Jeremy Masters

Author, speaker, and HR technology expert

SAP and SuccessFactors: My Top 9 Integration Challenges


I have had the fortune of gaining exposure to some of the latest information on the ongoing SuccessFactors and SAP integration. At the SAPPHIRE conference, and again at the recent HR2012 conferences, SAP has laid out their plan for integration with SuccessFactors (SFSF).  It is obvious that everyone at SFSF and SAP knows this topic is paramount in moving forward with its customers.  Clearly, SAP is pouring lots of R&D into these integration packages, and promising frequent minor releases (to combat poor reception to the slowness of earlier Enhancement Package releases). We are yet to understand what the rhythm will be, but certainly they will need to have frequent innovations around these process and data integrations so that customers can leverage a standard integration.

For the SAP customers who decide that a hybrid orientation (SAP as Core/Payroll/Time/Benefits and SFSF for Talent) is their new platform, I have identified a few challenges that will need to be addressed for SAP and its customers as they move forward:

  1. An interface is still an interface. Customers understand that an interface is still an interface no matter how standardized it will be. The current download/upload via .CSV was a quick and dirty solution to get SAP customers on SFSF but we need to mature this integration – SAP and SFSF  know this and is actively working on further improvements in their integration packages.
  2. Workflow/approvals and notification management.  How will workflow and approval routing be handled? SAP arguably has one of the best workflow engines out there, so will this be leveraged, or perhaps workflow/notification management will be handled from SFSF.  When organizational structure changes and employee movement occur, we will be reliant on SAP Core master data to update SFSF in a timely and consistent manner. This is easier said than done as know from our past experiences connecting systems.
  3. Security and provisioning models. How will the security models be shared between the two systems?  How will the security and provisioning models be integrated/shared/leveraged across platforms? How will established GRC and identify management processes be incorporated into SFSF?  This could be an audit and controls field day.
  4. Global employee management. Most SAP customers are not using true concurrent employment (global employment) functionality, but almost all have their own way of identifying expatriates, inpatriates, and other global employees.  This is a pain point for a lot of customers since it’s already hard to manage this population in SAP.
  5. Portal navigation including ‘deep linking’. How will customers achieve “one, unified self service experience” if some services reside in both portals (Employee Central and NetWeaver)? Years ago, we were foaming at the mouth on the importance of having one portal with seamless look-and-feel, linking, and access to web content regardless of where it resides (intranet, internet, etc).
  6. Usability / user experience between the two systems needs to be addressed.  Right now, it makes sense that this is prioritized lower since there are ‘bigger fish to fry’ (i.e., data integration) but we know that we want a beautiful user experience, but we also want a beautiful, consistent user experience.
  7. Data model. How are the two data models being integrated, merged, or otherwise made seamless?  SAP’s Infotype framework is one way of organizing data; SFSF has another. When data is sent to SFSF (and/or back to SAP), will we need any transformation of data, or is the data models close enough to support tight integration?
  8. Terminology. Every system has its own set of terms (‘system vernacular’). How will we integrate these? Examples include (from the SAP side), Personnel Area, Personnel Subarea, Employee Group, and Employee Subgroup – how do map over to SFSF data, and what are they referred to as?  Additionally, we need to be sure translations are handled consistently as well. Internationalization needs to be seamless and consist across the two systems.
  9. Content management. Centralized content management will be difficult if not impossible.  For the interim, I suppose parallel content management strategies would exist until one system is used, as I don’t think Employee Central and SAP Netweaver could be managed from the same CMS.

These are the top considerations that have been swirling around in my head of late, and I am sure there are more considerations.  There are certainly specific ones depending on the type of business. For example, public sector versus private as well as within industry (e.g. Pharmaceutical vs non-Pharmaceutical).

The good news is that SAP and SFSF are committed to tackle these items, but our community must be diligent and honest on how we approach and solve for each of them.  Time will tell on how these are solved. Hopefully SAP and SFSF will use their large vendor network to help.

– Jeremy Masters


Author: Jeremy Masters

Jeremy Masters is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Worklogix, a management and technology services firm specializing in enterprise application development and implementation support for HCM solutions. For 18 years, he has worked with the latest Talent Management and Self Service functionality within the SAP HCM suite and SuccessFactors, including Performance Management, Enterprise Compensation Management, ESS/MSS, Succession Planning, and E-Recruiting. He regularly presents at SAP Insider events and is the co-author of the following SAP PRESS books: Implementing Employee and Manager Self Services in SAP ERP HCM, SAP ERP HCM Performance Management, Enterprise Compensation Management in SAP ERP HCM, E-Recruiting with SAP ERP HCM, SAP ERP HCM Infotypes and SAP ERP Self-Service: Employee, Manager, and HR Renewal.


  1. It’s an interesting set of challenges that you’ve pointed out. What’s got my attention is the Portal… a unified view.
    I’ve not seen SuccessFactors. Does it have its own Portal (web based application for end users) ? I hope SAP will release or will provide a platform to implement a solution wherein a customer can expose ESS services via webservices to consume in the SuccessFactors or the other way around

    • Prem,

      at SuccessConnect in Sydney we were briefly demo’d some SuccessFactors components (Personal Profile etc) being launched from within NW Portal/NWBC the experience was far from seamless. Especially grating was the juxtaposition of Nakisa style box/unreadable org charts and the very different SuccessFactors style.

      Currently you cannot integrate your own services/content into EC – but it is certainly an aim – see Matthias’ comments here ->–the-road-forward



    • hi prem

      1. SAP is doing away the SOA for HCM and they have not added anything much for last many versions (EHPs).
      2. There are some integration touch points defined on which I will send you a ppt/ pdf.
      3. As penned by Chris NWBC eliminates the need of portal however I am looking forward on the business outlook from process perspective that is brought in HCM by SF.
      4. Integrating workflow is not much of a concern as document workflow can integrate any application (including non SAP) with ease.

      This is a very interesting situation and more documents on SF would help us understand.

      – barin

  2. Well said! True, time will tell how these issues are solved. I found the title interesting, Jeremy. Top 9… instead of the usual 10. Here’s one more …Timelines: When can we expect to see true integration: start looking at customization or wait it out?

  3. Jeremy, Security integration and provisioning is absolutely a concern and a bit of a gray area right now. As with challenges we’ve seen in the past with BI/BW, will structural profiles and context-sensitive security translate into SFSF? And relating to #2, in addition to Workflow, will the org structure changes transfer quickly enough to update user access accordingly?

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