How to Implement SAP SuccessFactors Software

Feb 15, 2024

How to Implement SAP SuccessFactors Software

W.1 Project

A Study on How to Implement SAP SuccessFactors Software – Employee Central Module, in Human Resource Function to Improve Efficiency and Standardisation

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An empirical project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts in Human Resource Management

at the Westminster Business School of the University of

Westminster, by

Sub

I declare that the research conducted for analysis and discussion on this dissertation has been solely composed by myself. Wherever references have been made of others’ discussion adequate references and credits have been given to them in the relevant sections.

No part of this research has been submitted for grant of academic credit of any other research.

This research has been possible because of the valuable guidance of Ms Christine Porter, our Course Leader, and Ms Sangeetha Srinivasan my supervisor for this research. Their continuous support has helped me to bring this research to the current form and shape that it is today. 

I would also like to thank Dr Francesca Andreescu, our Module Leader. Credits are also due to Dr Elisabeth Michielsens for her valuable guidance at various points during this research.

I would also like to express my gratitude to all the respondents for the efforts they took to patiently reflect on their experiences in the implementation and application of SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and other e-HRM tools in their organisations.

                        

This research aims to answers the main questions that the HRM functions of the organisations that make use of the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central want to be answered. This research starts by exploring how the use of this technology increases the efficiency in the HRM working and at the same time standardises their processes.  It also critically evaluates how successfully this technology has been able to meet the objectives of its use. A survey was conducted using a self-designed questionnaire to explore how the use of this application in the HRM evaluates it factoring in the organisational setup in which they operate.

A logical and methodical analysis of the survey results highlighted the pervasive and ominous use of these applications. However, the benefits which these applications offer now are in the area of administrative functions of HRM. The use of SAP SuccessFactors and other HRM technology as a strategic tool for HRM is still evolving.

With the advancement of technology, there is a high probability that these concepts will be used by SAP SuccessFactors too. The ERP HRISs will be supporting HRM across all sizes of organisations particularly for MNCs to be a strategic partner of the organisation.  

3        

Notation Description
AI                      Artificial Intelligence It is the ability of the computer to intelligently perform common tasks (Britannica, 2022). 
CIPD Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
e-HRM Electronic Human Resource Management
ERP Enterprise resource planning or ERP application can be defined as an application that helps organisations to run all their core process: finance, HR, supply chain, procurement, manufacturing, and others (SAP Insights, 2022). 
HR Human Resource
HRIS Human Resource Information Systems
HRM Human Resource Management
IT Information Technology
L&D Learning and development
Machine Learning It is a branch of artificial intelligence that use algorithms and data to Enable machines to imitate the manner in which humans learn.
MNC Multiple National Companies

SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central is one of the widely used ERP based HRM tools. Organisations use these tools as a driver to bring efficiency in its HRM function. This study contributes to the evolving area of use of technology through the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central in the field of HRM and the academic interest in it of HR professionals. Empirical pieces of evidence have been used to gain an insight into how the use of SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central technology to perform HRM functions has brought efficiency and standardisation in its operations.

Different formats of technological support are available for HRM and the ERP HRM solutions are considered to the best of the breed (Boroughs and Rickard, 2016).  The ERP provides a complete range of functionality to support and manage the HRM. The available functionalities of SAP SuccessFactors Employee central are evaluated in light of the efficiency it embeds in the HRM operations and how it contributes in the standardisation of these operations. 

These HRIS comes with options of the standardised set of configurations which can be either mirrored or customised to suit the nature and the scale of the HR functions of the organisations implementing them (Hunter, Saunders, Boroughs and Constance, 2006).  The research discusses how the use of SAP SuccessFactors brings efficiency in the HRM processes of the organisations that operates as MNCs . The HR function of an organisation can operate under different setup: entity-based functions, shared service, co-sourced or outsourced. These HRIS can be used in all the setups and for varying scale of HRM operations. 

The efficiency derived from the SAP SuccessFactors was analysing considering the existing offerings of these HRIS and then evaluating on how they contribute to the different functions of the HRM in terms of efficiency and standardisation. To do this first the primary and critical activities of the HRM were identified and then an evaluation was made on how the functionalities within the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central supports.

A discussion on HR’s role and the organisations expectation from them has changed dramatically since 1960 i.e. roughly the time when the HRM function were digitised.  how the role that HR plays within the organisation has changed was analysed.

The contribution to each critical function was analysed. Also, responses were sought to a self-designed questionnaire to confirm on what the end-users experience has been with the use of HRIS tools. The respondents were asked to share their response by easily selecting the coded labels. 

The use of HRIS enables the users to maintain error free, data in a secured manner with controlled access.  This data is logically processed by the systems to generate meaningful information. This information can support various functions of HRM: recruitment, on-boarding, performance management, time, and attendance, compensations and so on. The roles which these eHRM tolls support are mainly eliminate the administrative tasks of the HRM, they don’t contribute much to the strategic goal of the organisations. This is seen as a limitation of the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central in its present state and form.    But the emerging development in the technology and their successful implementation on other functions of the organisations through an integrated ERP platform is acting as a sliver lining where they will be able to support those functions of HR that are more judgemental based.  

Furthermore, the capability of SAP SuccessFactors in a cloud format and how it benefits the HR has also been explored. It has to be highlighted that beside the primary benefits which the automation of these HR activities brings in terms of the savings in cost, time, compliance with the regulations and capability to generate massive reports in a concise and succinct manner for the management use there are also secondary benefits. These secondary benefits are mainly noted in the increased morale of the employees and their enhanced productivity (Boroughs and Rickard, 2016).  

The research acknowledges the challenges which comes with the use of the HRIS. The efficiency introduced by these systems comes at a cost. There are both tangible monetary outflow and other intangible limitations with their use.  The implementation of these applications is a complex process that is often managed through external support. A rigorous compliance of the agreed project implementation plan is necessary to ensure that the SAP SuccessFactors is configured to deliver the results in line with the standard agreed practises of the organisation. However, ones the application is implemented things comes down mainly on the day-to-day operating of these applications. The manner in which the users input and analysis the data on the HRIS defines whether it will add to the efficiency. Thus, the training of the employees is critical to make the efficient use of the eHRM to support the HR. The challenges are discussed more under in detail in the named section below.

