Data As-is Analysis is the underestimated step in Employee Central implementation. But why? And how can we change this?

Do you remember going to the doctor lately? I remember the first time I went to my GP after I moved to Germany. I went there because I want to get a vaccine shot for ticks. As you can imagine, my doctor didn’t just give me the shot right away even if she has given this vaccine to hundreds of other patients before me. She nicely explained to me that for every new patient they take in, a physical examination and exploration of the patient’s history is a must in order for them to determine the best course of action. Imagine how difficult it must be for doctors to diagnose, let alone find the right cure for patients without doing any tests and diagnostic procedures to determine the patient’s current medical condition. Now imagine trying to configure Employee Central for your customer without knowing the current data and data structures they have in their system before-hand. Wouldn’t it be a series of hit and miss? 

The leading practice with SAP SuccessFactors is always to ‘Adopt’ rather than to ‘Adapt’. This means that when customers move their Organizational Management and HR Administration processes to Employee Central, we always encourage customers to leave their old processes behind and to adopt the SAP SuccessFactors standards. However, this is not always the case with data. Customers need to first bring the data from their legacy system to Employee Central before they can run their HR Core processes. Consultants often do a very good job of explaining and enabling customers of SuccessFactors standard data objects, but it is a pity that we most of the time fail to communicate to them at a level and in a language they understand. The crucial step of Data As-is Analysis is often skipped and therefore making it extra challenging for the customer to fit their current reality to the SuccessFactors standards. 

In every Employee Central implementation project, I am involved, I always ask the question “Why are we not conducting a Data As-is Analysis?”. I received numerous different reasons, but I have rounded it up to my top 5 favorite responses from fellow consultants or project managers: 

  1. “Well, we would get to know about their additional requirements or customizations at some later point in time anyway so there’s no need to do it at the beginning. After Iteration 1 or 2, my customers would start to say, “Well how about these other data that we have?” 
  1. “I don’t really know about SAP HCM or any other HR systems therefore I would not be able understand their as-is data. I would rather just focus on what I know which is SuccessFactors.” 
  1. “If we start with Data As-is Analysis, it will open the door for customers to recreate what they have from their legacy system.” 
  1. “The customer has several legacy systems and it’s too much effort to do an as-is analysis for all of those prior the implementation.” 
  1. “There is no time to do a Data As-is Analysis. The workshops have to start right away!” 

During data requirement workshops, customers often have a hard time answering questions like: “What HR data do you currently capture in the system for your employees?” or “Why do you store this data now?”. Most of the time, they have a difficult time explaining to a consultant as to why the available data objects or data fields in Employee Central by standard is not enough or why they need more. This is because customers usually don’t have full knowledge or visibility of their current data structures as well. It is possible that their current HR Core system has been used for many years that there’s a lot of legacy data and there have been numerous customizations, but there is incomplete or no existing documentation at all. 

Conducting Data As-is Analysis as part of the Discover or Prepare Phase, or maybe even earlier is really about being a step ahead. It is mainly about being proactive rather than being reactive. In the past, we have already implemented Employee Central for customers in small, medium, and large enterprises without conducting data As-Is analysis. But at what cost? Do we really want to continue towards that direction? Should we continue to spend time firefighting at a later point in the project or rather invest that time and resources at the beginning so both consultants and customers can make more informed decisions?  

In our Data Architecture approach within the SAP HXM Innovation and Transformation team, we have identified three options on how to conduct Data As-is analysis depending on the customer’s legacy system (whether they are SAP HCM or non-SAP HCM customer), the desired level of detail of the analysis, customer’s level of commitment, and amount of time the customer wants to invest in such an exercise.  

In this blog Data As-is Analysis: A Critical Step before bringing your HR data to Employee Central, we will share with you what are these options and tools available and how you can use them in your next Employee Central Implementation.