A First Review of SAP SuccessFactors Q4-2018 Release

By , on October 16th, 2018 in Uncategorized

While many people are preparing for the upcoming peak season in business & HR processes or trying to absorb the innovations announced by SAP at TechEd last week and at SuccessConnect just 4 weeks ago, we here at GP Strategies have been taking a first look at the SuccessFactors Q4-2018 release, sometimes referred to as b1811.

The coding for the Q4-2018 release has been completed and implementation partners and clients can now spend time getting acquainted with the functionalities until Q4-2018 hits preview environments in a few weeks. To clients, we would like to stress that this is an important task even though the Q4-2018 and Q1-2019 releases were announced as a “minor release.”

Looking to the Future

The updated SuccessFactors product road map debuted at SuccessConnect in September reveals that SAP is taking huge leaps forward. We were especially eager to hear if the Q4 release included anything about SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC), which was announced by the President of SAP SuccessFactors, Greg Tomb, at the Las Vegas keynote.

Shortly after Tomb’s presentation, it was confirmed that SAC would indeed be delivered and is a production-ready product that will be rolled out with the Q1-2019 release. Being dedicated students of reporting and analytics, we’ve also looked at the release summary through the lens of how it will appear in SAP Analytics Cloud:

We love SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) and believe it will be a major component all SuccessFactors customers and other SAP technologies will be using inside a year and a half. The ability to build report stories, highlight main focus areas, and review key performance indicators in a user-friendly way provides a massive return on investment.

Release Details

From a high level, there are 190 release items in the Q4-2018 list, a notch lower than what we saw in previous releases. There’s also expanded support for new countries. Although SAP Analytics Cloud hasn’t arrived just yet, improvements in the current reporting capabilities have still been made. Even though they’re not architectural, they provide business opportunities and value. For data privacy, there are some important features that are also likely to complicate matters.

