SAP SuccessFactors Tops Workday–In One Part of Gartner’s Report

In Gartner’s latest Magic Quadrant, SAP SuccessFactors inched ahead of Workday in the vision category. While naturally some protested, a full-day briefing with 10 executives on Aug. 1 at company headquarters and the company’s SuccessConnect user conference four weeks later showed why that came to pass.

SAP SuccessFactors has been selling its core HCM product, Employee Central, for more than seven years. But consider that it didn’t become functional enough for large multi-national companies until after SAP acquired the company about six years ago.

Rebuilding took a while, and the sales growth didn’t spurt until three years ago. Signed customers increased from 392 then to 1,850 on June 30–effectively catching Workday, which had been selling core HR and so much more for 10 years!

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Of course, those raw numbers don’t tell the whole story: average customer size matters–a lot. And based on employees covered by those more or less equal sales numbers, Workday still leads substantially in that metric, as it did in the Gartner MQ’s other category “ability to execute.”

SAP SF has put a big emphasis on meeting the needs of prospects outside the U.S., many geographies Workday has been scrambling to catch up in for three years. EC clearly has the localizations to sell there with seven countries featuring pre-configured content; payroll for 41 countries (on-prem in a cloud wrapper); and 84 countries localized in 42 languages.

The latest countries being localized tell the story most dramatically: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Iceland and Luxembourg.

This broader, more global geographic strategy, along with sales teams and resellers to support it, was one reason for the company’s movement on the MQ, according to its primary author and Gartner VP Ron Hanscome. The others included the application’s updated user experience, including co-development with Apple to renovate the mobile experience to look and work more like the iPhone.

SAP SF is being very aggressive with “Conversational HR” as Workday is with “Workday Talk.” Both at first will be communicating with the system through free-form text, not talk. The initial focus is on customers already using Microsoft Teams and Slack. SAP SF plans to get five or more customers already on Teams and Slack live on Conversational HR by November with general availability in the first half of 2018.

By the second half of 2018, the company hopes to deliver the interaction with voice, and the current thinking is to have the system answer by voice, as well. Visions of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, who seemed so much more serious than Siri.

At the user conference, Penny Stoker, global leader of HR services at EY (formerly Ernst & Young), gave a very cool demo of Conversational HR, which began with her getting a notice from her digital assistant that three new people would be in her next meeting.

SAP SF continues to build out Employee Central’s own Time Management, while maintaining its partnership with Workforce Software to resell its product. Likewise with Global Benefits (including the U.S.) while maintaining its partnership with Benefitfocus.

All the Big Three HCM vendors are finishing up their re-invention of learning. SAP SF hopes to continue being a leader in the traditional LMS market, while innovating in nextgen learning. Now it’s all mobile with a redesigned catalog, self-service for instructors, grouping to share external content, an expanding network of providers, self-directed learning and new ways to manage and measure the impact of learning.

Seven weeks into her new job as global head of products, Amy Wilson outlined at the briefing several areas that she’s excited about.

Globally, there are the numbers above and she added that she has 60 product managers in 60 countries working on locations. The issue of writing a cloud payroll and for how many countries may be decided soon.

In technology, she was quick to point out that the company is on its fifth release in four years of PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), which Workday announced only a few months ago. SAP Cloud Platform allows customers to build custom applications.

Next year, the long-ago-acquired former Inform (or InfoHRm, if you remember) is being integrated with SAP Business Objects Cloud to form one analytical system.

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Another acquisition, Fieldglass, is being integrated into EC, allowing the creation of a requisition for a contractor position within EC, which is a bigger deal than you might think within core HR. That combination will also be used with SAP’s new Leonardo (bringing in external market data) to produce predictive insights into labor market trends.

Amy is planning a collection of lightweight talent-management applications focused exclusively on employees, not the HR department. SAP SF already has continuous performance management, development and mentoring, plus compensation and rewards. She plans to add a “Team Performance Management” function, which is the first I’ve heard about.

Finally, there is “Health and Well-Being,” an area that Oracle has invested in for almost four years with precious few customers to show for it. But Amy has put her old PeopleSoft colleague Yvette Cameron in charge of it, so who knows how soon we’ll be seeing software to help our non-work relationships. Not soon enough, I’m sure.

For a view from the top of the pyramid, read Jon Reed’s interview with Rob Enslin of the SAP Executive Board.

Bill Kutik
HR Technology columnist Bill Kutik, as chairman emeritus, is at the 22nd Annual HR Technology Conference & Exposition® in Las Vegas, Oct. 1-4, 2019. Watch Kim Billeter, the new Americas Lead for EY HR advisory group (PAS), discuss the question: Why is Cloud adoption taking so long? Just six minutes for the current video episode of Firing Line with Bill Kutik®. Bill can be reached at [email protected].