Today, I venture out and try a succinct answer on questions like “Is SuccessFactors meant to replace SAP HR? Completely? And if so: where do I find the SuccessFactors equivalent of rule TE20 of the SAP standard time management schema?“. (The very short and simplified answers: “yes“, “yes“, and “you won’t and that’s a good thing“)

Employee with glasses

Ok, as a consultant, who’s constantly involved in discussions with some the most knowledgeable people in the SAP HCM and SuccessFactors community, and who attends conferences and webcasts to keep up to date, it’s easy to believe everybody knows these answers already. However, we have to acknowledge that many customers as well as support staff, developers and even analysts in big System Integrators don’t have this time, as they spend all working hours in their day job: keeping employees happy, making payroll work, upgrading systems, developing new applications,…

So here I try to answer it in a nutshell, being aware that you can make the answer much more complicated and probably also more accurate, but aren’t we all supposed to be in “run simple” mode now? Due to the high dynamic in this space, I can’t rule out that I missed some updates – the article should allow you to get the basic direction, but do confirm with the vendor before making any decisions. Here’s the simplified version – for the less simple one, you probably find 1000 very useful pages on various blogs on the SCN alone.

The Known Roadmap for SAP HCM and SuccessFactors

SAP’s current official roadmap sees the end of life for on-premise HCM 2025 – at least that’s the date it will be supported until. After that, there will be an ERP available on-premise as well as in the cloud, called S/4 HANA, but this does not include HCM. The future HCM solution from SAP is SuccessFactors and available in the cloud only.

So, what are SAP HCM customers or customers not yet on SAP HCM, but looking for a world class HCM solution, supposed to use instead?

– SAP HCM Talent Management (incl. Recruiting, Performance, Development, LMS, Compensation) is being replaced by SuccessFactors Talent Management. This has been the go-forward solution since 2013, i.e. the focus of investment and innovation

Core HR (personnel administration) is being replaced by SuccessFactors Employee Central. A solution with an amazing recent growth in features as well as number of customers. It is now also the go forward solution and it’s adding new features fast, leaving the old on-premise SAP HCM behind like the talent solutions did before.

Payroll: this is a special one. SAP’s payroll has been the envy of all global HCM vendors for a while. There simply is no global payroll solution even getting close. SAP is therefore building on this proven solution and wraps it nicely for customers to use in a cloud/hosted version called “Employee Central Cloud Payroll” integrating with core HR in Employee Central. This makes migration simpler and low risk, but allows the customer to benefit form a save, trusted solution without retaining and infrastructure in their own basement.

Analytics: SAP BW can still be used in an integration scenario, but the new, powerful analytics solution will be SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics and Planning (WFAP). It may be early days for some features like predictive analytics and embedded analytics, and many customers may not yet be ready – but I’m personally convinced, making full use of WFAP should be the end game for all SuccessFactors customers. Amazing things are already happening and much more will. Before taking the leap to WFAP there are various reporting tools available across the SuccessFactors Suite.

– Time Management: this is what got some users shedding a few tears (in some cases probably tears of joy): the old Time Management will be gone, too. In the cloud, SAP customers will have 2 options:

– a really slick, simple and user friendly solution within SuccessFactors Employee Central (so, no extra fees) made of the Time-Off and the Time-Sheet solutions or

– integrating with a powerful partner solution like WFM or Kronos, who also cover complex rota planning etc.

Personnel Cost Planning and Simulation: no direct replacement visible yet. Operational Workforce Planning within Employee Central is alleged to cover this, but at time of writing it deals with headcount only rather than cost.

– SuccessFactors WFAP (Workforce Analytics and Planning) will probably give you an adequate solution. Maybe there’s even a chance of resolving the eternal conflict between cost planning and compensation management and have strategic people management triumph over bean counting by using predictive analytics features with compensation management. We’ll see.

Travelmanagement (if you want to count that into HR): be honest! It never was a real travel management solution. It only really covered expense management reasonably well. So, no tears shed from me as this is replaced by Concur – a solution I learned to love as early as 2010 in a global rollout, when switching on mobile features was already just a click of a button.

CATS: there’s currently no plan to build an equivalent of CATS in SuccessFactors. CATS will be available in S/4 HANA ERP.

SuccessFactors integrates with SAP on-premise, but it’s no 1:1 replacement of any old solution

– SuccessFactors constitutes the HCM counterpart of S/4 HANA and exists in the cloud only. However, it can integrate to S/4 HANA ERP in the cloud as well as on-premise

– Whilst SuccessFactors is replacing all those on-premise HCM modules, it is NOT meant to replicate them feature by feature. There is no 1:1 translation. Don’t even try looking for it! And that’s good. Attempting that 1:1 replacement would have been the equivalent of building mechanical horses with combustion engines and let them draw carriages rather than building cars. There are a lot of things, horses can do, which cars can’t. I love horses! But cars were the better solution for 20th century individual transport.

– You don’t have to take one big leap. There are various integration packages available to allow you using some on-premise elements at the same time as other Cloud elements. Yes, SAP was a bit slow at the start with providing integration, but they are catching up quickly.

– SAP HCM on-premise (as long as it is going to be supports) integrates with S/4 HANA – in a separate box (today via ALE) or in the same box.

There is no guarantee that SAP HCM on-premise can not be used any more after 2025 (nor the other way round)

Business Discussion

– Is 2025 the ultimate date? Well, my Crystal ball says….…ooops: it’s gone blind. Sure: many customers believe that there will be extensions of maintenance available, once we get close. If not from SAP them from 3rd party providers. Many of the big system integrators will probably love having a number of customers to support on-premise beyond that date. After all, that allows them to sell more of those customisations, which in turn make the systems high maintenance allowing them to sell even more services.

– Seriously: where there is money there is a way, but the fact that the way is expensive, doesn’t mean it’s a good way

– However, there is far too much focus on the 2025 date as a driver of decisions. For most customers, it shouldn’t really matter. If you want a cutting edge HCM solution in a few years’ time, it’s gotta be cloud frm all we know today. Not only, because SAP (as most other vendors) is focussing most of its investment there, but also, because the cloud model just does allow for faster innovation.

– So, don’t say: we’ll move to SuccessFactors, because the old system will die in 2025. Do say: we’ll move to SuccessFactors, because it’s the cutting edge solution. And if it really doesn’t do what you need yet today in some processes: wait a bit and watch. But don’t wait, until it does look exactly how your old solution looks like, because that would be like waiting for a mechanical horse to be available at your Porsche dealership.

If you think, Successfactors is too expensive for medium sized businesses, think again!

SAP SuccessFactors Logo– This is a common stereotype, but that’s no longer true. There are deployment models and pricing models in place to make SuccessFactors affordable for businesses between 100 and 1000 people.

– Actually, it’s a big opportunity for medium sized businesses to overcome the people related barriers to growth they used to hit somewhere between 100 and 500 employees.

– unable to hire the right people fast enough

– retention problems, as they didn’t have the right pay structures

– engagement issues, as young professionals were taken aback by the old fashioned internal processes

– lack of alignment between individuals’ efforts and business objectives

– not allowing their workforce to learn the right skills fast enough


Sven Ringling is Director of iProCon, a SAP consultancy specialising in HCM, Global Rollout, SuccessFactors, Concur Cloud Transformation and HRIS Strategy. Visit the iProCon website to find out more or connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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