Release Highlights

  • Life is more flexible and powerful for system admins. For example, you can now view and manage business rules on the new Business Rule Admin page. This page is designed with the SAP UI5 technology. From here, you can search, filter, sort, and group business rules. You also have the option to create and display rules from the page, but for all other operations such as modifying, copying, and deleting rules, you’ll be taken to the legacy “Configure Business Rules” UI. You can access the Business Rule Admin page the same way you currently access Configure Business Rules. The new UI5 design provides a clear overview of what rules are available in your company and offers more capability and efficiency to business rule management.
  • The Fiori-based home page’s custom tile framework has been updated. While we’ve been able to create up to 100 custom tiles and have been able to use RBP roles to assign tiles to users, some use cases haven’t always been supported in the past. Now SAP has made an enhancement to the custom home page tile framework. As an admin, you can associate business rules with a custom tile and create a single tile for different target populations. The Rules Engine determines which content to display for the end user. This helps reduce the total amount of custom tiles that need to be created and helps you avoid reaching the 100 tile limit.
  • SAP has put a lot of effort into providing module-specific configuration check tools. While they may not be super valuable for certified consultants, configuration check tools help analyze potential issues post go-live, so we highly recommend you enable and use them. As of the Q4-2018 release, there is a tile in the Admin Center showing a summary of the latest check results from the tool, covering total number of checks, successes, warnings, and errors. The check history pop-up also includes a new feature that shows the selected parameters for that particular check execution run.
  • If your SuccessFactors solution is set up to use single sign on, you’re now hopefully using SAML2.0 as the method. Be aware that if you’re using other mechanisms and the GET log in method, you might run into security issues. For organizations that log in via browser URL, it’s recommended that you don’t include the username and password in the URL. For organizations who log in through internal integration, it’s encouraged that you change the log in method from GET to POST–it’s a change that will be enforced in a future release.
  • Consultants often use a combination of XML-based data model imports and the Admin Center configuration tools. Previously, the max-length field defined in the employee data model sometimes exceeded the maximum length allowed in the SuccessFactors database even though the data model could still be imported successfully, making the max-length field ineffective. Now, it’s possible to validate the max-length definition of string fields when importing the data model. If it exceeds the maximum length, the import is blocked and error messages are provided to help you better manage the max-length definition. So if the data model has invalid configurations in it, they must be fixed in order to reimport. We recommend you just try to export and reimport to verify.
  • For clients working with data imports on a regular basis, there is a much-needed enhancement to the visual experience of the importing of background and trend (this includes performance ratings and potential ratings) data. The process is enhanced so admins can now choose to enable a pop-up to notify users when they choose to overwrite existing data. Today, it’s easy to perform a simple import with one row, select overwrite, and watch as all data for the particular import object is physically deleted/purged from the system. This new warning is needed to hopefully avert purging disasters.
  • There’s finally support for concurrent employment in Onboarding. This means customers will be able to indicate if this is a new hire’s primary employment during onboarding, allowing there to be multiple positions assigned to an employee without having to manually update the concurrent employment relationship afterwards.
  • We have historically seen consultants and client admins add custom fields to the development plan template and forget to mark the custom field as reportable in Career Development Planning. Currently, you can add as many fields as you want, but only 20 fields can be reportable and this has to be set by field. With the Q4 2018 release, you can run a configuration check to identify the development plan templates where custom fields have not been specified as reportable. Nice!
  • Compensation has seen several innovations in 2018 we hope clients will have adopted for their 2019 campaigns. The all new combined Total Compensation Worksheet is now generally available and although not mandatory to use, we recommend looking at it from 2019 on.
  • There’s a lot of movement in the recruiting space. This is largely attributed to the new Candidate Relationship Management function. For example, with the Candidate Relationship Management Email Campaign feature, users can create an email campaign; enter the name, description, locale, and brand and email campaign code; and enter email field details such as from, reply-to, and the subject. Users can also select individual email recipients or select recipients from talent pools, select an email layout and content template, and save the email campaign as a draft. Other functionality includes viewing a list of email campaigns that includes the campaign name, status, date sent, number of recipients, brand, created by, and description and feedback on the email campaign such as number of recipients, clicks, unsubscribes, and undelivered. If you’re struggling to keep your candidate pool engaged and you’re not using CRM, consider it in the future.
  • Employee Central is getting a (forced) upgrade from the now legacy XML-based propagation rules to EC Business Rule-based propagation. If you’ve been live with EC for more than 2 to 3 years, it’s possible you’re using the legacy method. As of the Q4-2018 release, XML-based propagation is no longer supported and is instead replaced by business rules-based propagation. Existing XML-based propagation in your systems will be automatically migrated for you. A must for all customers using XML-based propagation is to review the migrated configuration and ensure it still works as originally designed. As always, pay attention with forced upgrades and verify consequences before the upgrade hits your production instance.
  • The Employee Central Data Replication Monitor now uses optimistic locking for all content types. SAP implemented optimistic locking for business configuration in Q1 2018. This means when multiple users try to update the same record, optimistic locking prevents data replication records from being corrupted or invalidated.
  • In Employee Central Time Off, not a lot of change this time around – mostly focusing on unifying the user experience with SAP Fiori design in more areas.
  • For Performance Management and Goal Management we’re seeing a focus on bringing the mobile experience on par with the browser experience, introducing features such as enhanced search for forms and support for collaborative steps—good features to finally have for mobile.
  • Continuous Performance Management is improved!  A mobile-first feature for SAP SuccessFactors Mobile iOS users reimagines the talent experience by creating an intuitive user experience integration between Learning and Continuous Performance Management (CPM). Learning users can now create CPM achievements from the history details screen of successfully completed learning items, create CPM activities from the item details screen of learning items added to My Assignments, and receive a prompt to create a CPM activity when assigning a course to themselves via the Learning Catalog. These features are currently available only on the SAP SuccessFactors Mobile app. It’s safe to assume that they’ll revisit the web UI in a future release.
  • More mobile improvement. The iOS and Android SAP SuccessFactors mobile apps now support the collaborative route map steps for Performance Management Reviews. This enables multiple users to edit the performance form simultaneously. This has been a long-time request and should significantly improve the adoption of the mobile apps.
  • Updating to Report Center is now mandatory. In Report Center, you can now import or export multiple reports (and different report types) in a single action. To export multiple reports, select the reports you want to export, and click the export icon that appears above the reports list, and watch as it generates a zip file of the exported reports. Likewise, to import multiple reports, click import, select the zip file containing various reports, and click import. A status message will tell you the results. This is particularly useful for moving reports from one instance to another.
  • There are also data protection improvements. When setting up a full purge of inactive users for data protection and privacy, you can now upload a list of multiple users specified by User ID via a CSV file. Before, this option was only available for partial purges of specific types of data. Now it’s available for the full master data purge.
  • We are still eagerly awaiting the Read Audit functionality that was scheduled to be released during Q2 and Q3. It’s now scheduled to be released in Q1–2019  and will make customers with sensitive employee data compliant.

