Moving to SuccessFactors Employee Central: Q&A with SAP Mentor Luke Marson

November 18, 2014

Review all the discussion from this live one-hour Q&A with Luke Marson, SAP Mentor and certified SuccessFactors Employee Central professional, on making the move to SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central. 

Luke Marson took questions from readers including:

  • If I need to integrate EC with another non-SAP payroll system, how does this integration work? Do I need Boomi?
  • In an EC model, does the IT organization perform configuration?
  • Is it realistic to combine Recruiting and Onboarding modules with EC as one integration?
  • Is it true that from next year, EC or any other BizX modules will sit on HANA?
  • In EC, is there a mechanism comparable to SAP's AUTH concepts?

View the chat replay, below, and read the edited transcript from our discussion.

Live Blog Q&A with Luke Marson on Employee Central: November 18, 12:30pm ET

Live Blog Q&A with Luke Marson on Employee Central

SAPinsider:  We’ll be kicking off our chat with SAP Mentor Luke Marson on Tuesday, November 18 at 12:30pm ET.

Luke will join us then in a chat moderated by HR Expert editor M.S. Hein. Lots of questions in already - we look forward to yours!

Luke Marson:  Thanks for having me. I'm really excited about the conversation and see some great questions already coming in. 

M.S. Hein:  Welcome to today’s chat about moving to SuccessFactors Employee Central from SAP ERP HCM.

Thank you to everyone who has already posted questions.

Joining us today is SAP Mentor Luke Marson, and a Certified Professional for SuccessFactors Employee Central. Luke is also a co-author of the book SuccessFactors for SAP ERP HCM and a frequent speaker at SAPinsider’s HR conferences.

In addition, look out for the upcoming HR Expert SuccessFactors-related anthology, featuring several articles written by Luke, which will be available in December 2014.

Luke, welcome and thanks for joining us today. There are already a lot of questions for you, so I’ll let you get to them now.

Luke Marson:  Thanks for having me Margaret and welcome to everyone who has joined this live Q&A. I look forward to answering your questions in the next hour!


Comment From Faraz

What is benefit of using EC vs. other vendors’ products like workday, ADP, etc.?

Luke Marson:  All products have different strengths and appeal to different type of organizations. It's worth evaluating 2 or 3 solutions to find the one that fits your HR vision and technology landscape. For example, if you are already using SAP ERP HCM then there may be significantly more integration cost if you choose to go with a solution other than EC. On the other hand, that cost might be offset if another solution offers functionality that you require that isn't part of EC.


Comment From Ana Maria

If I need to integrate EC with other non-SAP payroll systems, how does this integration work? Do I need BOOMI? Or just files?

Luke Marson:  It really depends on whether your non-SAP payroll system can accept inbound API calls or whether it can only accept a CSV or other flat-file. If it can accept API calls, then Boomi would be a good system because it can automate the process and SAP provides a standard payroll integration template that can be used to create the integration. This is more reliable, secure, and automatic than using flat-file integration.


Comment From Gabriel Basterrechea

For new SAP prospects for a Human Resources solution, in which cases should I offer them SAP HCM and not Employee Central/SuccessFactors (independently from whether it is Cloud or not...)?

Luke Marson:  Unless your customer has very strict or specific requirements that cannot be made in any way in the cloud (e.g. defense), I would recommend that they look at Employee Central. SAP ERP HCM is over 20 years old and is designed for HR practices that are no longer relevant. Going with Employee Central ensure that your customer can build a dynamic HRIS that can meet their needs now and in the future.


Comment From Guest

In a SF EC model, does the IT organization perform configuration?

Luke Marson:  It is possible. I have worked with customers where they have shared some of the configuration effort. It depends on the maturity of the customer, but there are many instances where they can configure the system. As EC moves its data model to the MDF, then more and more configuration will be possible by customers.


Comment From Donna Gaffney

We are planning to implement SuccessFactors EC along with Recruiting and Onboarding beginning the end of Q1 2015. Is it realistic to combine these three solutions as one integration?

Luke Marson:  It is possible to implement these 3 modules at one time, although beware that EC will need a lot of time. In terms of integration, it really depends what other system you have. If you have SAP ERP for example, you can integrate EC to SAP ERP. Recruiting and Onboarding will be integrated directly with EC.