The current limitations of these applications can be seen as the areas where they can support in the future. These are mainly with regards to the HR processes that are yet not support such as change management, employee relations and son on.

The research mainly tries to gauge first hand experience of the users of these applications through a series of questions. The results of the survey were then then analysed manually to draw logical inferences and check their conformity or deviation to the findings of the scholars discussed in the literature review. This was then used to draw meaningful conclusions and recommendations. 

In modern organisations employees play a key role in determining a firm’s performance in business settings thus Human Resource Management (HRM) plays a critical management function in managing these resources (Uysal, 2014). Organisations could use human resources as differentiator so that they give them competitive leverage over their rivals. Further, for the realisation of the organisation’s strategic goals effective management of the human resources is vital (Khashman and Al-Ryalat, 2015).

The use of technology to conduct HRM activities is referred to as e-HRM. This term was initially coined in the 1990s. Earlier this term was used in a very narrow technological aspect and covered only those HR activities performed using the internet. However, as time evolved this term encompassed wider use of technology including the use of HRIS. There are three overarching applications of these HRIS: To publish information, automate transactions, transform the use of HR functions (Wilton, 2019).

HRM function has been restructured over time to fit in different roles over the time. In the 1960s HRM was mainly concerned with maintaining personal files, while in the mid of 1960s until the mid-1980s HRM function was expected to support the organisation to be compliant with all legal frameworks. From the mid-1980s HRM roles too more of the role of personal management and managing the employee life cycle. However, there has been a shift in the role of HRM from the late 1990s where it is mainly seen as a strategic partner. The traditional roles of HRM-related to database management, recruiting, appraisal support, are either outsourced or automated. Where HRM are unable to deliver on these expectations of the organisation they usually see their positions being made redundant as part of the restructuring (Torres-Coronas and Arias-Oliva, 2009). The use of technology in HR has grown and become pervasive in most of its activities like payroll, training & development, recruitment, HR planning. The drive for automation in HR is driven by the HRIS strategy which is expected to provide a competitive advantage to organisations (Torres-Coronas and Arias-Oliva, 2009). 

The number of MNCs operating in different sectors has risen in modern times. These MNCs are organisations whose operations are spread across different geographical territories. These MNCs derive 25% or more of their revenue from operations that they carry out outside of their home country (The Black’s Law Dictionary, 2012).

The human capital of these organisations is spread across different countries. It is highly unproductive and futile to use manual processes to manage the HR of such organisations. Such companies thus usually use ERP tools which is a comprehensive way to manage the HR functions of these companies.

The use of these software/e-HRM tools allows them to automate HR processes such as managing absenteeism, performance appraisal, payroll, and learning and development. If these processes are performed manually these will take away much of HR’s time and it will have less time to support the strategic objectives of the organisation.

Further studies suggest that in these organisations HR is an active and strategic partner. Their role is elaborative in the larger organisations as compared to the role HRM has been performing in a traditional organisation.  This shift in their role requires better data analysis and automation of clerical and repetitive functions.

One of the widely used e-HRM systems in the MNCs is SAP SuccessFactors Employee Software – Employee Central Module. They have positioned themselves as a Global Leader in developing and delivering software solutions for the execution of business processes and functions. This software offers various modules that can be used to automate the HR functions such as payroll, time management, compensation, recruitment and onboarding, performance management. Through its various modules, it is positioned to support the HRM functions and manage data in a manner that allows for further integration with the wide business like sharing the payroll data with the finance department for the further processing and payments of the employee salaries and compensations (SAP, 2020).

HRM aims to support organisations in achieving their objectives, such as recruiting the right people, developing a cordial relationship between the employer and their employees. HR proposes the people’s policies and practices while the line manager implements them while ensuring that the organisation achieves its objectives. To achieve this primary objective there are various peripheral roles that they have to perform such as mentoring and coaching, communicating across various levels, and being technologically skilled. 

E-HRM provides organisations with the tools through which HR can organise, analyse and manage the personnel in a manner that would support the management to attain their strategic objectives cost-effectively and efficiently. This is particularly helpful when managers are operating in uncertainty, turbulence.

The organisation’s strategy should be driven by big data. HR systems can be used to perform people analytics to analyse people’s engagement, discourage absenteeism, evaluate the outcomes of learning and development activities, recruitment process, performance management, and reward management.

The outcomes of these analyses help organisations drive better employee engagement and reduction of employee turnover and retention. This also drives updates and changes to the HR policies and procedures, evaluation of the diversity and inclusion performance of the organisation, and estimating the social and financial return on the human resources.  However, for e-HRM to be effective in this regard the input data must be cleaned, and accurate which can be used to perform multidimensional, predictive, and descriptive analytics (Armstrong, 2009). 

HRM’s decision-making improves when it’s supported by the data analysed from information systems. The HRM systems provide for an organised solution to store the data systematically. Comprehensive detail of employees’ data can be maintained in this HR software These systems have been particularly helpful in the planning and development of HR setup in contemporary organisations (Alshibly, 2014).

This data is analysed to make informed and rational decisions about the employees of organisations which are also aligned to the individual’s needs. A cordial work environment is established where individual needs and matched to the organisation’s objectives. One such example can be seen when reports on completion of the assigned L&D training to the employees is analysed. In case there are delays in the completion of these pieces of training, the line manager can push the employees to complete them. This is beneficial for the organisation and their employees to upskill themselves (Chang et al., 2013).

Though there is an outflow of monetary resources when this HR software is implemented and also in their further maintenance. This, however; lead to better and more efficient results being made that support the short-term and long-term goals of organisations (Masum, Kabir, and Chowdhury, 2015).

