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May 24 2019   4:01PM GMT

SAP SuccessFactors chief: HR is a public cloud play  

Adrian Bridgwater Adrian Bridgwater Profile: Adrian Bridgwater

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Just in case you hadn’t noticed, SAP playing the cloud platform long game.

So much so, that the firm has openly agreed that Oracle database instances running on its SAP Cloud Platform is ‘just fine’, if customers would rather do that than opt for SAP’s database management system universe that features SAP HANA as its key brand celebrity.

That public cloud playbook message has now been reflected by Greg Tomb in role as president of SAP SuccessFactors. The public cloud in this case is Microsoft Azure… so what are the mechanics playing out here?

SAP SuccessFactors is of course SAP’s Human Resources (HR) division (now often also referred to as Human Capital Management (HCM)), which came out of a 2012 acquisition of the company of the same name. 

Tomb has blogged recently to note that when SAP acquired SuccessFactors in 2012, the company had 3500 global customers, with 15 million users, making us one of the largest cloud companies in the world.

Today the firm says it processes 1 billion HR/HCM related transactions per day for 125 million users.

What kind of transactions?

Good, we’re glad you asked… we’re talking about transactions such as payroll runs, performance reviews and background checks and software application functions related to job certification and training and so on.

Looking at what happens next, Tomb says that SAP SuccessFactors has been on a multi-year journey to digitally transform its infrastructure. What that means in real terms is the migration of our customers to SAP HANA. It also means moving to the public cloud with Microsoft Azure.

Simpler data models

Reflecting what so much of the industry is saying, SAP says that moving customers from legacy stacks to contemporary IT ‘digitally transformed’ (i.e. cloud native, in-memory, AI-enriched) platforms is all about enabling customers to take advantage of simpler data models.

NOTE: A data model is an abstract diagram that describes where data resides, what its relationships are with other data sources and applications, how it travels from an Input/Output perspective, what its attributes and operations are.

“As part of the migration, we moved thousands of customers and more than 1 petabytes of data. This included database design modifications and migrating 90,000+ custom reports. But the work doesn’t stop here. Now, it’s about continuing to optimise our solutions with HANA’s analytics capabilities so we can offer customers more advanced real-time insights into their businesses,” write Tomb, on SAP SuccessFactors blogs.

In parallel to this effort, Tomb notes that Microsoft is actively partnering with SAP to ensure HANA workloads are fully supported and certified for Azure.

“Starting in Q3 2019, we will begin to bring new SuccessFactors customers on Azure and proceed with a phased migration of existing customers in Q2 2020. By offering our entire cloud-based HCM suite in the public cloud, customers will be able to take advantage of a data platform that gives significant additional capacity to run operational workloads, extend our geographic reach and continue to improve scalability and availability of our solutions to support our service delivery needs today and in the future,” said Tomb.

So then… regardless of which cloud platform we’re talking about, HR (or indeed HCM) appears to be a ‘thing’ that vendors in this space are firmly pushing towards public cloud services. This is logical enough given a) the economies of scale in the public cloud and b) the often-repeatable processes that typify HR, which are (arguably) inherently well-suited to large-scale services-based computing structures as we find in the cloud model.

SAP SuccessFactors’ Tomb: Building the dream — an entire cloud-based HCM suite in the public cloud.

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