A Note on Role-Based Permissions (RBP)

With the Q4-2018 release, there is now a role-based permissions migration tool to perform RBP migrations. For small organizations, this tool allows you to create the most commonly used roles and assign permissions in RBP based on legacy permissions. Previously, RBP migration did not have a step-by-step tool to support it. Now, you can use the migration tool to start creating the roles you’ll need in your new security model. If you’re not using RBP, it’s time to start. If you’re not sure how to get started, reach out to SAP Cloud Support, your partners, or ask an expert. It’s a simple and largely self-maintaining feature.

Reporting Overview for SuccessFactors

Finally, let’s talk a little about reporting. While we’re waiting for SAP Analytics Cloud to emerge as a reporting framework inside Report Center, it’s important to make sure you’re taking advantage of the analytics capabilities already available in SuccessFactors.

Today, an enterprise company will likely have:

  • List Reports (based on Ad Hoc Report Builder)
  • Tiles (based on admin center built youcalc tiles and standard tiles)
  • Dashboards (based on admin center built youcalc tiles as well as standard tiles and standard dashboards)
  • Advanced Reports (based on Online Report Designer EC Advanced Reporting)
  • Spreadsheet Reports (for Login history and details)
  • Embedded Insights (allows display of tiles in a panel on each main module)
  • Home Page Tiles (display selected tiles on the home page)

Access to all reporting tools is governed via role-based permissions, so it can become quite granular. We recommend you check that your end users have access to the right analytics at least quarterly.

We also recommend you enable the login spreadsheet report so you can better understand general system usage and answer questions like: “How many of our mangers have logged in during the past 30 days?” and “Which managers have never logged in?” If you haven’t enabled Report Center yet, we recommend that you do and that you validate your existing reports on a regular basis, including making some basic spot checks on data validation and reconciliation. With this in place, you’ll be in a fine position to start using SAP Analytics Cloud once it becomes available in the first half of 2019.

Wrap-Up

Our friends at SAP have certainly been busy the past few months. We expect this innovative pace to continue its acceleration as the SuccessFactors solution matures and integrates more and more with the SAP Cloud Platform, SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Digital Boardroom, S4/HANA, CRM, Procurement, and countless other SAP systems to complete the SAP vision of the fully digital enterprise.

We look forward to getting our hands on all the new features and seeing them in action, and we’d love to hear what you think about the new features as well! The preview instances are set to update the weekend of November 3rd and the production instance is set to drop four weeks later on December 1st.

If you want to learn more about the release, consult the SuccessFactors Customer Community or contact us.

Erik Ebert

Erik Ebert

For the past 25 years, Erik has worked across a wide range of organisations in improving business performance, focusing on business value. He has previously worked as a project management coach, developing standards, methods, and helping project managers get the most out of their time and resources. Currently, Erik is a Solutions Director for Effective People, A Division of GP Strategies and located in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Erik Ebert

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