The use of technology in HRM is mainly targeted to accomplish HR transactions, record keeping, and other repetitive administrative HRM tasks. It is expected that through the use of this software, the HR function within the organisation will be able to support the strategic objectives of the organisation as highlighted in the sections above along with bringing financial savings for the HR department.  With the evolution of technology, these tools can serve as specialised advice to the management on compensation, career development, selection, and management of the talent pool of the organisation. 

Due to the relative newness of the use of technology and ERP software, there is not much-supported information and statistics to evidence their effect on the effectiveness of the HRM function.  The presently available research shows that the most useful benefit is in terms of efficiency in the areas of are cost, service, and speed to bring to HRM function. When the delivery of services of HRM improves it also improves the credibility of the HRM. 

However, some of the scholars opine that the existing HRIS tools do not effectively contribute to the attainment of the organisations’ objectives and decision-making by HR. The main reason for this disappointing contribution of HRIS can be attributed to the novelty of these applications and the inexperience of the organisation in the use of these tools for strategic purposes. Refinements are still sought in the manner the data is being processed by these HRIS tools before they can prove to be as effective as the finance, supply chain, or other system managing applications. The management supports building HRIS so that it can manage its dispersed and diversified workforce. The use of the HRIS in an integrated setup like SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central enables for holistic use and analysis of data and contribute to the organisation’s objective efficiently by creating knowledge of networks, improving the manager decisions on human capital, offering a positive experience to its users, and enabling the measurement of its contribution to the organisation amongst other factors. Also, a parameter to measure the effectiveness of the HRIS is measured by the amount by which it has reduced the HR cost. This at times as having negative implications for HR personnel as it is expected to lead to their redundancy (Lawler III and Boudreau, 2015). 

The global operations of the organisation require the use of a networkable and advanced solution to manage the dispersed workforce make wider use of these applications. Completely integrated applications as SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central are rated much higher in terms of efficiency they bring in:

Human Resource Planning (HRP): Organisation’s demand for labour requires analysis and forecast of the demand and supply of the labour. While making such predictions factors such as expected leavers, temporary withdrawals (due to maternity/paternity leave, secondments, or sabbaticals) are to be considered.  HRIS is designed to make these analyses on HRM’s behalf (Wilton, 2019). It is one of the analytics that SAP SuccessFactors’ HR Analytics can do for HR personnel. The data derived from such tools are expected to have fewer chances of error and the results of such analysis are much quicker when we compare them to the manual processing of such information (SAP, 2022). 

Its various modules introduce efficiency at different points in the HRM functions. In the onboarding stage, HR professional spends a lot of time keying in the data which is shared by the employees over form. This can, however; be managed efficiently in SAP SuccessFactors that is designed around the principle of self-service. So, once the new employees are added to this application they can update their own information on the system, and HR can just verify and check the information (Murray, Mazhavanchery, and Marson, 2015).

Integration: One of the main advantages that ERP software offers is that of integration (Lawler III and Boudreau, 2015).  SAP SuccessFactors is an ERP solution which means that the organisations can add different modules to their subscribed piece of software to match their growing needs. There is a native integration between these modules which means that the data of one module can act as an input for another. Like the time management modules could be used for processing of payroll. This saves some valuable time for HR personnel who can instead use that time saved on repetitive administrative work for strategic tasks.   

Also, there are certain changes which have an impact on all or a group of employees in the organisation such as when change there are changes to the tax rates, or when emails are to be sent to a particular group of employees all these processes can be automated by updating the configurations of the HR software.

Availability: When organisations use HRIS to manage the data of their data it gives them the ability to access data from anywhere at any time (Lawler III and Boudreau, 2015). Users can access SAP SuccessFactors and the HRIS tools at any time and from anywhere. Also, these tools are supported across various platforms which means mobile, computers and other platforms can be used to access this data. HRM personnel using these have mobility and they longer have to be physically present at the office to access that critical information.

Cloud-Based: The cloud-based versions of the SAP application are expected to enhance the quality of the data past, current and information analysed. Thus, making them available when required and also cutting down on the cost of these systems and their maintenance to the cross-function units such as IT and the related downtime in the HR. Due to the scalability, organisations are able to upgrade their subscribed services and support the larger data processed by HRM. The could-based versions give more independence in terms of cost and thus more organisations can use these to standardise their process and increase their revenue.  The Cloud version of SAP SuccessFactors is maintained and hosted by the vendor, which means that they are responsible for their maintenance, and even when there are any deletes the vendor is expected to have a backup of that data and restore them. Thus, HR does not have to re-create those data (Bondarouk, Ruël and Parry, 2017).

An HRIS is considered to be effective when it can support more tasks (Lawler III and Boudreau, 2018). There are various modules offered by SAP in their present offering for SAP SuccessFactors. This helps to automate the various processes of HRM such as recruitment and onboarding, time and attendance, learning and development. Using the recruitment and onboarding module HRM personnel can manage the recruitment requisitions, interviews, matching, compliance, offer, and also rating the candidates. Workflows can be designed and configured within the system to ensure that there are different employees involved with the requisitions, review, and approval. Thus, minimizing the chances of error and managing the process seamlessly. It also allows HR to enhance its banding and reach a larger talent pool through various channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, job portal, corporate website, helping the management to make an informed decision (Grubb and Lessley, 2017)

The information generated and maintained by the SAP SuccessFactors depends upon the quality of data that is entered and the validation and the logic through which the data is processed by this application. With the growing relevance of the data governance the use of these HRM systems there are checks to confirm the completeness, accuracy, consistency and relevance of the data.  Poor data maintained by the HRM has a cross-functional impact and can affect the over finance, compliance, productivity, and confidence of the staff in a negative way (Bondarouk, Ruël and Parry, 2017).             

