We had the opportunity to attend SAP’s SuccessFactors SuccessConnect user conference held in Las Vegas this week. The conference was well attended with a record of 2800 attendees. As we have seen often a lot of good things happen with an increased conference size, it’s an indicator a vendor is on the right track and the positive underlying vibes cross pollinate between attendees, prospects, partners and the vendor. In contrast to previous Success Connects there where a much higher number of live and implementing customers in the audience – a good sign to the more ‘in evaluation mode’ crowd of the previous years. It has certainly helped to have the same key speakers and leadership on stage for consecutive years, as buyers and users look for consistency.


As always with a multiple day event – the challenge is to come up with the Top 3 takeaways, but here you go:

Ettling SAP SuccessFactors SuccesConnect
Ettling opens SuccessConnect 2015

Intelligent Services for HCM – This was clearly the most important announcement on the product side of this SuccessConnect. For too much time HR functions have been atomically automated, one transaction at a time. The glue between them was in human brains, on post-it notes etc. Taking a step back now, technology is advanced enough to bundle and bring these activities together for a richer, more powerful level of automation. It is good to see the innovative thinking by SAP here, it is not unique as more vendors are working on similar offerings (more later this year) –but SAP is first out of the gate with 16 intelligent services shipping in the August release of SuccessFactors. 
Krakovsky SAP SuccessFactors SuccesConnect
Krakovsky introduces Intelligent Services
Behind the scenes SuccessFactors enables Intelligent Services with three technology components. The vendor already had an established event bus that is collecting all events and connecting the various SuccessFactors products. Using the OData standard SuccessFactors can enrich the leaner event information an (existing) rules engine helps to define how events should be handled. A plausible architecture to enable Intelligent Services, we plan to drill down a few levels deeper going forward. 

Intelligent Services SAP SuccessFactors SuccesConnect
The 3 components behind Intelligent Services

As always with analytics – the key question is ‘does it work?’ – And we will have to wait for the experiences of the first customers in a few months. The interesting angle is that SAP has the transaction of its users from when they got live. So suggesting a powerful set of intelligent services to a business users is in the realm of the possible. As well is populating most common rules to empower the intelligent services, from data of one enterprise, or as an unveiled industry best practice. Would have been good for SAP to unearth that – but it is early days and I am sure SAP will do that soon. Checkout my News Analysis on the unveiling of Intelligent Services here. 

New 1:1 Management Capability - will it fix Performance Management?
Re-Thinking Performance Management – We have maintained for a long time that Performance Management is broken, and with that most of Talent Management not really working. Software vendors are not the only culprit, human nature plays a big role here, too. Humans generally do not like to get rated, do not like to rate employees and don’t look forward to have a tough conversation on people performance. That said, most of today’s Performance Management is largely automating the forms based process in place before – and not taking advantage of the new capabilities offered by technology. For instance enterprises had no financially viable opportunity around 5 years ago to store all performance relevant information for the purpose of powering performance management… today BigData technologies offer that at a fraction of the cost. (True) Analytics can run on that for the cost of an average burger meal. This means that best practices can change and technology can power new (and better) ways to do Performance Management. Kudos to SuccessFactors to challenge the status quo here – something established software vendors rarely do. Especially when it comes to question early products, keep in mind SuccessFactors started out on the Performance Management side. The first step as shard by Krakovsky is to power 1:1 management in a more efficient way – certainly a good place to start in the Anglo-Saxon management culture. 

New UI - New Home Page
Good Housekeeping – We also learnt more about good housekeeping on the SuccessFactors side. For the longest time there was going back and forward on the full adoption date of SAP’s in memory database HANA, and it is now set with 2017. That is only a little more than 5 full quarters away – so certainly an ambitious schedule. Moving on HANA is important for SAP not only to reduce royalty payments to key competitor Oracle, but also to get better economies of scale from the HANA investment and most importantly eliminate integration issues. When running on a named value pair, columnar database – all information is in the same table by its very definition. With integration being a key headache for HR professionals, SuccessFactors has a technology at hand to put the challenge to rest – at least for the very own SAP products. And medium term being compatible with the S4/HANA platform is important, too.

Likewise SAP is working on phasing out Dell Boomi as the integration tool, replacing it with HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) Integration Services, targeting a similar date like the HANA migration.

