It’s a new year and new product announcements are coming out – normally in the consumer space, given CES looming large. Looks like SAP did not want to stand back and had a major announcement in the HCM space: The announcement of a new, on premises (yes you read this right) HCM product, planned to be available in 2023, a record time range of 5 years out. Definitively worth a news analysis, the press release can be found here.


So let’s jump into my customary dissection of a press release:

Nearly six years ago, SAP acquired SuccessFactors, providing our customers with the best cloud-based human capital management (HCM) solutions on the market. Since then, the number of customers using SAP SuccessFactors solutions has nearly quadrupled, and we continue to see increasing momentum toward the cloud for HCM globally and across all industries.

MyPOV – Good description of the status quo both in regards of product and go to market strategy and reality. SAP customers had the choice to keep their existing, R/3 based SAP HCM product (which isn’t a bad product btw.) on premises. Many used the SuccessFactors Talent Management functions in parallel, in the cloud. SAP’s strategy was to use EmployeeCentral as the fix point for HCM automation and then gradually move its customers to a cloud based, maybe SuccessFactors based architecture (my speculation) was foiled for reasons outside of SAP HCM product / go to market makings with the overwhelming on premises adoption of SAP S/4HANA. 

Our investment strategy follows this market demand, with the bulk of the planned innovations for our HCM portfolio focused on SAP SuccessFactors solutions.

MyPOV – This is the reassurance statement for the SAP SuccessFactors customers – the last thing SAP wants them to get nervous and look at other cloud based HCM products. 

SAP also continues to support our customers using SAP ERP HCM, our on-premise HCM solution. While an increasing number of them are migrating to SAP SuccessFactors solutions to accelerate their digital HR journeys, we also recognize that every customer journey is unique and must be undertaken at each customer’s own pace. For some SAP customers this includes a desire to deploy their HCM solution in an on-premise environment for the foreseeable future. 

MyPOV – Good for SAP to acknowledge customer reality. Vendors can strategize and build on product as much as they want – they need customers to follow. When they don’t follow – later more – investments have to be adjusted. The ‘some SAP customers’ are the first 1000 (and numbers growing) SAP S/4HANA on premises customers. The foundation of what SAP wants to be the new ERP suite of the 21st century, it’s 21st century version of R/3. 

To support these customers’ needs, we plan to offer a new on-premise HCM option based on SAP ERP HCM with a comparable functional scope (except for the SAP E-Recruiting application and SAP Learning Solution).”  It is intended to be deployed alongside, and integrated with, SAP S/4HANA. The solution is planned for availability in 2023, with maintenance planned at least through 2030.

MyPOV – And the cat is out of the bag… a new HCM “option” (press release aficionados will cherish the absence of naming this “product” or at least “solution”) with a comparable scope to the current SAP HCM solution is planned for 2023. As readers know, the current SAP HCM is supported till 2025. So this will require some precision upgrading by the SAP install base and is pretty much a product road map / deliver plan that allows for very little slippage. The product comes with the ‘default’ 7 years of maintenance, that if there is any success is likely to extended. Also interesting that the new HCM option is going to be deployed next to S/4HANA, SAP calls this ‘side car’. Actively wondering why this HCM option is not offered as part of S/4HANA. Quick reminder: Originally S/4HANA was a copy of R/3, and now simplification and improvements have been and are being added. And no surprise the cloud intensive HCM functions of Recruiting and Learning are being excluded. These would be hard to size from a system capacity perspective for customers, customers are likely going to be happy to keep e.g. the video processing and playback to the cloud. 

To recognize our customers’ existing investments, it is our intent to offer a license conversion program. Details are planned to be finalized in 2018 although the solution will not be available for purchase until eventual availability. At that time, it is intended that customers can license the new solution and start migrating to it using planned SAP-provided migration tools and services. As the underlying solution is intended to be based on SAP ERP HCM, we expect this to be a nondisruptive transition. It is planned that customers running an integrated ERP and HCM deployment in one instance today can move to a partitioned deployment model and run the offering on a separate instance.