Strategic and operational functionalities of HR processes can be covered through the use of SAP SuccessFactors. As the organisations grow one of the main questions that they face is whether the applications which they are using will be able to process the larger data? Thus, scalability becomes important. Here the offering of the cloud or hybrid versions SAP SuccessFactors come in handy. If the organisation chooses to go with the cloud or hybrid version of this HR software they get immediate access to scalability. This means that they have more storage and processing capability at their disposal. Thus, HR is doesn’t have to each time go back to the software provider, and there It for making a major change to the organisation’s IT infrastructure and disruption to the HR technology saving some valuable HR personals work hours (Murray, Mazhavanchery and Marson, 2015).

Further SAP offers to provide regular updates to this software to patch any vulnerability in the security of this software which means that the personal and sensitive information which is stored by HR in it is secure and HR can save a lot of time that it would otherwise spend on the management of the files and hard copies. Also, when software is used to manage data then a backup of these data is kept by the companies hosting them. Thus, there is also a facility to restore the data if the data is deleted by error or even sometimes intentionally by a distraught employee (SAP, 2022).

The use of HRIS has also boosted the concept of shared services.  Through the use of technology, there has been a rise in the organisations that manage the HR functions of different organisations. Also, there are centralised units of HR within the organisations that manage the functions of its multiple entities. Using these outsourced and co-sourced services the organisations are able to reduce the cost, increase human motivations and focus on what is more important strategically (Boroughs and Rickard, 2016).  

There has been a spike in the demand for HR software in the UK. Between 2016-2021 a compounded growth of 7.7% was expected in the revenue of the organisations that develop such HR software.  The total market revenue was expected to reach £1.2 billion (IBISWorld – Industry Market Research, Reports, and Statistics, 2022). Many companies have a share in this market such as Workday, SAP SuccessFactors, BambooHR, ADP, Oracle PeopleSoft. The selection of which application is will suit the requirements of an organisation is vital.  

This has resulted in a spike in the investments which organisations make in the acquisition and maintenance of HRM tools and software with the aim to support better HR planning, employee training, and development, along with succession planning Nagendra and Deshpande, 2014). This implementation is however not always straightforward and has its own challenges. In June 2021 CIPD did a study on the larger organisations who as per them have employed between 10,000 to 60,000 employees to identify the challenges which they faced while implementing HRIS system to automate the HR functions and their learning from this change management process.  This article shared the experiences of HR professionals of three such large organisations.  Implementing a new HRIS involves identifying the outcomes from those systems, engaging with internal and external experts to support the implementation process, ensuring that the employees can access the data from different platforms such as laptops, mobiles, and desktops (CIPD 2021 Operating efficiently: implementing HR information systems in large organisations).

It is also vital that there are controls to ensure that the data can be accessed by only relevant individuals. It is important that any regional law and regulations related to the implementation of the new system that process any personal and sensitive personal information are complied with like in the UK the GDPR regulations published by the ICO for the implementation of such systems are to be completed with by completing the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) before implementation of these systems (Data protection impact assessments, 2022).

Adequate training is an important factor for the appropriate use of the SAP SuccessFactors and other technology in HRM. Depending upon the quality of the system the training plans are to be adjusted such as SAP is a highly technical application thus when this application is implemented then staff using these applications are imparted training for it to be effectively used. Thus, training has an impact on the efficiency of this application (Bondarouk, Ruël and Parry, 2017).  

Innovation is required for HRIS to be effective. HRIS can be seen as a computer of the HRM that is expected to automate its processes. However, there are certain limitations to the state and form up to which the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and the other HRIS have managed to be developed. The role of HRM might be restricted to being a mere spectator of data. Mostly it is the traditional HRM functions that are at play by the EHRM tools (Bondarouk, Ruël, and Parry, 2017).  There are still areas in HRM for which no electronic solution is available like employee relationship management (grievances and disciplinary). Yet these are mostly manually managed areas with the augment of AI and machine learning it might not be a surprise if we see the software providers launch software to develop these areas which are not yet captured by SAP SuccessFactors.

Further, a report shared by KPMG based on their analysis of the major 21 tasks of HRM noted that there is high potential to automate the different functions of HRM either fully or partly. The automation of the five major areas of the HRM is less susceptible: managing employee relations, change management, managing organisational effectiveness, management of the architect of people performance, and supporting the HR and business strategy. Also, there are challenges in keeping the workplace human as it is expected that the use of automation and robotics will replace the human side of human resources (Tobenkin, 2022).  SAP SuccessFactors is expected to leap forward in terms of the additional functionality offered by it through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning where it will make use of conversational interfaces and bots to manage the areas unexplored by HRIS and to manage better some of already supported task more effectively (Burlacu, 2022).

The research analysis the results of the self-designed questionnaire though comments were sought to improve it before being circulated to the potential participants. There are chances that its purpose the understanding of the researcher may have limited its aptness for the research. Also, the information shared by the respondents has been assumed to be correct and accurate no investigative work was done to establish its correctness and completeness. This might have an impact on the quality of data used for analysis.  Further, there may be many more benefits, challenges, and limitations with the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and other HRM software used by the respondents. But due to the constraint in the time, only those points which are assumed to be most critical by the researcher have been set as an option in the answer for the survey.  

A further pragmatic approach was taken to ensure that only related empirical observations, hypotheses, and induction carried out during the research were considered to deduct any irrelevant information while proposing the recommendations (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2019, Pg.148-155).

In simple terms, research means a systematic way to findings out things with the objective to increase one’s knowledge. HRM as a discipline involves making sound informed decisions that have an impact on the employees. Thus, HR research can be explained as a systematic and organised inquiry undertaken with an objective to increase one’s knowledge in HR that supports the action taken by HRM (Anderson, Fontinha and Robson, 2019 Pg.10-11). 

Applied research is carried out with the purpose of gaining an understanding of a specified topic (Anderson, Fontinha, and Robson, 2019 Pg.11-12).   As highlighted in the discussion of various literature reviews, there is a lack of research material on the impact of the implementation of SAP SuccessFactors – Employee Central in organisations. This research attempts to narrow this gap especially focusing on the impact it has had on the effectiveness of the HRM functions of the MNCs that have implemented it. The aspect of the introduction of standardisation in the processes of the HRM through the use of this software has also been explored.

