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Know your options: Three SuccessFactors software deployment models

Considering deploying SuccessFactors software? The type of deployment model an organization chooses affects the integration effort, data flow and designation of which system shall be the master system of record.

When implementing SuccessFactors software, many organizations struggle with knowing which deployment model is for...

them. They may even struggle to understand what choices are available and how this affects them now and in the future. If an organization does not wish to lead with Employee Central as their core HRIS and system of record, then they need to identify which deployment model will be most suitable for their short- and long-term HR technology landscape.

SuccessFactors can be implemented module-by-module, meaning different deployment models can be used depending on what is being implemented and how it affects the overall HR technology landscape. Typically there are 3 main deployment models used: Talent Hybrid, Full Cloud HCM and the Side-by-Side approach. Each deployment model has different use cases and choosing which model to use will depend on your organization. For example, you may wish to retain SAP ERP HCM as your core HRIS, but want to leverage SuccessFactors' talent solutions. In this scenario, the Talent Hybrid model would be for you. Or, you may wish to introduce cloud as your core HRIS in new territories that haven't had core HRIS capabilities before, so the Side-by-Side model may be the most suitable model.

Making a selection of the right deployment model has an impact on the integration effort, data flow and designation of which system shall be the master system of record for some or all processes. It may also impact some or all HR self-services. In this article, we will look at the different deployment models and their impacts.

Let's explore each one of these in more detail:

Talent Hybrid

The Talent Hybrid model is -- as SAP defines it -- where a customer uses SAP ERP HCM on-premises for core HR (i.e. Personnel Administration (PA), Organizational Management (OM), Time, Benefits, Payroll, etc.) and uses the SuccessFactors HCM suite for talent management. A typical scenario might be where a customer has SAP ERP HCM for OM and PA and uses SuccessFactors Performance and Goals for their performance management process.

This model is particularly beneficial to customers who have a solid and well-working SAP ERP HCM system, but want to either extend their HCM usage to talent management or want to upgrade their existing talent management applications to best-of-breed software as a service (SaaS) technology. One challenge with this deployment model is building integrations between SuccessFactors' applications and the SAP ERP HCM system.

Since 2012, SAP has released a series of integration add-on packages for the Talent Hybrid model, often referred to as iFlows. These integrations contain prepackaged integration content for SAP NetWeaver PI and SAP HANA Cloud Integration, as well as the SAP ERP HCM programs required to support the data and process integration processes. It has also provided "cookbooks" to enable customers to configure single sign-on (SSO) between SuccessFactors and their SAP Enterprise Portal, and to connect multiple SAP ERP HCM systems to one SuccessFactors instance.

Full Cloud HCM

The Full Cloud HCM deployment model is where a company runs their entire HR application landscape in the cloud. This would be Employee Central for core HR and SuccessFactors' talent applications for talent management. They may also use Employee Central Payroll, Workforce Analytics and/or Workforce Planning. In this model, a customer may retain SAP ERP HCM, but Employee Central would be the system of record and the master system for HR processes.

In this scenario, integration may exist between Employee Central and other systems, such as SAP ERP or a third-party benefits system. This will depend on other applications and processes used in the application landscape. For example, a customer may be using:

  1. SAP ERP applications, such as SAP ERP Payroll or Environmental Health & Safety
  2. A third-party payroll or BPO payroll provider
  3. A third-party benefits provider
  4. A third-party time and attendance provider
  5. Other core HRIS systems (e.g. for regional subsidiaries or local payroll)
  6. A mixture of the above


In a similar way to the Talent Hybrid model, SAP provides standard integration content for integrating Employee Central with SAP ERP and third-party payroll, benefits, and time and attendance providers.


The Side-by-Side model, although not widely used, is becoming a more adopted deployment model for global organizations that want to retain an on-premises core HR system, but want to roll out Employee Central to subsidiaries, regional offices or satellite offices. For example, a global company may continue to use SAP ERP HCM at their headquarters, but will use Employee Central for their regional offices in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the Asia Pacific (APAC).

There are a number of reasons why a company may choose to leverage the Side-by-Side model. For example, they may have regional offices where providing access to SAP ERP HCM was not viable financially or practically, but providing access to Employee Central is cost-effective. Another example may be that an organization wants to use Employee Central as a UI hub for managers and executives. One other reason may be that an organization wants to move their core HR to the cloud gradually. This sort of scenario may occur because of the built-in localizations (71 countries are covered as of the August 2014 release) or the subscription-based licensing model of SuccessFactors. Additionally, some other SaaS vendors cannot offer their customer the hybrid approach, as they do not have a core HRIS on-premises and in the cloud.

This form of hybrid model can be complicated from an integration perspective, but SAP is planning to release standard integration content to allow data and processes to flow between the systems, integrated end-to-end workflows, and mash-up functionality to allow SAP ERP HCM screens to run inside Employee Central as and when required by the process being executed. For example, changing the address of an employee in Employee Central that belonged to the parent system would launch a Web Dynpro screen to make the address change directly in SAP ERP HCM.

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, co-authored the SAP Press title SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM and wrote the SAPexperts Special Report SAP and SuccessFactors – An Overview. Marson is also an SAP Mentor.

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