Comment From Alex Loh

Is it true that from next year, new subscriptions - being EC or any other BizX modules - will sit on HANA? As you know, security is always a major concern. With conventional databases the database can be encrypted, i.e., at the database layer. But with HANA, is there an equivalent? Do customers have a choice to move to HANA? Thank you.

Luke Marson:   Currently Workforce Analytics is available on HANA and the entire SuccessFactors HCM suite - including EC - will move onto HANA at some point (probably in 2015 and/or 2016).

I don't know enough about HANA to know if it has that type of encryption feature, but I will try to find out.

I do not believe customers will have a choice to move to HANA, but I don't think that will be an issue given the incredible level of security that SuccessFactors has across the suite's technical infrastructure.


Comment From Didde Altunöz

Background: Global Company, around 6,000 employees. We are going live with an interim display-only version of EC in six weeks, data being fed from SAP on-prem. In the long run, we are aiming for a 2-ways solution with EC as SoR. Performance Management is not implemented.

My questions:

1. We are considering using standard integration side-by-side for the long-term solution. Would that mean starting from scratch in a new instance of EC? If so, would we be hit by double licensing until all employees would be converted to the two-way solution?

2. Currently we are not using SAP PI for integration. We use WebSphere and Change Pointers. Does it seem reasonable to avoid SAP PI going forward, or would you advise us to change our strategy?

3. If implementing side-by-side, we would probably not be first movers, but rather wait until other companies have gone live with the solution, and preferably until the solution has been expanded to transfer local fields as well. I assume that would mean waiting a few years. Do you agree?

4. Which approach would you suggest us to move towards a two-way solution with EC as SoR?

Thanks Luke, for giving us the opportunity to ask questions!

Luke Marson:  
1. You won't need to start from scratch with a new EC instance. If you have architected the interim EC solution with the long-term EC solution in mind then there should be nothing significant.
2. I would recommend looking at the Dell Boomi AtomSphere solution that is included with the EC license. This will enable you to leverage all of the standard integration content for EC-SAP and SAP-EC (side-by-side).
This integration content is not available on any other middleware platform at present (although some content is available on SAP HANA Cloud Integration). I certainly wouldn't look at SAP PI - even if you don't go with Boomi - since you already have a middleware platform.
3. I think it's a sensible approach to wait for Side-by-Side to be more widely adopted and developed. I don't expect it to take multiple years to develop the integration further, but it will take some time for sure.
4. I would like to understand for what reason data needs to be transferred from SAP over to EC if EC is the system of record. There might not be a need to build bi-direction integration and this would definitely make your project and long-term maintenance more simple.


Comment From Carrie

We are currently using payroll specific infotypes within SAP HCM for China and interfacing data to ADP GlobalView. We consider our in house data the system of record, not ADP.

We are considering a move to SF and would want to use the delivered integration between SF EC and ADP, but understand that the payroll specific data is stored in EC Payroll, not EC.

What are our options if we want to:

1. use standard integration and

2. still want to store both employee and payroll data in house

Luke Marson:  In the scenario of using EC and ADP GlobalView, there is no EC Payroll (since your payroll system is GlobalView). EC Payroll is a separate but integrated payroll system designed specifically for EC, but not required even if you don't have any other payroll system.

Therefore you can use EC and ADP GlobalView with the standard packaged integration from SAP. All employee data will be mastered in EC, but payroll-specific data will sit in ADP GlobalView.


Comment From Vagner L. Nazário

I would like to know if it is possible to use EC configuration (such as metadata framework) for non-standard infotype information in EC and let it integrate/interface with SAP HCM afterwards. Thanks.

Luke Marson:   Yes it would. You could create your object and a UI in the Metadata Framework and then integrate this with SAP HCM using your middleware of choice.


Comment From Luc Bossaert

Hi Luke,

How would you rate EC's capability to create customer-specific documents using data from EC? Can you combine this with data from SAP HCM?

Luke Marson:   At present there is no functionality, although this is on the roadmap. SAP have just expanded their partnership with OpenText and, as you know, there are other document solutions from partner vendors such as Spinifex IT that can be integrated into EC. I imagine that document functionality will be delivered in 2015.


Comment From Rams

How do we move the changes done in the SuccessFactors test instance to the production environment? Most of the things we are doing are directly in the instance. So should we need to do it again in the PRD, or is there a way to replicate it from test?