Research in HR is characterised by diversity. Thus, the assumption after consideration of the various models for research processes and diagrams that there is one right way to conduct research may be incorrect (Anderson, Fontinha, and Robson, 2019 Pg.13).   

An explanatory and exploratory research approach was undertaken to explain how SAP SuccessFactors have an impact on the efficiency of HRM functions and their standardisation. The research further explores finding new insight and asking questions on how this software could be used to support the HRM function better.

Explanatory and exploratory research requires the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods to answer the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and at the same time gain new insights. 

Mixed methods of research see value in the use of both qualitative and quantitative data are particularly useful where are resource constraints:  time and cost. These methods help to gain valuable insight into the variables cross-check the confirmations and provide a better understanding of the ‘why’ relationship between the different variables.

Mixed methods were used to design the survey. At first, participants were asked to share their responses to the standardised questions sent to all the participants by filling out the questionnaire. Follow-up clarifications were asked from them as and when necessary to gain insight into their responses.   

The online survey questionnaire was designed to gain insight into the research problem. The use of SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central as a preferred HR software tool was explored, along with the benefits of its uses, challenges in its use, and areas of further improvement were also gauged through this questionnaire that had these questions: 

There is no publicly available document that confirms which organisations use SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Various tools. To gain confirmation, it was ensured that the respondents know which HR software is in consideration, this question was asked first.

It is vital for the research to understand if there are organisations that prefer other eHRM tools over SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central. An analysis of this question is expected to be indicative of the limitations of this software in terms of its reach (cost limitations) and or functionalities, among others.

The number of employees impacts the volume of the data which is processed by the HRM. This study also identifies if there is a correlation between the sheer number of employees to the selection of the HRM software.

A way to attain standardisation is when similar processes are followed both at the Head Quarter’s and at the regional offices. One of the key aspects of MNCs is that they are spread across countries and many times across the continents too (James and Baruti, 2021). It was identified if there are respondents who work for organisations that operate across the borders and are required to meet the objectives of efficiency and standardisation.

This research is primarily focused on the use of SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central in the MNCs, and the respondents were asked to confirm if they work for an MNC so that correct inference can be drawn from the analysis of the data.

SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central offers various modules such as employee benefits management, time and attendance, succession and development, and others to facilitate digitisation and automation of HRM processes. Organisations have an option to subscribe to all or any of these modules (SAP, 2022).

The main aim of this study is to identify the areas within HRM that benefit from the implementation and use of SAP SuccessFactors particularly in the areas of efficiency and standardisation. Respondents were asked to choose from the main benefits advertised by SAP SuccessFactors from the use of their application (SAP, 2022). They were also given the option to choose others if they experience benefits that are different from those bulleted in the questions. They also had the option to skip this question in case they felt that there are no tangible and intangible benefits from the use of this software. An analysis of this response gives insight into what users feel are the most beneficial features of this technology. It was also analysed if users of the other software have experienced similar benefits. 

HRM is the management of human resources that requires an emotional and contextual analysis. SAP is working to introduce artificial intelligence to help digitise more processes of HRM. An inquiry was made to track which are the areas of HRM are not supported by SAP SuccessFactors and is of interest to the respondents. 

This inquiry was made with the target to find major challenges which the users of this application have had with its use. Being a heavy on technology application there are various implementations and day-to-day issues may face. The respondents were given the general issues that are faced by the users in such a scenario based on the reading at CIPD’s website and they were asked to choose any or all the challenges that they encounter (CIPD, 2022).

This research was performed in an organised and structured manner following the underlying principles of the Research Onion. Attempts were made to ensure the analysis of data is performed with a neutral and unbiased view (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2019).

The current sociological and regulatory factors were considered while deciding on the methodology. The normal work hours of employees have increased by 56% ((Impact of COVID-19 on working lives | Survey reports | CIPD, 2022). Technology has enabled more employees to know work from home. There is an increase in social isolation and increased adoption of technology-enabled methods (The impact of new tech during COVID-19 | CIPD, 2022).

To adapt to the change in the preferred ways of interactions and working online surveys were carried out with an expectation of wider and quick response. Survey Legend website was used to design the survey and later collect the results. Primary data was collected from the users through a structured interview that had pre-coded answers. Such an interview style is expected to lead to an unbiased interview but might have elements of subjective opinion from the interviewee (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2019, Pg. 435-436).

The information on the total number of organisations that use SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central is not publicly available. A sample-based approach was used to collect responses to the survey. Sampling can be used as an alternative from obtaining a census from the entire population when there are budget constraints, and time and where it is impractical to survey the total population (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2019, Pg. 492-494).   

An outline of the survey questions to be sent out to the participants was discussed with the supervisor at the time of review of the project proposal and feedback received at that time was used to update the final questionnaire used for this project. Eleven responses were received to the online survey over 10 days. Each respondent could only fill out the survey once.  The responses were coded and quantitative analysis of the descriptive data was carried out this allowed me to carry our comparisons between the data collected. Additionally, this approach also saved time (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2019, Pg. 569 – 571).

The online questionnaire was sent to 25 HRM professionals who have had experience in the use of SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central and other eHRM tools. The link to the survey was shared with them through email and/or mobile messages. Ethical issues such as privacy, informed consent, anonymity, and confidentiality of the respondents were considered while processing their responses and reporting them for this research (National Centre for Research Methods, 2022.

The research survey was open from 8 January 2022 to 17 January 2022, giving the professionals a window of 10 Days to respond to the survey.  The users were requested to respond to all the survey questions. However, this was not made mandatory. This is analysed further in the reflective statement. 

The respondents to the survey were independent of this review and anonymity was maintained throughout the survey. Also, assurance was provided on the confidentiality of the data shared by them to ensure that their opinion is free of any influence. However, as this survey is based on the experiences of the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central users, the objectivity of their answers might be a debatable point (Saunders, Lewis, and Thornhill, 2019).

