Five things you need to know about reporting in SAP SuccessFactors

By Danielle Larocca
Danielle Larocca

Senior Vice-President of HCM Solutions Danielle Larocca has worked in the SAP HCM space for over 20 years. An SAP Mentor and featured speaker at numerous conferences, Danielle has authored four best-selling books on SAP, is the Technical Editor for the SAP Professional Journal, and often the Voice of the Expert on SAPInsider’s Ask the Expert series for HR.

Written on Jul 4, 2017 1:03:00 PM

5 minute read

It's an exciting time in SAP SuccessFactors reporting

After years of seeing very few changes in SAP HCM reporting, suddenly there is cutting edge development on the SAP SuccessFactors reporting and analytics front that is changing the way we think about HCM reporting. To help make sense of all of this, here are the top five things you need to know about the future of reporting in SAP SuccessFactors.

1. There is a difference between reporting and analytics.

Many people often use the terms “reporting” and “analytics” interchangeably. However, it is important to point out that reporting and analysis are very different in terms of their purpose, tasks, outputs, delivery, and value. Reporting is best defined as the process of organizing data into informational summaries in order to monitor how different areas of a business are performing.  Analytics, on the other hand, is defined as the process of exploring data and reports in order to extract meaningful insights, which can be used to better understand and improve business performance

SAP HCM’s focus has long been limited to reporting. If you think about the popular SAP reporting tools like the Ad Hoc Query, the pre-delivered reports and even the Wage Type Reporter, these are all tools that allow you to measure activity after it was completed. Reporting answers questions like “How many hours of overtime were accrued?”, “What is the turnover percentage for the European region” or “What are the reasons that employees are leaving the company?”. This reporting focus is often on transactional, real-time individualized data.

While SAP SuccessFactors also offers reporting options, its clear differentiator is its focus on analytics. On the analytics side, it uses insights to prepare forward-looking questions like “What will our organization look like after all of the baby boomers retire?” and “Which training plans can we assign now to get the current workforce up-to-speed to replace departing staff?”. SAP SuccessFactors analytics focus on insights like “How is engagement correlated to revenue?”, truly strategic indicators comprised of aggregated data, ratios and trends. Finally, an important distinction is that the ROI of reporting is achieved by decreasing the effort required to deliver data to consumers and the ROI of analytics is achieved by increasing the business value derived from using the data in people decisions.

2. It’s not a ‘like for like’ exercise to compare the reporting solutions in SAP against SAP SuccessFactors. 

 I am often asked if there is an Ad Hoc Query equivalent in SAP SuccessFactors and the fast answer is “not really” even though there is a tool called the Ad Hoc Report Builder that sounds very similar. As I mentioned above, the reporting solutions and analytics solutions are designed for different purposes and for different users, so it is not an easy mapping exercise to compare the old with the new. Let’s start with a quick look at the SAP tools and utilities used for on-premise SAP HCM reporting. These tools fall into two categories largely based on the type of user who is working with the report as described in the graphic below.

Reporting in SAP SuccessFactors

Virtually all of the items in that list are designed to be reporting tools and not analytical solutions.  Some can argue that BW could be considered to be an analytical solution and I will revisit that topic at a later point. 

In contrast, SuccessFactors solutions fall into three categories -  two that align with SAP and a third that includes a new audience not previously addressed. This is highlighted in the graphic below.

SAP SuccessFactors categories

In my experience, the first category of users in SAP (People Managers, Business Users & Lines of Business) relied heavily on others to create reports for them. In the SAP SuccessFactors world, this reliance on IT (or a specialized reporting team) is a thing of the past. All users are encouraged to interact more with the solution and the data, including having access to reporting and embedded intelligence solutions. The HR Business Analysts, Power Users & Technical Staff (although some might argue no Technical staff is required) would leverage the power of the Workforce Analytics module for analysis. (Please note I refer to it as a “module” and not a “tool” because, unlike in the SAP on-premise world where Ad Hoc Query is a pre-delivered tool users access via a transaction code, SAP SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics is an optional module that is comprised of at least 28 pre-defined metrics packs each with an estimated hundred days to implement.)

Finally, the last category introduced in the SAP SuccessFactors landscape centers around the concept of predictive analytics and includes a module called Workforce Planning. There are two primary components to this module:  strategic and operational. Strategic workforce planning takes the long view and forecasts critical roles the organization will need in the future. Operational workforce planning looks at the short term demands of the business, compares them to current talent supply, and determines whether additional resources are needed.

3.   Does BI/BW Fit in in this new SAP SuccessFactors world?

I am often asked if BI/BW is still relevant in SAP SuccessFactors or if I feel that Workforce Analytics replaces the need for BI/BW for HCM. If we look to the official definition, Business Intelligence (BI) is often described as “the set of techniques and tools for the transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes”. Let’s start by saying that BI/BW is often used as an umbrella term that covers various areas from Data Discovery and Visualization to Reporting, Intelligence Platforms and Dashboard and Apps. This can include multiple solutions including, but not limited to SAP Lumira, SAP Crystal Reports, SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and SAP BusinessObjects Design Studio. SAP has invested a great deal of money and time into the Business Intelligence Solutions and I have not seen any decline in that momentum on the HCM front. To get an idea of the commitment and advancements, check out SAP’s Roadmap published in May 2017.

4.  What are some of the recent innovations for SAP SuccessFactors reporting & analytics?

The top three innovations in this area include the Insights panel, which is available across the entire SAP SuccessFactors HCM Suite and provides contextually aware insight in each solution.  Often referred to as embedded analytics, it allows for expanded prescriptive analytics in the talent solutions (for example, suggested successors, careers, and compensation models). You can see more in this new SAP SuccessFactors video here.

Recent noteworthy updates to Workforce Analytics include support for enterprise analytics with a new SAP SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics connector in SAP BusinessObjects Cloud, new integration with SAP Fieldglass solutions including health-check scorecards, employee profitability analytics, workforce diversity reports and a new “investigate” capability that makes data exploration experiences easier and more interactive.

Workforce Planning has also seen its share of new innovation lately. A new feature includes operational headcount planning that is designed to transform a once-a-year, static planning into more continuous, live plan based on changing business needs.

5.  Stay informed about what to expect from SAP SuccessFactors Reporting & Analytics in the future

SAP SuccessFactors customers have access to view the roadmap for Reporting & Analytics and all of their solutions via their website. These roadmaps are designed to share SAP SuccessFactors direction and strategy for planned innovations, solution direction and overall solution vision. The information available in these documents is based on planned development and could change, so I recommend reading the disclaimer found on Page 2 of each roadmap. Finally, for more information on the future direction, be sure to check out the Digital Boardroom introduction video found here.  

Topics: SAP Reporting HCM Reporting SAP Query

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