MyPOV – No surprise – SAP wants to make it easy for customers to adopt the new product. License conversion on the commercial side, migration help on the implementation side. Will be great to see / learn more details and good to see SAP setting an internal target of 2018… not much will happen till then on the customer side. 

We are pleased to provide options to meet our customers’ preferences across cloud, on-premise and hybrid operating environments and will continue to provide updates on our solution road map and ongoing innovations.

MyPOV – Boilerplate, good – but eventually acknowledging that the customer is king, and vendors have to meet customers where they are, where they want to stay and be. 


Overall MyPOV

Pinch me – it’s 2018 and we analyze a press release about an … on premises product. Reality in Europe (and some other parts of the world) is though that customer want a cloud ready product, that could be operated in the cloud if they desire, but then deploy on premises. Data safety, data statutory, privacy and performance arguments are the  most prominent reasons customer want to stay on premises. Of course there is a substantial portion of sticking with what has worked and is familiar since half a century…

At the end of the day the SAP HCM product strategy got run over by the SAP S/4HANA strategy and adoption reality. I have been pointing out the lack of HCM (and CRM) messaging, road map and positioning in S/4HANA (to the point of having an informal bet with the former head of SAP SuccessFactors on SAP needing an on premise adoption option for HCM in 2018 as a consequence, made at the SuccessConnect analyst summit in 2016…). SAP customers bought a suite and want a suite back. At the moment they see fragmentation across the board, at least for HCM, CRM and Procurement. With 9x%+ of 

SAP S/4HANA customers opting for on premises SAP was faced with the option of extending the old R/3 code and maintaining it for longer than 2025. But that would have taken off upgrade pressure on customers to move to S/4HANA… and SAP wants return of R&D from S/4HANA and some revenue. Even if SAP had provided a full suite (incl. payroll) in SuccessFactors, in the cloud today, on premises minded and bound customers would not have taken it. And a customer upgrading to S/4HANA (with no HCM in it) would have to either keep operating some R/3 infrastructure for HCM automation or move to the (non-existing) full automation of HCM in SuccessFactors… that would have opened up potential selection of other HCM suites. And with SAP competition pushing suites (beyond HCM), the overall S/4HANA upgrade could be questioned. 

So SAP customers found themselves in a tough spot: Influence SAP through the user group to extend R/3 based HCM support (and the rest) beyond 2025 – and operate on an aging on premises infrastructure. Or reap the benefits of S/4HANA investments and force / influence SAP to undertake a S/4HCM (my naming!) project. I call it S/4HCM as I expect SAP to undertake the same process it did for e.g. Finance with S/4HANA – now again for HCM. Take R/3 based HCM, move it to a new product / code line, simplify, update to 21st century, take advantage of Leonardo (my speculation) etc. – a repeat of the S/4HANA approach and process, just for HCM. Now tons of branding pros and cons on this one. The SAP user groups had to choose between a rock and a hard place: Keep old R/3 or move forward with S/4HANA. At the end it seems (e.g. in Germany with DSAG) the active customers, using, adopting and planning to use S/4HANA have won inside of the user groups). 

With all the challenges, there are also some kudos for SAP into this. Announcing a new product to be available 5+ years from now is probably a record for the enterprise software industry (for the observers, Oracle held that with a 4 year ETA for the called Oracle Fusion in 2008). This gives customers a chance to plan on the long-term side and monitor SAP’s progress. The other side of the coin is of course that SAP will now push the S/4HANA upgrade path even more. Deploy the new SAP ERP sidecar option and move to the new ‘digital core’ (as SAP calls it). 

At the end of the day this is a great lesson learnt that customer adoption ultimately dictates product investment and road maps. Vendors can only move and entice customers on a value based proposition so far… with the bulk of S/4HANA being on premises the writing was on the wall that SAP needed an on premises strategy for HCM (and likely for CRM and Procurement). Now the question is… what does this mean for SAP’s CRM and Purchasing plans. We can only speculate…



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