Luke Marson:  You can use the Instance Synchronization Tool to import your configuration, picklists, permissions, and even data from one instance to another. This can be done from test to prod and - if required - the other way around.


Comment From Guest

Is it a requirement to have new GL to leverage the Integration Add-ons from SAP SuccessFactors for the finance master data (e.g., cost center) integration from SAP Finance to SAP SuccessFactors?

Luke Marson:  No it is not. You just need to import the add-on into SAP, configure any BAdIs and iDocs required, and configure Dell Boomi AtomSphere.


Comment From Uday

Luke, Is it beneficial to go through certification or us just learning good enough - especially looking at the huge price of training? I am talking in context of contract jobs in USA.

Luke Marson:  It is definitely a benefit to do both training and certification. SuccessFactors does not let consultants without certification get access to customer systems or to use the support portal.


Comment From Tom

What's typically the greatest challenge when implementing Employee Central and what’s the best way to address it?

Luke Marson:  This is a great question Tom! First and foremost, getting the right expectations in place helps. EC is very configurable but is not customizable, and Metadata Framework is excellent for extending the system capabilities, but still can't meet every requirement.

Data migration is also a huge undertaking and often one that is miscalculated at the onset of a project. Even with just three years of history for a small company, it can be a great challenge.

I have also seen project timelines compressed because it is a cloud implementation, only to find that the workload becomes too great for the client and deadlines begin to slip.


Comment From Luc Bossaert

Can you report out of EC and SAP ERP data? Or do you have to create the integration first (Dell Boomi, HCP )?

Luke Marson:  If EC and SAP are integrated and all data is in one place (e.g., SuccessFactors in this example), then it is possible to report from EC.

However, if a customer has lots of reporting and compliance requirements on both EC and SAP HCM data combined but they don't need to have this data in one system (e.g. EC), then they may wish to look at a solution like SAP BW/BI or a vendor-agnostic solution that can combine the data that they need to report on.


Comment From Guest

How many kinds of reports can I have for employee self-service?

Luke Marson:  There are 66 reports available in EC Advanced Reporting that cover a variety of different uses cases. In addition, these reports can be adapted to be used in MSS and ESS scenarios.


Comment From Guest

Does Employee Central have all the standard legal compliance reports (EE01, VETS100 - other country reports) and what is the process for keeping up to date with legal compliance?

Luke Marson:  Yes it does. As I mentioned in my earlier response, there are 66 reports available in EC Advanced Reporting that cover a variety of different uses cases and these include country-specific reports. For the USA, it includes an EEO report and a VETS-100 report.


Comment From Uday

Is it a good decision to take up Employee Central or Talent Management looking into coming years?

Luke Marson: In the short-term, Talent is a good option, but I think looking towards the long-term future Employee Central is the way to go.


Comment From Guest

How well does EC integrate with Benefitfocus, or is there another recommended vendor for benefits?

Luke Marson:  There is a packaged integration provided by SAP to integrate EC with Benefitfocus, so it integrates quite well. :-)


Comment From Guest

Not knowing the SuccessFactors Employee Central solution: Is there a comparable mechanism to SAP”s elaborate AUTH concepts (structural, context sensitive, etc.)?

Luke Marson:  Yes there is, although it is not exactly the same.

Role-Based Permissions (RBPs) allows field-level and -- in the case of Generic Objects -- object and field-level permissions to be defined for certain groups of users that are applied to a target group of users (which can be from a specific group, or could be a manager’s direct and/or indirect reports).

Structural authorization is available and is used to enable MSS and employee data access to be controlled for the part of their team that is defined.

Context-sensitive is not exactly the same, but being able to control authorizations granularly is possible within the RBP framework.


Comment From Guest

Do customers load ETW (contractor) data into Employee Central?

Luke Marson:  I have worked with customers that do this. In a future release contingent workforce management functionality will be released for EC to more specifically manage contractors.


Comment From Uday

Any comments on making the SuccessFactors configuration documents public by SAP? 

Luke Marson: Some of the configuration handbooks are available now on SAP Service Marketplace (, and so consultants and customers can become familiar with the system configuration even if they haven't taken training. It still won't be possible to implement fully just based off these documents, but they are a good reference guide.


Comment From Guest

SuccessFactors has a current Benefits module that doesn't accommodate all the needs the SAP benefits module would have. Do you know if the Global Benefits module SuccessFactors is announcing for Q1 2015 will be able to provide proper functionality?