The response to questions 1,2, 4, and 5 of the questionnaires fall under the dichotomous category as only two categories of response are possible to them. Value labels were assigned to different categories of responses within each of the questions. The responses were coded. The coding assigned to the two labels in the dichotomous questions 1,2,4 and 5 are represented in the table below:

                            Label
Question No#
1 2
1 Yes No
2 Yes No
4 Yes No
5 Yes No

The first question was to confirm if the respondents are using SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central. Code 1 was used to capture the positive responses while code 2 was used to capture a negative response. The second question tests if there are other eHRM in the market. When the respondent selected code 1 as a response to this question it confirmed that they do use an alternative HRM software while a response as 2 means that they don’t use any HRM software.  Response to question 3 of the questionnaire that finds the size of the organisation has been measured using a quantitative variable. The response to it is scalable from 0 to more than 10,000 with regards to the number of staff employed by it and there are fixed intervals to it. 

Question 4 gathered responses on whether the operations of the organisation in which the respondents work operate in more than one country. When the participants confirmed that their organisation operates from more than one country it coded as 1 while any negative response to this question is recorded as 2.

While question 3 was targeted to find the number of staff supported by the organisation on whose practices the participant is responding to. However, this data is not distributed in equal intervals and thus it has been analysed using a nominal basis rather than as scaled data. The following coding was used:

Code Label Code Label
1 Less than 1000 3  2000 – 5000
2 1000 – 2000 4 5000 – 10000

The next three questions were aimed to find respectively the various modules of the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central or other eHRM tools that they are using.  While question 8 seeks to know what benefits did the participants noted from the use of these tools. While in the last question inquiry was made to the challenges they faced with the use of the application.  All these three questions were set as multiple choice and more than one response was possible.

In response to question 7 of the questionnaire, participants were able to select the following codes to reflect which of the modules of SAP SuccessFactors or other eHRM do they use. The following codes were used to capture their response:

Code Label Code Label
1 Saving of cost 4 Motivated employees
2 Time to value/efficiency 5 Data security
3 Time and attendance 6 Accuracy

In question 8 the codes were attached to the main benefits that the use of SAP SuccessFactors as discussed in the literature review section above that the participants experience with the use of these tools.

Code Label Code Label
1 Employee relations 3 Motivated employees
2  HR Strategy 4 Data security

In the last question of this questionnaire, the challenges experienced with the use of these applications were captured using the following codes:

Code Label Code Label
1  Initial installation 3 Motivated employees
2 Training employees 4 Data security

SPSS software was used to analyse the data this tool doesn’t have the capability to interpret the data. The results of the analysis were interpreted to draw an objective conclusion. 

The valid data is where we have a score where the participants have decided to abstain from responding those fields are taken as invalid data and have not been used for analysis and further interpretation. 

The percentage is calculated based on the total sample size while the valid percentage is computed based on the number of responses from that set of samples.  This research interprets data based on the valid percentage unless indicated otherwise.

To start with a first-level analysis was performed using frequencies. This helps users to get an understanding of the data and make primary comparisons (Anderson, Fontinha, and Robson, 2019).

Also, deviations of most observations were captured in the form of standard deviations and the behaviour of different variables was analysed.

SAP SuccessFactors is a widely used HRM software with 54.5% of the respondents confirming the use of this application to manage their HRM activities.

Do you use SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central to manage your HRM function?
Label Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
  Yes 6 54.5 54.5 54.5
No 5 45.5 45.5 100.0
Total 11 100.0 100.0  

The remaining 45.5% of the users confirmed the use of other eHRM tools. This substantiates the pervasiveness of the use of technology for HRM discussed above in the literature review. Interestingly the organisation where all the respondents worked had its operations spread in more than one country. One of the main reasons for the use of this software is their capacity to bring standardisation in the processes of the MNCs that are spread across the borders and thus have different regulatory and cultural practices.

Is your organisation considered to be a Multinational Company (MNC)?
Label Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
  Yes 8 72.7 72.7 72.7
No 3 27.3 27.3 100.0
Total 11 100.0 100.0  

72.7 of the participants confirmed they use these tools while working in an MNC. 45.45% of the respondents were those who used SAP SuccessFactors in an MNC setup.  

The size of the organisation where the respondents used these tools mostly employed less than 1000 employees with 72.72% of the respondents claiming that their organisation employed less than 100 staff. 85% of these organisations use SAP SuccessFactors.   The results are indicative that eHRM tools are used in all the sizes of organisations whether such size is determined based on their size, geographical spread, or the revenue generated from overseas.

How large is your organisation (considering the total number of employees)?
Size of Employees N Frequency
Less_than_1000 11 8
Between_1000 to 2000 11 1
Between_2000 to 5000 11 0
Between_5000 to 10000 11 1
More_than_10000 11 1
Valid N (listwise) 11  

The relationship between the use of eHRM tools, size of the organisations, the spread of operations of the organisations, and the number of staffs in that organisation.  A maximum positive frequency of 8 was noted when the organisation operates in more than one country and they use eHRM tool including SAP SuccessFactors to manage, automate and standardise their large scale HRM operations. 

Fig1: Relationship Map

The results of the survey suggest that time and attendance is the module used by most of the organisations in which the respondent works. This is closely followed by recruitment, compensation, onboarding. This further emphasises the use of SAP SuccessFactors and eHRM on the automation of the tasks that are clerical and repetitive HRM tasks introduce efficiency highlighted in the literature review. The results of the descriptive analysis are highlighted below:

Which areas of HRM in your organisation are managed through SAP SuccessFactors or any other HR software that you use?
 
Module N Frequency
Time and Attendance 11 10
Recruitment 11 9
Compensation 11 7
Onboarding 11 7
Learning and Development 11 6
Performance and goal management 11 5
Succession and development 11 3
Valid N (listwise) 11  

The modules to manage the learning and development, and performance and goal management, are also used widely. However, the survey suggests that organisations make the least use of the module designed to manage the succession and development module. 

