A first review of SAP SuccessFactors Q4-2018 Release

A first review of SAP SuccessFactors Q4-2018 Release

While many people are ramping up for the upcoming peak season in business & HR processes – or simply trying to absorb the vast amount of innovations announced by SAP at TechEd last week, and SuccessConnect just 4 weeks ago – We have been enjoying having a little time to take a first look at the SuccessFactors Q4-2018 release internally. In SAP sometimes referred to as b1811.

The coding for the Q4-2018 release has been completed and implementation partners and clients can now spend some time to get acquainted with the functionalities in the next few weeks until Q4-2018 hits the preview environments. To clients we would like to stress that this is an important task not to neglect, even though the Q4-2018 release together with Q1-2019 is announced as a “minor release”.

Innovation Continues at a High Pace

We have known the updated SuccessFactors product road map since SuccessConnect back in September and it reveals that SAP is not sitting on their hands but rather continuing to take huge leaps forward. We were especially eager to learn if indeed the Q4 release would include anything about SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) which was announced by President of SAP SuccessFactors Greg Tomb at the Las Vegas keynote.

It was learnt shortly after Greg’s presentation that SAC would indeed be delivered and is a production ready product and that it is being rolled out with the Q1-2019 release; so we have to be a little more patient. Being fans of analytics and ramping up GP Strategies on Analytics we have also tried to look at the release summary through the lens of what it would appear like in SAP Analytics Cloud:

We totally enjoy SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) and believe firmly that SAC will be a major component that all SuccessFactors customers, as well as other SAP technologies, will be using in the coming 12-18 months, no exception. The ability to build report stories, highlight main focus areas, key performance indicators in a user friendly way just provides a massive return on investment.

Anyway, back to the Q4 release…

From a high level there are 190 release items in the Q4-2018 list, a notch lower than what we saw in previous releases. So no big change there. We also see expanded support for new countries and although we are not getting SAP Analytics Cloud just yet, there are still improvements in the current reporting capabilities, although they are not architectural they do provide business opportunities and value – and for data privacy some important features that are likely to also complicate matters somehow.

These are some of our top picks:

  • Life continues to be more flexible and powerful for system admins with nice innovations. For example managing business rules has long had a too simple search feature. With the new release you can view and manage business rules on the Business Rule Admin page. This new page is designed with the SAP UI5 technology. From here, you can search, filter, sort, and group business rules. You also have the options to create and display rules from the page, but for all other operations such as modifying, copying, and deleting rules, you will be taken to the legacy “Configure Business Rules” UI. You can access the Business Rule Admin page the same way as you access Configure Business Rules. The new UI5 design provides a clear overview of what rules are available in your company, and it offers more capability and better efficiency to business rule management.

  • In the Fiori based Home page we have had a long standing issue, although some have not encountered it. Yes, we have been able to create up to 100 custom tiles and yes we have been able to use RBP roles to assign tiles to users. But some use cases have not been supported and SAP has made an enhancement to the custom home page tile framework. As an admin, you can associate business rules to a custom tile and create one 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 for your organisation and avoid reaching the limit of 100 tiles.

  • SAP has put a lot of effort into providing module specific Configuration check tools. Whilst they may not be super valuable for the experienced & professional certified consultant, configuration check tools do help analyse potential issues post go live – so it is highly recommended to enable and use check tools. As of Q4-2018, there is a tile in the Admin Center that shows the admin a summary of the latest check results from the Check Tool. The total number of checks is shown, with status Successful, Warning, or Error. Another new feature is in the check history popup, which now also shows the parameters selected for the particular check execution run.

  • If your SuccessFactors solution is set up to use Single Sign On you are hopefully using SAML2.0 as method. Be aware that if you are using other mechanisms, and you are using the GET login method it can cause security issues. For organisations who login by using a URL in a browser, it is recommended to not include the username and password (even fictive) in the URL. For organisations who login through internal integration, it is encouraged to change the login method from GET to POST – and it is a change that will be enforced to take effect in a forthcoming release.

  • Consultants often use a combination of XML based data model imports and the Admin Center configuration tools. Previously, the field max-length defined in the employee data model (called Succession Model, but used by all customers because it is rightly the Employee Profile + Employee Central User Data Model) might exceed the maximum length allowed in the SuccessFactors database, but the data model can still be imported successfully, which makes your field max-length ineffective. Now, it is possible for 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 – after this release they must be fixed in order to reimport. Recommend you just try to export & reimport to verify.

  • For clients working with data imports on regular basis, there is a much needed enhancement to the visual experience of the importing of background & trend (= performance ratings, potential ratings) data. The process is enhanced so admins can choose to enable a pop-up dialog to notify users when they choose to overwrite existing data. Today it is easy-peasy to perform a simple import with 1 row, select overwrite and then all data for the particular import object is physically deleted/purged from the system. This warning is needed to avoid such errors from happening.

  • In Onboarding, we finally see support for concurrent employment. This will mean that customers will be able to indicate during the onboarding process, if this is the primary employment or not, thereby have multiple position assigned to an employee without having to manually update the concurrent employment relationship afterwards.

  • In Career Development Planning we have historically seen consultants and client admins add custom fields to the development plan template and forgetting to mark the custom field as reportable.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 Q4 2018, in Configuration Check, you can run a check to identify the development plan templates where custom fields have not been specified as reportable. Nice!