More immediately SAP showed a new User Interface that will roll out in Q4 of this year. No surprise SAP is starting with the home screen and EmployeeCentral, using the Fiori UI paradigm and the SAP UI 5 HTMTL capabilities. An important step as the SuccessFactors UI started to feel more pedestrian (we blogged earlier about this) and there is not yet consistency in the UI across the different products. Certainly something customers are living with, but even slightly different user interfaces come with an organizational cost, so it will be good for SuccessFactors to address the topic. On the positive side – moving to Fiori and UI5, there will be consistency on the user experience side beyond SuccessFactors, as users use more than the HCM products).

Analyst Tidbits

Benefits - To a certain point a surprise, SAP is now offering ‘simple’ Benefits functionality for the US. Certainly an acknowledgement of the importance of Benefits automation in the US. The partnership with BenefitFocus remains in place, for the more complex needs, but SAP now needs to explain the positioning. 

US Benefits coming to EmployeeCentral
Learning – SuccessFactors keeps building out its new Learning capabilities, last year it was about predicting attractive learning content (which has been delivered) and the roadmap now focusses on the classroom / instructor side. A valid focus, given the large amount of classroom held training, but not the long term focus on Learning. Looks like customers have pulled SuccessFactors back here, a valid motive for any software vendor.
Krakovsky walks through Learning Roadmap

Deeper Partnership with Workforce Software - Similarly to Benefits, Time and Attendance is more of an ‘edge’ system for mainstream HR vendors, so SAP partnered with Kronos and WorkForce Software, but now has a deeper relationship with the latter, with a Workforce Software bundle making it to the SAP price list (read more here).

SuccessFactors and LinkedIn partner

Partnership with LinkedIn – We have to do some more due diligence here, but for now it looks SuccessFactors is the first HCM vendor to get LinkedIn to share the LinkedIn profile into the Employee profile in Employee Central. That is the foundation of new best practices (data concerns thrown to the wind) changing e.g. internal recruiting, blurring the inside / outside enterprise ‘firewall’ etc. – kudos to a first mover advantage.

Mobile – Android emancipates – The Android client had always been lacking behind the iOS client, now SuccessFactors has brought the mobile Android client up to par to the iOS client – and more importantly the vendor has committed to keep them at par.
Document Management Partners

Documents managed in HR – HR always needs to take care of a lot of sensitive documents, so it is good to see SuccessFactors starting to warm up to the area, starting with partnerships with Opentext, Box and more. The question will be going forward how such a wide partner array can satisfy the more complex compliance issues – compared to e.g. native solutions offered by e.g. competitors ADP and Ceridian.

Analytics – SAP is making progress in this important area and to a certain point the new Intelligent Services will be a prominent use of ‘real’ analytics (those that take an action or make at least a recommendation). Beyond that SuccessFactors is partnering with key clients and piloting new capabilities, but there has been no product release in this area yet. Certainly an area where SAP has to push down the gas pedal.
New Data Centers - Shanghai, Toronto & Moscow

New DataCenters – It is good to see the opening of more data center locations, most prominently in Russia, where recent data sovereignty legislation is forcing data to reside in country. And data center locations do not only matter for compliance, but also for performance as Krakovsky pointed out correctly in its keynote. We will have to learn more about how SuccessFactors plans to ‘slice and dice’ code and data across various data center locations to achieve compliance and increase performance.
New Admin Center

The Centers are coming – It is good to see that SuccessFactors is looking at empowering users more and better – and the approach are ‘center’. There is a new Admin Center –always a good move to empower admins, we have seen how well that works in the SaaS economy at Salesforce. And then there is an Integration Center and an Extension Center, doing what one can expect what they do, the new Extension Center being a user friendly front end power by the MDF framework.



A good event for SuccessFactors that is showing all the benefits of a growing vendor. It is good to see new innovative thinking like the Intelligent Services as well as gutsy move like the challenge to the status quo on Performance Management. The vendor is also doing some good housekeeping, short term on the UI side, longer term with technology stack harmonization on the larger SAP architecture, something that will matter more and more over time.

On the concern side a lot of work remains, as SuccessFactors is a combined entity of old SuccessFactors organically grown functionality (e.g. Performance Management), SuccessFactors acquired products (e.g. Recruiting, Learning) and new SAP / SuccessFactors built products (e.g. EmployeeCentral)), combined with SAP code (e.g. for Payroll). To a certain point it is fair to say that SuccessFactors had to wait for the overall SAP to ‘sort things out’ – e.g. on how to run HANA across its datacenters in the ‘cloud’ etc. but these hurdles have been or are being removed as we blog, so it will be key for SuccessFactors to address them.