Fig 2 : Analysis Graph

There are various tangible and intangible benefits from the use of this software. When users were given multiple options to select which are the most beneficial features of the survey. 72.72% of the respondents agreed that the automation of the HRM tasks mainly helps to perform more tasks and thus channel that time to manage the more strategical task as they said that its use adds value to time.  The other most common benefit to which 63.64% of the participants agreed was around the cost which is saved by using the SAP SuccessFactors and other software. This may also be indicative of the fact that at places this software tends to replace the HR professional. This might also be a probable reason for the users, not 36.36% of the remaining participants not looking at this as a real benefit for the HR professional. When technology is used to manage HRM data there are in-built checks within the software. For instance, SAP SuccessFactors has the capability to stop a user to input a text value in the date field. One of the main drivers beyond this is the standardisation that the use of SAP SuccessFactors embeds into the process and various task performed by HRM. The users also, felt that this not only increase the accuracy of the data that is used to make daily and strategic HR decision but also increase the efficiency of the users as they save time to correct those errors. 54.55% of the participants also agreed that the use of these software has increased to manage the confidentiality of data as there are access controls within the systems that can be used to define who has access to what. Thus, helping them to maintain better security of the personal data that was maintained using manual processes. This also led to the fulfilment of the regulatory requirements under GDPR in the UK and other equivalent regulations outside it.   These benefits and other secondary benefits keep the employees motivated as agreed by 54.44% of the participants in the survey.

What are the main benefits of using SAP SuccessFactors or HR software?
Benefits N Frequency Absolute %  
Time Value 11 8 72.73%
Cost Saving 11 7 63.64%
Accuracy 11 6 54.55%
Data Security 11 6 54.55%
Employee motivation 11 6 54.55%
Valid N (listwise) 11    

Technological development in the recent past has led to making the machine more intelligent and learning based on the pattern of the records processed by them. There are areas within the HRM functions that take a substantial part of the HR but there is no technology to support their automation. Respondents shared their views to confirm which areas of HRM they would like to be supported by the software. 63.64% of respondents see that it will be most beneficial for them if employee relations could be managed and supported by SAP SuccessFactors or other HR tools. The judgemental nature of this function has not been much supported by SAP SuccessFactors at the moment.  Functions like change management, HR strategy and managing organisational effectiveness are other areas that respondents felt should be better supported by the software.

Which functions of HRM are not supported by SAP SuccessFactors or the available HRM software solutions?
 Areas N Frequency %
Employee Relations 11 7 63.64%
Change Management 11 5 45.45%
HR Strategy 11 4 36.36%
Organisational Effectiveness 11 2 18.18%
Valid N (listwise) 11    

Lastly, an investigation was made to explore the challenges that the HRM personnel and the organisations that implement this software have to face. Users shared to have faced multiple challenges with the implementation and use of SAP SuccessFactors or HRM software. HRM generally doesn’t have the technical expertise in managing the software. They thus have to liaise with IT and finance for maintenance, support, and managing the cost of this software. This cross-functional liaising has been found most challenging by the respondents with 54.5% of them listing it to be a major challenge. Also, training the employees to use the application was found to be challenging by 45.45% of the respondents.   

What are the major challenges in the use of SAP SuccessFactors or the available HRM software solutions?
Challenges N Frequency %
Initial Installation 11 4 36.36%
Employee Training 11 5 45.45%
Cross-Functional 11 6 54.55%
Valid N (listwise) 11  

10     

Though an axiology approach has been followed while analysing the responses these may be affected by the oncologic assumptions of the respondents. These responses were from the HRM professional, and many do not factor in the effectiveness that the organisation sees by the implementation of SAP SuccessFactors and/or other HRM software. Additionally, there was a change to the targeted source of data. At the stage of proposal, the aim was to collect data from the then place of employment. However, after the submission of the proposal the access to that organisation was eliminated due to researcher’s redundancy. Hence, judgment was made to share the questionnaire to the next best available source. These were the HR professionals who had first hand experience in the use of SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central.

The total population who uses SAP SuccessFactors is not publicly published. It is suspected that the figure could run to thousands given the limited information available on the internet. Thus, the sample size selected, and the actual response maybe not be truly indicative of the response of the substantive population and there may be many variances from the conclusion drawn in actual practice. 

The data considered for this research is mainly from the reading of research, books, articles, and journals of various academicians, interactions with the HRM professionals, and their responses to the survey. A read of various journals was also done. However, there is not widely available published data on SAP SuccessFactors. Thus, inferences are drawn for other HRIS applications that are developed and operated on similar philosophies and technology. Thus, there may be a generalisation of the impact of technology on HRM’s efficiency and its ability to standardise the HRM processes. 

The discussion around the various available material and evaluation of the above participants’ responses highlights the various areas within HRM that could benefit from the use of SAP SuccessFactors technology. As can be seen, it is hard to find an organisation that doesn’t use technology to automate to support any of its HRM functions with the probability being nil in the survey conducted.

Although the software has various modules to cater to a range of needs in the HR function these are more standardised and the capability to be in customisation is either very restricted or heavy on the pocket (SAP, 2022). 

There has been a shift in the role that HRM is expected to play in the success of the organisation. They are expected to be a strategic partner who is able to analyse further trends, design the process and procedures that supports the organisation’s strategy, and lead to developing a culture where employees are motivated to contribute to the attainment of the organisation’s objective and success. These expectations from HRM requires the automation of their traditional task. Depending upon the financial constraint’s organisations can implement various modules of SAP Success Factors and or HRM tools to automate the HRM processes. This is where the use of these software has gained appreciation. There is an obtain of scalability that SAP SuccessFactors brings in. Where the organisations have an option on which modules on the ERP they want to implement and to which entities where their operations are spread across the border.

Due to the limited development in this area and because of the involvement of the human element at the moment, there are only limited functions of HRM that can be automated such as recruitment, attendance, learning, and development to name a few.  Though as a field of science the technology development in this area is still evolving. To overcome the elements of uncertainty and difficulty to predict the behaviour of human resources some critical functions of HRM have not been successfully automated so far.