Luke Marson:  Global Benefits is already part of Employee Central, although it generally doesn't cover the USA due to the complexity of the US benefits system (although for simple programs it could meet customer requirements). Additional standard content is being introduced and SAP plans to further extend the Global Benefits module in 2015. Future releases will continue to grow this part of EC.


Comment From Guest

Do customers create custom objects to store payroll-related data (country-specific) in Employee Central or do they only store this data in the payroll system?

Luke Marson:  Usually it is only stored in the payroll system, but it could be possible to store it in EC by creating Generic Objects in the Metadata Framework.


Comment From Guest

Is MDF licensed separately or does it come with EC?

Luke Marson:  It comes as part of the platform, which every customer has. However, most of the functionality is only available in EC and partially in Succession, Recruiting, and Compensation.


Comment From Guest

Does EC integrate with products such as IDM (Identity Management) for provisioning of network access and e-mail accounts?

Luke Marson:  Not at present, but a packaged integration is on the roadmap for the first half of next year.


Comment From Guest

Are there any EHP7 impacts to the integration add-ons?

Luke Marson:  None that I am aware of. The packaged integrations just require SAP ECC6 with no enhancement packs as a minimum requirement.


Comment From Guest

If there is a choice of both Boomi and HCI as middleware for prepackaged integrations, which one do you recommend and why?

Luke Marson:   I would choose Boomi, simply because of the cost aspect. Both platforms are very good and although HCI is a little immature compared to Boomi, if they were both included in the EC license I would select HCI.


Comment From Tara

We currently use both SF and SAP and will likely transition to EC within the next few years, once we've converted over to additional SF modules. Are there certain SF modules that should be launched prior to (or in conjunction with) EC?

Luke Marson:  You can launch any modules in any order. However, I would consider that going with EC last may require some rework in certain modules.

For example, Compensation plans may require re-work based on the pay component structure in EC. Also, all integration between SAP and SuccessFactors will not be required once EC is in place and new integration will be required between SAP and EC.


Comment From Guest

What would be some drawbacks to having a hybrid on-prem and EC model?

Luke Marson:  Building and maintaining integrations is no easy feat and this is something that adds a lot of complexity, although it is also a necessary evil in some situations - especially if SAP ERP HCM is retained along with EC. If it's just SAP ERP then it reduces complexity, not just for integration but also for process execution.


Comment From Vermaak Swanepoel

Hi Luke, Does the integration between SuccessFactors Employee Central and SAP ERP require customers to use the position management functions of Employee Central?

Luke Marson:   No it does not. However, I would recommend it if, say, workflows were used in SAP.


Comment From Mike Malicki

What integration choices do customers have between EC and 1) benefits management and 2) time management? What are the best practices right now?

 Luke Marson:  Packaged integrations exist to Aon Hewitt and Benefitfocus for benefits management and for WorkForce Software EmpCenter, Kronos Workforce Central, and Thomsons. Whichever system you go with, the integration should be fairly standard.


Comment From Rams

Is there any scope of country-specific personnel number assignment? Will deleting employees be possible in EC?

Luke Marson: There is scope for country-specific personnel number assignment by using the rule engine. Deleting employees is also possible using Data Retention Management.


Comment From @mgillet

Which training path would you recommend for SAP HR consultants?

Luke Marson:   I would look at getting training in EC and one or two talent modules. That enables a holistic view of the system but also more chances to get onto projects and learn the trade of the cloud.


Comment From Gregor Brandstätter

Is it possible to combine EC and on-promise SAP for different countries (production countries on-promise, non-production countries on EC) based on a Global Template? Which limitations do I have in EC?

Luke Marson:  This is possible, but it introduces a variety of complexity. Of course you could apply the global template across systems and ensure that data is designed in a way to integrate back to SAP ERP HCM as the system of record. There are no overly concerning limitations if you are basing your design on SAP ERP HCM.


Comment From Donna

What is the integration with SAP CO internal orders and cost centers to record labor distribution from EC timekeeping?

Luke Marson:  At present I am not aware of any integration, although some integration is planned from the timesheet module in EC. Please bear in mind that the timesheet module isn't released until the next release in December.


Comment From Guest

Is there a requirement to associate one country to one company code only in EC? I.e., can we have different countries assigned to one legal entity/company code?

