Posted: 15 Apr. 2021 10 min. read

Release time, again?

Five ways to make every SAP SuccessFactors release work for you

Does it feel like you’re always evaluating a new release? Are there new functionalities that you haven’t implemented from previous releases? Do you think your SAP SuccessFactors system is becoming outdated? You’re not alone.

We understand that SaaS updates and releases aren’t always as simple as the click of a button. A new release can have ripple effects, such as the need to align with the business on requirements, test the updates, and update training and communication materials. This extra effort is one major reason SAP changed its release cycle from quarterly to biannual.

But if you’re not taking advantage at some point of the latest features and functionality, you’re depriving your organization of the full value of its cloud human capital management (HCM) investment. You could also be missing out on some capabilities on your wish list that may not have been present in your initial implementation but have since become available—or you could be missing out on functionalities that would allow you to improve your users’ experience.

The good news? You can break through the inertia and get your SAP SuccessFactors system back on track using five relatively straightforward steps:

1.    Shift your mindset

Although software as a service has been around for years now, many organizations still have an on-premise mindset when it comes to releases—still operating the way everyone did when a new HCM system meant a large, upfront capital expenditure followed by a lengthy installation effort. Because of the investment involved, organizations typically went long periods between updates, making do with the old functionality for as long as they could.

With SAP SuccessFactors, much of the argument for putting up with an outdated system has disappeared. The vendor is responsible for keeping its functionality up to date—and is highly motivated to do just that. So, shake off those old habits and help yourself to those cutting-edge capabilities. They’re rightfully yours, as part of the license fees you pay.

2.    Tackle one piece at a time

If you’re in a situation where you’re several releases behind, taking on that backlog can seem overwhelming because now you’re looking at evaluating potentially hundreds of features. Some organizations respond by simply ignoring them. Others go full bore and try to solve multiple business processes in a month.

However, there’s another way, which is to adopt just one functionality, or limited functionality, at a time. To help you decide, consider your current pain points and prioritize them. For example, if talent acquisition is your top issue (whether it’s attracting new employees, or the experience your recruiting team and hiring managers have with the current SuccessFactors configuration), examine the releases you’ve skipped to see what updates they include that could help now. It’s possible that SAP already addressed your exact challenge, and now you simply need to incorporate the new functionality.

3.    Adopt a cyclical approach

To stay ahead, you’ll need to adopt SAP SuccessFactors functionality in a timely manner, but it doesn’t have to be the moment SAP releases its updates. Consider aligning changes with your business cycle in a way that makes them more manageable. For instance, you might evaluate changes to your compensation forms and processes on an annual basis at least six months before gearing up for launching a new compensation form. That offers you leeway to analyze how the new features would affect your system, define the value for your business, and determine the impact on the end-user experience—but it doesn’t require you to incorporate all changes in the window SAP provides between releasing new features in your preview environment and your production environment.

By taking a defined approach that ties into your business processes, you can establish a cadence that makes SAP SuccessFactors’ opt-in features just another step in your preparation for the upcoming HR cycle. It also enables the HRIS or IT teams to expand their thought leadership role with respect to bringing value and solutions to HR. Evaluating new features in their business context—and thinking ahead of when the functionality might be needed—can create the foundation for a more consultative relationship with HR.

4.    Engage a partner

Some organizations may not have enough staff to manage the changing demands of their SAP SuccessFactors system. Others may simply prefer not to develop those competencies internally. In both cases, an effective alternative is to tap into SAP’s ecosystem of alliance partners.

Working with a partner can mean that you outsource many of your support needs, but support alternatives are available. A partner should be able to support your organization in the manner it needs. Examples of this support include the following:

  • Holding an interactive session to discuss your overall SAP SuccessFactors cloud support model, release management, future goals, and road map for optimization and innovation
  • Assessing a single module, resulting in a proposed enhancement plan
  • Checking system health across multiple modules, resulting in a prioritized list of enhancements
  • Creating a service offering to help with upcoming SAP SuccessFactors releases or environment refreshes
  • Establishing a team of resources to serve as an extension of your team for special projects or increased demand

The idea is to line up the support you can turn to for recommendations, to extend your team, or act as a sounding board to help you along.

5.    Employ self-help tools

Each time SAP deploys a SuccessFactors release, it's putting more control in your hands by way of the Admin Center. This is the application that lets you configure the modules and assign user profiles. In the last three releases alone, compensation currencies, Admin Alerts 2.0, learning administrator UI, business rules, and workflow updates are all examples of added Admin Center functionality.

The SAP SuccessFactors Community, an online forum where customers can interact with other customers and SAP SuccessFactors solution specialists, is also available. Among other things, you can ask ad hoc questions, access reference materials, and review the timing of new releases. It’s also a one-stop resource for reviewing the product features included in the releases you may have missed—like a completely new continuous performance management UI, and the all-new version of goal management.

Get the most from your SAP SuccessFactors platform

One of the beauties of a SaaS solution is the ability to stay current with technology. But to receive the latest capabilities, you have to turn them on—something that can be challenging to do when focusing on day-to-day operations.

As with any challenge of this nature, the key to dealing with it is to break it down into smaller pieces that are easier to address individually. Start thinking differently about your technology. Consider installing high-priority features versus adopting all of them at once. Build release evaluations into your business cycles. And, if you need help, don’t hesitate to avail yourself, whether it’s to an ecosystem partner or the broad range of self-help resources that are available through the vendor. By taking it one step at a time and planning, you can get on top of the release volume and keep your SAP SuccessFactors system functioning at its optimal level.


Emily Scott, Deloitte Consulting

Barbara Johnson, Deloitte Consulting

Dan Perkins, Deloitte Consulting