These functions including employee relationship, change management, and strategic management are still not effectively supported by the available modules and tools.  With the growth in artificial intelligence and machine learning, there are chances that these areas of HRM which are heavy on judgemental calls and logical processing of data will soon be supported by technology to further standardise the processes around these functions and at the same time introduce greater efficiency.

One of the recommendations which the organisations implementing these technologies should be aware of is that the technology is only as good as the users. Thus, the tech education of the users of these tools is paramount. This point was also highlighted by the respondents who agreed that training the employees to use these tools is one of the major challenges in the use of these tools. This contract which comes along with the benefit of the SAP SuccessFactors and other HRM tools should be factored into by the organisation when they evaluate the efficiency and standardisation introduced by them.  

Another recommendation would be around the use of project management tools and practices when organisations implement SAP SuccessFactors. The implementation would be successful only if the settings on the SAP SuccessFactors is correctly configured to reflect the practices and procedures of the organisations. Also, an organisation invests their man-hour, finance while implementing these. This is vital that the test results are correctly checked by the knowledgeable users of these tools before these are put to actual use. Also, it is important that there is the supervision of this implementation process to ensure that it is complemented within the timeframe and is set to deliver the efficiency excepted from its use.    

Finally, it is to be considered what impact the inability to access the SAP SuccessFactors applications will have on the HRM operations of the organisations. Mainly these impacts can be divided into three broad categories: operations issues, issues that are tactical, and lastly issues that have a strategic impact.   Operational issues include issues that put the administrative working of the HRM function of the organisation in halt such as lots of manual intervention to the applications so that they can process the data being inaccurate and incomplete.

Tactical issues such as the inability to process the data generated through processing by the HRIS, accessibility of these systems, and coverage of the functions lead to a tactical inability by HRM to manage by relying on these applications. Then there are issues that have an impact on the strategic goals of the organisations like inability to manage the complete end-to-end process, inability to change, inability to manage change, or even to adjust based on the forecast (Boroughs and Rickard, 2016).

SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central is a comprehensive HRM management tool. However, given the present support offered by the technological advancement, it is to be considered that the above benefits induced by it or other HRIS that work on similar concepts in terms of efficiency and standardisation is to be seen in the light of the limitations of these applications.

Reflexivity is an important skill for a researcher. In order to have a dependable research philosophy researchers should be able to question their own assumptions and scrutinize them at the same time. This helps them to make better-informed choices (Anderson, Fontinha, and Robson, 2019).

There are some important takeaways from the research that I did for this project. Firstly, I became more aware of the use of analytics tools for HRM. My previous understanding of HR analytics has mainly been around its use for frequency analysis. While conducting this research I was introduced to various tools and their application to analyse data that use it to support HRM decision making. In particular, I made use of IBM SPSS Statistics for the first time. And while using it I learned how variable fields can be used to define the fields of the data collected. I sit work closely with my organisations Corporate Management Team and I will apply this tool to crunch data for them. This will help me to present large data in a concise manner.

Moreover, I learned that this tool has a native configuration to enable the creation of charts. I found this tool to create visuals very helpful. Especially, I received positive feedback when I have presented data to the senior management in the visual format as it helped them to digest more information in less time. I consider myself a beginner in HRM data analytics and my knowledge is limited to want I gather while attending MA HRM’s classes on projects and a few YouTube videos. This has; however, encouraged me to build further on my existing knowledge. To do this I will watch more YouTube videos on IBM SPSS Statistics 28. I will also read the IBM SPSS Statistics 28 Brief Guide that is available online for free at (IBM SPSS Statistics 28 Brief Guide IBM, 2021)

At the sage of interpretation, I also found that I could have also used ordinal and scale data measurement to identify the most beneficial function of SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central.

Though, completing this project was a rewarding experience I also had a few challenges while performing it such as designing the survey, the channel for transmission of this survey, and identifying the participants for the survey. There is limited information available on this topic which limited my access to the literature review on this topic but at the same time pushed me to make use of critical thinking and evaluate the response shared by the users of these applications through the survey results. Also, the broader use of preparing the research document is that it has made me more confident to present information to others that are backed by logically interpreted data.

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Hi there!

I am recently completing research for a Master’s degree. In my research, I am exploring the impact technology has had on Human Resource Management (HRM) functions.

If you could please spare 3 minutes to complete this survey which has a few questions about the use of technology for performing HRM functions at your organisation. 

The information collected from this survey will be used for the purpose of this research and at any time you can withdraw from this survey. If you have any questions about this survey, please feel free to contact me on 07883916007.

​Just click on the start button below to get started.

Thanks, and all the best!

Do you use SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central to manage your HRM function?

  • Yes [   ]           No [     ]

In case the answer to the above question is ‘no’ is there any other e-HRM tool that your organisation uses

  • Yes [   ]           No [     ]

How large is your organisation (considering the total number of employees)?

Tick your answer     

  • Less than 1000
  • 1000 – 2000
  • 2000 – 5000
  • 5000 – 10000
  • More than 10,000

Does your company operate in more than one country?

  • Yes [   ]           No [     ]

Is your organisation considered to be a Multinational Company (MNC)? 

  • Yes [   ]           No [     ]

Which areas of HRM in your organisation are managed through SAP SuccessFactors or any other HR software that you use?

Tick your answer:    

  • Recruitment
  • Onboarding
  • Time and attendance
  • Learning and development
  • Performance and goal management
  • Compensation
  • Succession and development

What are the main benefits of using SAP SuccessFactors or HR software? 

Tick your answer:    

  • Saving of cost
  • Time to value/efficiency
  • Time and attendance
  • Motivated employees
  • Data security
  • Accuracy

Which functions of HRM are not supported by SAP SuccessFactors or the available HRM software solutions?

Tick your answer:    

  • Employee relations
  • HR Strategy
  • Change management
  • Organisational effectiveness

What are the major challenges in the use of SAP SuccessFactors or the available HRM software solutions?

Tick your answer:    

  • Initial installation
  • Training employees
  • Cross-functional

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