Cloud integration

Five critical factors to integrating SAP SuccessFactors with SAP HCM

In recent times, the term "integration" has become interchangeably used to refer to interfacing, unification or true integration (applications or systems designed and developed with the same architecture and standards). Whichever it is, integration" is a critical aspect of linking your HR system(s) with other systems used to support business processes outside of HR such as payroll, time and attendance, and environmental health and safety. When moving to SAP SuccessFactors, there is almost certainly a need to integrate with either the existing SAP ERP Human Capital Management (HCM) system, other parts of SAP ERP, and/or with one or more third-party systems. When doing so, there are multiple factors that must be considered. In this article I will cover five key areas.

1. Your business processes

Probably the first thing that is required -- and even before integration design becomes an activity -- is for your organization to understand its processes, both functionally and technically. When moving to the SAP-SuccessFactors Talent Hybrid integration scenario (using SAP HCM for core HR and SAP SuccessFactors for one or more talent management processes), it is important to understand how critical it really is to transfer all of the data used or created in a process between two systems. In some talent processes, it is necessary to transfer certain data (for example, transferring a compensation increase from SuccessFactors Compensation to SAP HCM for payroll), but quite often -- once the employee data is loaded -- there is no need to transfer data between SuccessFactors and SAP HCM. This helps to ensure that talent hybrid integration remains far less complex and concerning than when using a full cloud HCM model.

2. The system of record

In some respects, SuccessFactors becomes the talent system of record in the Talent Hybrid model, and it is important to decide what data is going to be stored where. This is of critical importance when using an HR and talent analytics solution, like SAP SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics. If you choose to implement Success Factors Employee Central, then another important decision must be made about whether SAP HCM is replaced by Employee Central as the system of record or whether SAP HCM remains as the system of record. The choices you make will impact the integration that you need to design and build.

3. Designing a long-term SuccessFactors strategy and landscape architecture

Designing a long-term strategy and landscape architecture for SuccessFactors will enable you to understand what level of integration is to be built. It doesn't make sense to invest heavily in complex integrations in the short term or purchase integration middleware licenses for the cheapest technology when another option might be more cost-effective in the long term. Moving piece-by-piece to the cloud is a perfectly acceptable adoption strategy for SuccessFactors, but it may become apparent that a "big bang"- style approach would reduce complexity and cost for your integration.

It is also fundamental to understand which pieces will be "switched on" when and at what point you may switch your HR system of record from SAP ERP HCM to Employee Central. Understanding which systems need to be integrated with Employee Central will influence the selection of your middleware platform.

4. Middleware technology

For more on SAP and hybrid environments:

Strategize to minimize cloud integration headaches

Plan ahead when it comes to creating hybrid environments

In a hybrid environment, where does the data go?

There is an array of middleware technology options and many have their own merits and disadvantages, depending on which SuccessFactors applications you will be integrating and which systems you will be integrating them with. SAP offer two integration technologies that can be used with their Talent Hybrid iFlows: SAP NetWeaver Process Integration (PI) and SAP HANA Cloud Integration (HCI). While PI is included in a base NetWeaver license and only requires cost for the implementation of PI, HCI costs 7.5% of a SuccessFactors subscription to use. This can add up when multiple applications are used. For Employee Central, the Dell Boomi AtomSphere middleware platform (Boomi) comes bundled with the Employee Central subscription, although this solution can be expensive to use for a Talent Hybrid scenario. SAP plans to offer the same predefined Employee Central integration content on both PI and HCI that it currently offers with Boomi, although PI cannot be used to integrate Employee Central with third-party cloud applications such as Kronos or WorkForce Software EmpCenter. HCI does have this capability and may become bundled with an Employee Central subscription at some point in the future.

5. Study SAP's roadmap and reach out to Product Management

SAP has a long-term roadmap for both talent hybrid and Employee Central integration that is constantly evolving to include additional content. This often covers core process integration and saves considerable time on building and maintaining customer integration. Understanding what SAP is planning will help you align your integration needs with SAP's offerings and may influence your decision to implement a specific solution. If you don't see what you need on your roadmap, consider asking SAP if they plan to build this integration, but be aware that most of the packaged integrations from SAP have been delivered behind schedule.

Transferring data between SuccessFactors and SAP ERP HCM (whether you call this "integration" or "interfacing") is a complex activity that is fundamental to the operation of processes across the wider HRIS and ERP landscape. There are a number of important considerations to make prior to even designing or implementing integration, including understanding the processes and data that will influence the final design. A long-term cloud roadmap can help you plan for how you will approach integration and that can save a lot of time, effort and cost later. Significant time, effort and cost can also be saved by leveraging SAP standard integration content now and in the future. All in all, integration is not a topic to take lightly; nor is it a topic that should be a barrier to moving to the cloud.

About the author:
Luke Marson is a principal consultant and director of cloud HCM and related technologies at an IT consulting firm, where he focuses on SuccessFactors Employee Central and extensibility and integration technologies.  He speaks and writes about SAP HCM and SuccessFactors extensively, and co-authored the SAP Press title SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM as well as authored the SAPexperts Special Report SAP and SuccessFactors – An Overview. Marson is also an SAP Mentor.


This was first published in February 2014

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