  • Compensation has been seeing several innovations during 2018 which we hope many clients will have adopted for their 2019 compensation campaigns. The all new combined Total Compensation Worksheet is now generally available and although not mandatory to use we would recommend looking at it from 2019 onwards …

  • As seen in the dashboard there is a lot of movements in the Recruiting space.This is largely attributed to the new Candidate Relationship Management that sees a lot of new features with this release. For example, with the Candidate Relationship Management Email Campaign feature, users can create an e-mail campaign, enter the name, description, locale, brand and e-mail campaign code, and enter details to e-mail fields such as From, Reply-To, and Subject. Users can also select individual e-mail recipients or select recipients from talent pools, select an e-mail layout and content template, and save the e-mail campaign as a draft. Other functionality includes viewing a list of e-mail campaigns that includes the campaign name, status, date sent, number of recipients, brand, created by, and description, and see feedback on the e-mail campaign such as the number of recipients, clicks, unsubscribed e-mails, and undelivered e-mails. Impressive – and this is just one of many. If you are struggling with keeping your candidate pool engaged and you are not using CRM today consider it for a near time update.

  • In Employee Central we are getting a (forced) upgrade from the now legacy XML based propagation rules to EC Business Rule based propagation. If you have been live with EC more than 2-3 years it could be that you are using the legacy method. As of Q4-2018 release, XML-based propagation is no longer supported and is 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 ensure you check if this applies to you and verify consequences before the upgrade hits your production instance

  • The Employee Central Data Replication Monitor also now uses optimistic locking for all content types now. SAP also 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 this time around – mostly focusing on unifying the user experience with SAP Fiori design on more areas.

  • For Performance Management and Goal Management we are 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 on the mobile.

  • Continuous Performance Management is continuously improved! And the current release is not an exception. A mobile first feature for SAP SuccessFactors Mobile iOS users that 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. Interesting that SAP applies a “mobile first” strategy here, and these features are currently available only on the SAP SuccessFactors Mobile app. It is fair to assume that they will get to the web UI in a coming release soon.

  • While we are at the Mobile experience. 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 jointly. This is a long time request and one that should close at least a handful of improvement requests in the SAP Influence Program, and improve the adoptability of the mobile app significantly.

  • If you have not yet updated to Report Center consider this for the next release as it is becoming mandatory. Anyway, in Report Center, you can now import or export multiple reports (also supporting 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 it generates a zip file of the exported reports. Likewise, to import multiple reports click Import, select the zip file containing various reports and then click Import. A status message will tell you the results. This is particularly useful for moving reports from one instance to another.

  • In the domain of data protection there are also 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 in a CSV file. Before, this option was only available for partial purges of specific types of data. Now it is available for the full master data purge as well.

  • We are still eagerly awaiting the Read Audit functionality that was schedule to be released during Q2, then Q3 and now Q1 – 2019, making customer compliant on who have seen what sensitive data on employees.

Note on Role Based Permissions (RBP)

With the Q4 2018 release there is a role-based permissions migration tool to perform your RBP migration. For small organizations, this tool allows you to create the most commonly used roles and assign permissions in RBP based on your legacy permissions. Previously, RBP migration did not have a step by step tool to support RBP migration. Now, you can use the migration tool to start creating the roles you’ll need in your new security model. If you are not using RBP now – start tomorrow. If you are in doubt, reach out to SAP Cloud Support, your partner or ask an expert. It’s easy and self-maintaining to a large extent.

Reporting Overview for SuccessFactors

Last, we would like to spend a little time on reporting. While we are waiting for SAP Analytics Cloud to emerge as a reporting framework inside Report Centre it is important you make sure you are taking advantage of the analytics capabilities that are already available in SuccessFactors.

Today an enterprise company will likely have:

  • List Reports (based on Ad Hoc Report Builder

  • Tiles (based on admin centre built youcalc tiles and standard tiles)

  • Dashboards (based on admin centre 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 & details only)

  • Embedded Insights (per module, 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 (including administration of them) is governed through Role Based Permissions, so it can become quite granular. We would recommend that you quarterly check that your end users have access to the right analytics.

It is also recommend enabling the Login spreadsheet report for understanding general system usage, including answering questions such as “How many of our mangers have logged in during the past 30 days” and “which managers have never logged in”, questions that help you understand the system usage patterns. If you haven’t enabled Report Centre yet, this is also recommendable and that you validate your existing reports on a regular basis, including making some basic spot checks on data validation & reconciliation. With this in place, you will be in a fine position to start using SAP Analytics Cloud once it becomes available in the first half of 2019.

Wrap Up

OK … we could go on! Our friends at SAP have certainly not been taking much time off the past few months. Even though you are loosing your breath, we actually expect the innovation pace to continue its acceleration as the SuccessFactors solution matures and integrates more and more with 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.

Anyway, this rounds up a fantastic 2018 for us at GP Strategies. The above list were just some of the obvious top-picks that we are really looking forward to getting our hands on to and see in action and discuss with our clients in the weeks to come. The preview instances are updated on the weekend of 3 November and Production 4 weeks later on December 1st.

Get in touch

If you need to know more about the release, consult the SuccessFactors Customer Community. If you are a partner, review the internal release readiness (IRR) webinars. If you are a customer do see if you can participate in the GP Strategies Customer Community meetings (if you did not get an invite let us know). If you have any comments or questions please do reach out to us.


Christian Holst & Erik Ebert

About GP Strategies

GP Strategies SuccessFactors Practice has completed more than 1000 SAP SuccessFactors projects in more than 100 countries worldwide throughout the past 18 years. Our 225 consultants are covering all major industries and provide continued operational support and maintenance for more than 125 companies. We are an SAP Gold Partner, and we have been awarded SAP Recognized Expertise in all SAP SuccessFactors areas. Entering the SAP Hall of Fame, we received the Partner Excellence Award in 2020 and 2021. Working together with our customers, we have won 13 Quality Awards in four years.  Contact us if you need guidance on how to get the most out of your SuccessFactors solution.