What is an SAP SuccessFactors Release?
SuccessFactors is a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering from SAP. SAP SuccessFactors customers are using a common code base, hosted and managed by SAP. As part of the subscription, SAP provide updates to their HXM suite of applications as a product release.
How often do releases occur?
SAP SuccessFactors product releases occur twice a year; in April/May there is the first half release (1H) and in Oct/Nov there is the second half release (2H).
What are the upcoming release dates for this year?
Preview/Production – what is the difference?
SAP provides each customer with at least one non-productive instance in their “Preview” environment and at least one in their “Production” environment.
To enable customers to manage the release into their organisations, the SAP SuccessFactors release is applied to the Preview instances ~5 weeks before the Productions instances. In this window, customers should review and regression test Universal changes (and “opt-out” features) using test cases.
Customers will have their production instance in the Production environment and at least 1 non-production instance in the Preview environment. If you are using a 3 tier (or more) then your own strategy will determine whether you put the additional instances in the Preview or Production environment. I typically recommend your Test instance is in the Production environment so that you have a non-production instance on the same code base as your production instance at all times (for the purposes of BAU support).
“Universal” – does that mean there are optional updates?
The same code base updates will be applied to all instances. Within the release there will be different functionality & features that are either mandatory (“Universal”) or optional (requiring some positive action to enable/disable).
SAP’s own definition is:
- Universal – If you have prerequisite functionality enabled, no additional steps are required to begin using the new or changed functionality. Universal changes can be thought of as automatic.
- Admin Opt-In – If you have prerequisite functionality enabled, you’ll have to take an action to enable this feature, generally within Admin Tools, and can do so without engaging Product Support.
- Admin Opt-Out – If you have prerequisite functionality enabled, you’ll have to take an action to disable this feature, generally within Admin Tools, and can do so without engaging Product Support.
- Provisioning Opt-In – You can enable a feature with either a Partner or Product Support request (relatively rare).
- Provisioning Opt-Out – You can disable a feature with either a Partner or Product Support request (relatively rare).
Universal features tend to not have a change management impact on end users; they might be minor improvements or adding an additional feature that might not be fundamental to a process, but useful. Optional updates are likely to have more of an impact and require some additional steps for you to activate, test and manage the change into your organisation.
Typically I find customers will review the “opt-in” features but leave their activation until the production environments have been upgraded and once they have had a chance to review with their business stakeholders.
Are these just “bug” fixes?
No, the release update is predominantly about bring new features and functionality to existing customers. However, the release update cycle also brings with it a host of “defects and customer-reported issues” as part of the release – these are called “Fixed Issues”. As an example, in the 1H 2022 release there were ~330 release updates and ~450 issues fixed.
Does everyone get the same updates? At the same time?
SAP SuccessFactors uses one code base for all customers. So in one sense, yes all customers get the updates at the same time (over the same release timeframe). To be more specific, all instances in the environment being updated (e.g. Preview / Production) get the same release update on the same upgrade date (subject to data centre locations & time zone).
What do SAP do to help me?
SAP, via the SAP SuccessFactors Community (login with S-User), provide a wealth of information about the overall process and ahead of each release, and for each release there is specific information released about that upcoming release such as:
- What’s New Viewer – online list with details of all elements in this release with notes, screenshots and sometimes video demos.
- Release Q&A Series – live sessions (also recorded) where product experts are available to answer questions (submitted in advance).
- Release Highlights (video and document) – High level summary of the key updates.
- Product Highlight – videos of the product highlights per product area
- Road to Release document – checklist of tasks, explanations of terms, timeline (the timeline also published as a standalone document – Release Timeline & Administrator Checklist One-Pager)
- Notable Fixed issues – list of bug fixes.
- Known Issues – if issues are identified in the release, they are published here to avoid the same issue being raised.
What should I be doing to prepare?
The “Road to Release” document contains a handy checklist and some guidance for administrators, which in summary says:
1. Learn what’s coming
2. Align Internally
3. Try out new features in your Preview environment
4. Carry out testing
5. Deploy and manage the impact of changes into your organisation
Personally, I’d split some of these activities and focus on Universal (& Opt-Out) updates first; review, regression test and monitor the system around the production release upgrade. Once this is confirmed, review the opt-in features, align internally, activate those of interest and manage the impact of these changes into productive use.
Where else can I get help?
SAP has a strong partner eco-system; some partners have stronger capability in different functional areas (Finance, Procurement, HR, etc.) and in different geographies. You can use the SAP Partner Finder to search by all these criteria.
Partners with a strong capability in HR will have SuccessFactors certified consultants and may already provide either general consulting support capability or a service specifically tailored to release management. Many of these specialist organisations also publish content or host webinars too.
What do Zalaris offer?
Zalaris is an SAP gold partner focused on HR & Payroll solutions utilising SAP and SAP SuccessFactors. Zalaris is located in 12 European countries and in 3 APAC countries where our Professional Services consultants hold over 100 certifications in SAP SuccessFactors.
Existing Zalaris customers across our geographies are invited to Release Webinars at each SuccessFactors Release where we communicate the key elements of the release. This is part of a wider calendar of release updates across our solutions covering HR, Payroll (including legislative updates) and mobile applications.
We also publish (free for anyone) a set of articles for each SuccessFactors Release – one article per product area. These are written by our consultants and consolidated into an eBook which you can download and keep for future as a searchable reference. Find all our SuccessFactors articles by following this link.
Finally our Professional Services teams offer Consulting and Support services. As part of our support service for SAP SuccessFactors customers, we offer a release management service where we specifically tailor the content based on the customer’s solution & geographical spread. We then deliver that to your stakeholders in your organisation and enact the requested updates into your environment, managing them through to productive use.
If you want to know more about Zalaris’ capability around SAP SuccessFactors or our release management service, then please contact us on email@example.com