SuccessFactors Unwraps Turbo-Charged HR Analytics Solution

The HR analytics market has gotten white hot. With all the HR and talent management software out there, companies are now starting to invest very heavily in their HR analytics strategies.  (For more on this topic, read about our BigData in HR research.)

Our research shows that only around 7% of HR organizations have reached a deep level of expertise in HR analytics today (it’s probably even lower), and this is because the problem is a multi-disciplinary one. Not only do you need to have analysis skills, database skills, and business consulting skills, you also have to assemble a range of technology tools to bring all your people data together. And as our Talent Analytics  maturity model points out, you have to start with a focus on integrated reporting and then slowly evolve to predictive solutions.

Adding to this complexity is the problem of workforce planning. It’s hard enough to analyze your current workforce (it’s strengths, weaknesses, spans of control, leadership gaps, capability gaps, etc). Organizations also have to create scenarios for the future and map these scenarios against available talent supply, local demographics, and employment branding strategies.


Well the tools vendors are not sitting still, and SAP-SuccessFactors has been very hard at work. (And I mean very hard.) The team at SuccessFactors has been working hard with their SAP brethren to launch a very exciting new technology strategy for HR analytics – the integration of SuccessFactors, Infohrm (prior acquisition), and HANA (SAP’s high speed in-memory database).


Three Systems in One

Some of you analytics types probably understand that there are many different elements to an analytics solution: data consolidation and cleansing, reporting, analytics, and scenario planning. And of course for each of these various functional areas there are many sources of data. (Our research shows that some of the most powerful analytics you can do involve comparing data from many sources – talent mobility, demographic data, training, compensation, and business data).SuccessFactors Unwraps Turbo-Charged HR Analytics Solution

Over the last few months the SuccessFactors analytics team (led by Infohrm folks) have been working very closely with their SAP counterparts (and remember Sybase is part of SAP now too) to build an integrated, accelerated cloud-based analytics solution.

As the photo above shows, the system can pull data out of all the existing SuccessFactors systems, the legacy SAP systems, and other vendor systems. Using much of the original technology in Infohrm, the system provides a wide range of reporting and data comparisons, including workforce planning and scenario building.

But probably most interesting of all, the team not only documented all this in a huge book of HR data elements, but they have also connected the whole system to HANA – SAP’s in-memory database.

What is HANA and Why do I care?

Slight digression here. What is HANA and why do I care? Well for those of us with database background, we know that storing and analyzing large amounts of multi-dimensional data can often get very slow. Think about a report that looks at all your employees, their tenure, their compa ratio, their latest engagement scores, and tries to compare all this against their location, manager, or perhaps last performance rating. Not only is a lot of computation needed, but you as an analyst are likely to drill, slice, and analyze this data in many ways.

HANA is a real-time in-memory database platform which stores data by column (an trick I learned in my Sybase IQ days) and can generate in-memory multi-dimensional cubes (large data analysis structures). To put it simply, what it does is make large queries run 300 X faster.  I know it’s hard to believe, but it makes sense.

Now there are many tools on the market for data analysis (including Oracle Business Intelligence, Mercer’s iKnow, SumTotal’s data warehouse, Visier, MicroStrategy, and analytics tools from almost every HR software company. There are a lot of them, and the number keeps going up.

What’s unique about SAP is the fact that they have so much technology to throw at this problem.  (This is a bit of a curse too.) So they’re pretty much thrown it all together in a totally integrated solution.  And what HANA does is make sure it’s going to be very very fast.

Making Analytics Easier

The real problem with HR analytics isn’t the tools (there are almost too many to choose from), its the laborious process of collecting data, developing reports, and actually doing the analysis. And this is a journey, not a destination. Our research shows that you need to create a dedicated team, and this team needs to include people with database, analysis, and business experience. And this team must have strong support from IT.

What SAP has done here is take a page from my old data warehousing book (back in the early 1990s I actually launched a whole data warehousing solution at Sybase) and offer a 100 day implementation program. While these types of offerings are often “works in process,” this shows that the company is willing to invest in the methodology and services to help you.

What is most exciting about this announcement is the depth of thinking SuccessFactors has done. Not only does the system have a lot of capability, but the company now has 300+ customers and has developed some very forward-thinking analytics out of the box. One in particular is what they’re calling “Leader Centric metrics.”

Our research shows that one of the biggest levers you have in HR is leadership. While many business related problems (productivity, turnover, performance, etc.) are based on environmental factors, the biggest driver of success is management and leadership. And you as HR can actually have some impact on leadership (this is why we have an entire practice dedicated to leadership and succession). SuccessFactors has already pre-defined a set of “leader-centric” metrics which correlate various business measures to different leadership characteristics.

I wont try to detail it here, but it’s the type of “value add” we all need from our solution providers.

Lots more to come in this area – I think this announcement is important, and the first of many more to come.

1 Response

  1. Josh,

    Technology is important for Analytic’s but so is content. ROC has pre built HCM KPI content drawn from multiple years in the market and all available in the cloud with RaaS (Reporting as a Service)