SAP and SuccessFactors – “Proven” Integration is Hype

Early last month I wrote The Real Truth about SAP and SuccessFactors Integration to try to clear up some of the confusion in the marketplace. To my surprise I had several SAP customers reach out telling me they were very surprised at my article as it contradicted their understanding of message they were getting directly from SAP. These customers had recently been got the impression that SAP and SuccessFactors had hundreds customers already successfully integrated using SAP “proven” solutions and sent me SAP presentations they had gotten in the last month at ASUG Events, HCI, HR Technology and other venues. Here is one of the slides in question.

SAP and SuccessFactors - "Proven" Integration is Hype

As you can see SAP mentions some very large brand name companies that have already integrated SAP and SuccessFactors and given that this was shown eight months after the deal closed many customers just assumed they did it using SAP delivered integration. Unfortunately virtually none of these companies are live using a solution provided by SAP but I have good faith SAP would have explained that in detail if any customer had asked the “right” questions. Each of the customers listed in the slide (ie Siemens) had to build their own custom integration between SAP and SuccessFactors as prior to the acquisition their ONLY option was to take on this responsibility in-house and assume all the complexity, cost and long-term support. It is important to note that SAP would be up in arms if they saw an Oracle presentation that said “Hundreds of SAP HCM customers have successfully integrated to Taleo” but it is just as accurate as the slide above.

Hopefully customers understand that robust and seamless integration between two companies with different data models, that were competitors last year at this time, is a complex and difficult task. While this type of slide may have been okay in May the fact that is it still being shown gives the impression (right or wrong) there is “proven” integration that “hundreds” of companies are using and without reading the fine print gives the sense of a tried and true solution. SAP has recently made some progress as they released the First Standard Integration Package this week but all of the issues and concerns in my The Real Truth about SAP and SuccessFactors Integration are still valid as well as the potential licensing issues surrounding SAP Details Policies, Pricing for Linking Cloud Apps which has yet to be officially announced. The good news is that SAP/SuccessFactors have a solid roadmap in place in early/mid 2013 which assuming they can deliver on, as well as work out the licensing of the SAP HANA Cloud integration, the story could turn into a very positive one for customers.

As a consultant I know how important it is to level set expectations and work day in and day out to be trusted partner to my customers. It is a higher standard that I also expect out of SAP and recently am seeing an alarming trend across multiple offerings such as SAP/SuccessFactors Integration, Cloud Payroll, Employee Central and Financials OnDemand where the marketing message appears to be out of line from with where the products sit from a maturity standpoint. In some cases this causes problems all the way down the ecosystem as it becomes very difficult for SAP partners and consultants to be able to deliver these product to meet the lofty expectations that were cultivated through the marketing and sales process. It is easy to say that this is commonplace amongst competitors with a good example being Oracle Fusion which was heavily hyped before it was even released, and SAP is just following suit, but two recent examples from Workday caught my eye.

  • The CIO of Global Functions at HP Scott Spradley stood up and told the story at Workday Rising earlier this week of how Co-Founder David Duffield will tell you “what you need to hear” not always what you “want to hear” and in 2009 asked Workday “do you want HP as a customer” and heard “We want you as a customer but not right now as we want to wait until we are able to give you the best experience possible”. He went on to tell the story of how this reinforced the trust he had in Workday and HP recently became Workday’s largest customers with over 300,000 employees. If SAP has a similar customer story it would great if they would share it on stage at Sapphire Orlando, as coming from a customer it was very compelling.
  • In this interview last month with Co-Founder Aneel Bhusri he was asked “How is the Financial Product” and responded with “We still have some work to do to bring it to parity with the legacy systems” and “We will have done three more updates, and I would like to say a year from now we’ll be showing off a few flagship customers in finance” and keep in mind this is a product that has been released for several years. Contrast that to recent blogs such as SAP FI OnDemand: Key Innovations and SAP FI OnDemand: The New FI Engine for the 21st Century about a new product that has just been released. I am not an expert in Finance but I know how difficult building a large enterprise software ready solution can be.

SAP has done a great job over the years cultivating relationships with almost 200,000 customers which is very impressive but each time the early product hype or sales claims do not match reality customers become disappointed and that trust chips away. Customers have long memories and ultimately will vote with their wallet, which is why SAP should do everything in its power to ensure they are telling the right message at the right time throughout all their channels especially when it comes to new offerings.