transactions and workflows. Employee Central has the capability to handle permissions in the same sort of way as SAP ERP HCM, but with a high volume of fields that can be used to determine permission roles and permission groups. With an extreme level of granularity on both screen and field level, there is a deeper level of flexibility. The permissions model can also handle structural-based permissions as you would expect from a leading core HRIS.

Employee Central is a globally designed system and comes with standard localizations for 68 countries. These localizations include country-specific company and job fields, validations and drop-down values, localized regulatory compliance reporting, advances and deductions, global benefits, global assignments and more.

Employee Central is just SAP ERP HCM in the cloud

SAP does not intend to replicate SAP ERP HCM features and functionality in Employee Central. Although there will always be an overlap across many core HRISes, the design principles of modern applications and 21st-century human capital management business practices have influenced how the system behaves and what functionality it offers. In addition, Employee Central is a business system and not a technical system -- you don't need to be a technically savvy user to be able to use Employee Central, as was often the case with SAP ERP HCM.

Employee Central offers many features not found in SAP ERP HCM:

  • Intuitive UI and point-and-click navigation
  • Self-service functionality built in (ESS and MSS)
  • Public profile for each employee
  • Country-specific fields and drop-downs for 68 countries
  • Country-specific validations for National ID for 68 countries
  • Organization chart visualization
  • Easy GUI-based creation of objects and rules
  • Easy GUI-based administration and maintenance (e.g., permissions, workflows, themes, etc.)
  • Company-specific themes
  • Ease and regularity of upgrades
  • Legal upgrades with Upgrade Center

Innovation is a key differentiator. For new SAP ERP HCM functionality to reach customers -- from inception of an idea to the release of that functionality by SAP -- it could be two years. In addition, it would often then take customers 18 months to two years to actually adopt this functionality via an often complex and painful enhancement package upgrade project. With Employee Central -- as with the rest of SuccessFactors -- innovations are delivered to customers every three months.

Employee Central has lack of customization options / is not customizable

A major myth associated with cloud applications and often with Employee Central is that it is not customizable. Although by technical definition this may be true, the standard configuration options in addition to the extensibility options make Employee Central highly configurable and -- to some extent -- customizable.

Each of the portlets ("boxes" of information) in the Personal Information and Employment Information screens in Employee Files is highly configurable. New fields can be added, standard fields hidden/removed, labels changed, business rules and logic added, and each field permissioned as required for each group of users.

For more on SAP and SuccessFactors

Learn about how Employee Central is more flexible than before

What are the five most important aspects to integrating SAP HCM with SuccessFactors?

How do you know you have the right SuccessFactors implementation partner?

SuccessFactors knows that customers have business-specific requirements that are not catered for in the core Employee Central functionality -- as you do with your existing core HRIS -- and so provide two extensibility options to add customer-specific functionality: the Metadata Framework and the Employee Central extension package for SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

The Metadata Framework provides customers with a framework to create their own objects, rules, logic and screens in Employee Central. These are unaffected by upgrades and are used by SuccessFactors to deliver new functionality like Time Off and Global Benefits. The powerful rules engine within the Metadata Framework can be used for a variety of use cases, such as data propagation, hiding fields based on other field inputs/selections, generating ID numbers or creating notifications when key dates are approaching.

Although the Metadata Framework is robust, there is certain functionality that simply cannot be achieved without custom coding. For instance, the Metadata Framework does not allow functionality to generate documents based on employee data or create dynamic maps of offices using Google Maps. This is why SAP provides the Employee Central extension package for the SAP HANA Cloud Platform. This provides customers and partners with the ability to create custom applications that sit within SuccessFactors, inheriting the theme and permissions and using the data within the system. From an end user perspective, it is as if the custom application is part of Employee Central. The major benefit is that customers can introduce custom functionality into Employee Central without changing the Employee Central code in any way. In effect, it is customizing without customizing.

Employee Central is not integrated

Despite protestations by competitor vendors, Employee Central has a considerable set of integration capabilities and pre-packaged content. The Dell Boomi AtomSphere middleware integration platform that is included as part of the Employee Central subscription gives customers a market-leading integration platform along with standard pre-packaged content that covers scenarios such as:

  • Synchronizing employee data, organizational and employment data, and salary and compensation data with SAP ERP for processes such as SAP ERP Payroll and Environmental Health & Safety
  • Transferring of Cost Center data from SAP ERP FICO to Employee Central
  • Transferring employee data with third-party systems for Payroll, Time & Attendance, and Benefits

In addition, further integration content is planned specifically for EH&S, CATS, GRC and IDS in the coming months, as well as more SAP ERP and third-party integrations.

My HR data is not secure in Employee Central / the cloud

Another of the big myths around Employee Central and cloud in general is data privacy and security. Naturally, as HR people, we are concerned with the protection of our employees' data -- but so is SuccessFactors. One point that is worth noting is that even one breach of customer data would have catastrophic consequences on the future of SuccessFactors, and as a result, they have invested significantly in data security.

One of the key benefits of SaaS is the economy of scale afforded when resources are pooled together. For SuccessFactors, it can easily justify the investment in security that most customers simply cannot justify on their own. This kind of investment includes physical protection at data centers (e.g., security guards, closed-circuit TV cameras, etc.), anti-intruder alerts, self-hacking on a regular basis, their own patented SQL injection prevention technology, using leading standards for secure data transmission, and ensuring that they are using the strongest standard possible at all other steps along the way. The SuccessFactors data centers conform to all EU data privacy requirements.

But maybe one of the biggest points to remember is that SuccessFactors is a data processor, which means that they do not own or control your data -- you do! Although that is convenient, SuccessFactors still has a significant responsibility to safeguard your data and has invested heavily to do so.

This was last published in May 2014

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Excellent article Luke! People quite often talk about SuccessFactors as if it has only been out there since SAP acquired the company, but of course it hasn't, it is a well thought out, very powerful, mature product, designed and developed for HR professionals, which has been around for many years. The extensive and still expanding integration to SAP HCM, Payroll, FICO, and 3rd party time and attendance and benefits providers is the icing on the cake...........
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Luke, I like your article and want to add one topic: SAP offers also extension packages for SuccessFactors Employee Central based on HCP (SAP HANA Cloud Platform). These extension packages enable either customers to extend system with custom build features or just to subscribe an available app from the SAP store. In the HCM space Accenture Software for Human Capital Management is already providing an app for data quality and data consistency purposes. http://www.accenture.com/gb-en/landing-pages/audit-as-a-service/Pages/home.aspx
I am confident that we will see further apps for Employee Central in the near future.
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Nice article Luke, would like to discuss some time -- going to SuccessConnect?
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