Preparing for a SAP SuccessFactors or Workday Implementation

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: May 10, 2019

If there is one thing that we have learned from our lessons from 1,000 HCM implementations, it is that your level of transformation success hinges on the things you do before you ever start. There are a number of best practices that should drive how you prepare for your SAP SuccessFactors or Workday implementation.

Cliff diving into your HCM implementation

After you finish comparing SuccessFactors vs. Workday and arrive at a final decision, your natural instincts may be to rush straight into implementation. Your vendor and system integrator will encourage you to do the same thing – not because it makes sense to you, but because it makes good economic sense to them. However, this is a bad idea.

Before you jump straight in, you will first want to build your operational, organizational, and technical blueprint. Just as a general contractor does not bring in the framers, roofers, drywall, and plumbers without a clear blueprint, neither should you do this with your HCM software vendor and system integrator. The more prepared you are about what you want and need from SuccessFactors or Workday, the more successful your transformation will be.

The graphic below summarizes the various risks associated with “cliff diving” straight into your SuccessFactors or Workday implementation:

There are a number of technology-agnostic workstreams that should be addressed as part your SuccessFactors or Workday implementation:

  1. Strategic and executive alignment. Your company needs to fully understand what it wants to be when it grows up before beginning software design. There needs to be clear strategic direction and alignment on your team, which should translate into clear priorities and parameters for your SuccessFactors or Workday implementation.


    This is a way to drive real material improvements to your business and employee experience. For example, setting goals for your HCM transformation to improve talent management, total rewards, and employee self-service should be decided up front. Strategic decisions around standardization, shared services models, HR competencies, organizational design, and other key variables should be decided before getting your HCM system integrator involved.

  1. Operational readiness. Contrary to popular belief, business process management should start before the implementation design phase, not during. If you are spending time figuring this out after the project starts, one of two things will happen: a) you will rush decisions to simply automate existing business processes along the path of least resistance, or b) you will spend way too much money on your transformation while the consultants keep the meter running while you make key operational decisions.


    The future state of our HR department and hire to retire business processes should be driven by your business and organizational needs – not by the needs of the software. For example, you may decide to leverage SuccessFactors or Workday to enable standardized performance management across the globe. The software won’t define these details for you. Instead, you need to define a clear vision of what this process will look like so the software can better support it.

  1. People readiness. Organizational change management is one of two to three workstreams most likely to be on your project’s critical path, meaning that it is likely to cause time delays if not managed properly. Conducting an organizational readiness assessment and organizational design prior to beginning implementation is critical. This is also an opportunity to mobilize your internal organizational change team.


    Because HCM implementations affect most employees and often result in significant cultural shifts (think: employee self-service models), this is even more important for SuccessFactors and Workday implementations than other enterprise technologies. Add the fact that the HR department is one of the unsung heroes of most digital transformations, and it becomes clear that organizational change is especially important to begin early.

  2. Technical readiness. You will want to spend time defining your future state physical and organizational IT infrastructure prior to beginning your SuccessFactors or Workday implementation. You will want to have a clear architecture strategy, workforce technology skills uplift plan, and data migration strategy. These are all things that should be completed by technology-agnostic experts that can help you become a more self-sustaining team – not one that benefits from you outsourcing these competencies to them.
  3. Project governance and planning. This is your project, not your system integrator’s. Your team should define and implement a project governance structure, charter, and overall program implementation plan that you can manage the system integrator to. Independent third-party digital transformation experts such as those at Third Stage can help you manage your system integrator, optimize resources and costs, and identify and manage risks as part of your overarching project governance strategy and plan.

Conclusion: Create a clear human capital blueprint for your SAP SuccessFactors or Workday implementation

This is an exciting time for those implementing HCM technologies such as SuccessFactors and Workday. Gone are the days of the HR department focusing on “personnel” and regulatory matters. With new technologies enabling and automated key HR processes, HR departments are better able to improve the employee experience and focus on more strategic topics like how to increase morale, build a better culture, and drive performance.

But cliff diving won’t get you there. First you need to build a clear human capital blueprint to prepare for a successful SAP SuccessFactors or Workday implementation.

Feel free to contact me to brainstorm ideas on how to apply this framework to your HCM transformation. I am happy to be a sounding board as you begin your HR transformation journey!

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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