Overall good progress by SuccessFactors, which is uniquely well positioned to address the challenges of global organizations (not much of messaging at the conference on that), given the reach and expertise of SAP both from a local expertise and payroll capability. With Globalization one of the key trends enterprises are facing, a good position for SAP’s existing and future customers to be in. And employees need to be paid, the paycheck still being the most regular occurring artefact between HR functions and the employee and SAP is equally well positioned here. But the HR game is more than HR Core and Payroll and SAP needs to make sure its Talent Management remains (at least) ‘good enough’ to remain competitive. Fresh thinking on Performance Management is a good start. And overall SuccessFactors had more to show on the product side than 12 months ago – a good sign for the SuccessFactors ecosystem. We will be watching and analyzing, stay tuned.



More on overall SAP strategy and products:


  • News Analysis - WorkForce Software Announces Global Reseller Agreement with SAP - read here
  • First Take - SAP SuccessFactors SuccessConnect - Day #1 Keynote Top 3 Takeaways - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP SuccessFactors introduces Next Generation of HCM software - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP delivers next release of SAP HANA - SPS 10 - Ready for BigData and IoT - read here
  • Event Report - SAP Sapphire - Top 3 Positives and Concerns - read here
  • First Take - Bernd Leukert and Steve Singh Day #2 Keynote - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP and IBM join forces ... read here
  • First Take - SAP Sapphire Bill McDermott Day #1 Keynote - read here
  • In Depth - S/4HANA qualities as presented by Plattner - play for play - read here
  • First Take - SAP Cloud for Planning - the next spreadsheet killer is off to a good start - read here
  • Progress Report - SAP HCM makes progress and consolidates - a lot of moving parts - read here
  • First Take - SAP launches S/4HANA - The good, the challenge and the concern - read here


  • First Take - SAP's IoT strategy becomes clearer - read here
  • SAP appoints a CTO - some musings - read here
  • Event Report - SAP's SAPtd - (Finally) more talk on PaaS, good progress and aligning with IBM and Oracle - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP and IBM partner for cloud success - good news - read here
  • Market Move - SAP strikes again - this time it is Concur and the spend into spend management - read here
  • Event Report - SAP SuccessFactors picks up speed - but there remains work to be done - read here
  • First Take - SAP SuccessFactors SuccessConnect - Top 3 Takeaways Day 1 Keynote - read here.
  • Event Report - Sapphire - SAP finds its (unique) path to cloud - read here
  • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP becomes more about applications - again - read here
  • Market Move - SAP acquires Fieldglass - off to the contingent workforce - early move or reaction? Read here.
  • SAP's startup program keep rolling – read here.
  • Why SAP acquired KXEN? Getting serious about Analytics – read here.
  • SAP steamlines organization further – the Danes are leaving – read here.
  • Reading between the lines… SAP Q2 Earnings – cloudy with potential structural changes – read here.
  • SAP wants to be a technology company, really – read here
  • Why SAP acquired hybris software – read here.
  • SAP gets serious about the cloud – organizationally – read here.
  • Taking stock – what SAP answered and it didn’t answer this Sapphire [2013] – read here.
  • Act III & Final Day – A tale of two conference – Sapphire & SuiteWorld13 – read here.
  • The middle day – 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
  • A tale of 2 keynotes and press releases – Sapphire & SuiteWorld – read here.
  • What I would like SAP to address this Sapphire – read here.
  • Why 3rd party maintenance is key to SAP’s and Oracle’s success – read here.
  • Why SAP acquired Camillion – read here.
  • Why SAP acquired SmartOps – read here.
  • Next in your mall – SAP and Oracle? Read here.


And more about SAP technology:
  • HANA Cloud Platform - Revisited - Improvements ahead and turning into a real PaaS - read here
  • News Analysis - SAP commits to CloudFoundry and OpenSource - key steps - but what is the direction? - Read here.
  • News Analysis - SAP moves Ariba Spend Visibility to HANA - Interesting first step in a long journey - read here
  • Launch Report - When BW 7.4 meets HANA it is like 2 + 2 = 5 - but is 5 enough - read here
  • Event Report - BI 2014 and HANA 2014 takeaways - it is all about HANA and Lumira - but is that enough? Read here.
  • News Analysis – SAP slices and dices into more Cloud, and of course more HANA – read here.
  • SAP gets serious about open source and courts developers – about time – read here.
  • My top 3 takeaways from the SAP TechEd keynote – read here.
  • SAP discovers elasticity for HANA – kind of – read here.
  • Can HANA Cloud be elastic? Tough – read here.
  • SAP’s Cloud plans get more cloudy – read here.
  • HANA Enterprise Cloud helps SAP discover the cloud (benefits) – read here.
Find more coverage on the Constellation Research website here and checkout my magazine on Flipboard.