Luke Marson:  A Company is usually the top object in the org structure in EC and has a country assigned to it. So, there is a limitation - but this is not too dissimilar to how companies are legally formed.


Comment From Guest

We are planning on starting recruiting marketing, management and onboarding next year and planning to do PI integration. Does it impact us in the future when we plan to do EC? Does EC works with PI?

Luke Marson:  When you go with EC your existing integrations to SAP are no longer required, since EC will integrate with SAP and Recruiting Management/Marketing and Onboarding will integrate with EC. You can use SAP PI with EC, but there is no standard integration content available. I would consider using the integration middleware bundled with EC (Dell Boomi AtomSphere).


Comment From Guest

What does SAP SuccessFactors offer to do repetitive processes for a group of employees (e.g.,  pre/onboarding activities for 50-100 candidates in a batched fashion)?

Luke Marson:  From an EC perspective, the Mass Changes feature enables mass changes of employee data. As of now it is a bit limited, but it will be re-worked in 2015. The target date is the 1505 release.


Comment From Doug Schutzenhofer

Hi Luke, how does EC integrate from a security perspective into a mature traditional SAP HCM environment that has context-sensitive structural authorizations, position-based security, etc. implemented? Does EC also integrate with GRC from a user provisioning and/or compliance perspective?

Luke Marson:  There is no integration for authorizations. There is a SAP GRC integration planned for 2015. SuccessFactors has its own permissions framework called Role-Based Permissions and this is quite robust, but there is no integration to SAP ERP.


Comment From Guest

How do customers load bank masters in EC, as I believe there is no pre-packaged integration (add-on) available at this time?

Luke Marson:  You are correct that there is no packaged integration. The process would be manual and would depend on whether the old Direct Deposit portlet is used or whether new Payment Information portlet is used (which replaces the Direct Deposit).

Either way it would require exporting data from SAP and then some manual import of data, although the Payment Information portlet could be done more automatically by exporting the file onto the SuccessFactors SFTP to be imported into the SuccessFactors system.


Comment From Tom

You mentioned using the Instance Synchronization Tool to promote config from Test to PRD. Does configuration changes need to be regression tested before promoting to PRD? And if so is formal Change Management process recommended?

Just trying to get a feel when we go live with EC if Business can handle all config, or should it go through IS formalized process to migrate to PRD?

Luke Marson: I would expect that all configuration is well tested prior to transporting to the Prod system. Depending on the changes, some form of change management may be needed.


Comment From Alex

Luke, I have a few questions:

1. How are multiple cost centers assigned to an employee handled in EC, and how does the migration of Cost Centers to MDF affect this?

2. The connection between the Positions Orgchart file of the Succession module and the Positions object of EC is not clear yet. So far we are generating ad hoc reports to fill out .csv files in the required format to synchronize Succession Positions to Positions Object in EC. We read about a new form to do this but it is not clear to us yet how to solve this.

3. Is the planned roadmap for EC to have Position or Job data storage, similar to the Employee Data Storage? Or will there be an extension to the Position Object or the Job Classification FO, so that you can have a Pay Component Configuration Associated to the Job Classification or the position? This will permit us to automatically set the pay components to a new hire, and will permit to better structure positions budget. How will the Job Profile builder be able to help on this?

Thank you for your help with these.

Luke Marson:  

1. It depends on how they are assigned. EC has Alternative Cost Distribution so that you can assign multiple cost centers to the employee in addition to their main cost center assignment.

2. I've not heard of this being done manually. Usually positions are created in Position Management and used by both EC and Succession.

3. Some of this is definitely possible now. I would need to look at this more closely to understand what solution is possible (if any). Job Profile Builder may help, but again it would depend on the exact requirements.

M.S. Hein:  Thanks for joining today’s chat.   It’s time to wrap up the Q&A now, but you can find more information on Employee Central from SuccessFactors here.
For more SuccessFactors tips from Luke, you can read his HR Expert articles, including his special report, “SAP and SuccessFactors – An Overview”, as well his book SuccessFactors with SAP ERP HCM. Luke will also be presenting at the HR 2015 conference in Las Vegas this spring.

Luke Marson:  Thanks so much to everyone that attended. There were some great questions. You can contact me further on / / +1 302 690 2537 / @lukemarson /

SAPinsider:  Thank you again, Luke, for staying to finish the remaining questions. We had a great response - thanks to everyone who joined in today and for all your questions!

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