The Instance Refresh in SuccessFactors

Like many other digital HR management software, SAP SuccessFactors provides customers with a whole environment to develop, test, and implement customized configurations. Consequently, customers are provided with several instances to fulfil these functions. One of the key tools to make this architecture useful is the Instance Refresh in SuccessFactors (SF). In this blog, I want to explain this crucial tool and give insights from my own experiences with it.

1. Defining the Instance Refresh in SuccessFactors

Instance Refreshes in SF refer to the process of creating a complete copy of one instance and overwriting another. Accordingly, the Instance Refresh Tool will copy data and configurations from the source and overwrite the target instance. This meticulous process ensures that the target instance is a mirror image of the source instance.

2. Why Instance Refreshes Matter

Instance Refreshes are vital because they ensure your testing environment (typically Dev and Test instances) closely mirrors your production environment. The closer the resemblance, the more effective your testing.

Creating a Realistic Testing Environment: For valid testing, your non-production environment should replicate your live system as closely as possible. Accordingly, this realism is crucial, allowing you to accurately gauge how changes and configurations will impact your productive instance. Therefore, testing in an environment similar to your production instance reduces the risk of unexpected issues when rolling out changes.

3. The Different Types of Instances

SAP SuccessFactors offers various instances, each serving a unique purpose in the software development and HR management process. Understanding the distinctions among these instances is required for effective HR software management. Here, we have a look at the primary three:

  • Production: Your production instance is the main stage, where your HR processes take place. It’s the live environment used by your employees and admins, where accurate data and configurations are paramount.
  • Development (Dev): Think of the Dev instance as the backstage workshop. It’s where configurations and new features are created and tested before being brought to the Production instance. It’s a safe environment for tinkering and innovation.
  • Testing (Test): The Test instance serves as the rehearsal hall. It’s where all the changes, configurations, and customizations from Dev are rigorously tested to ensure they work as intended. For that reason, testing is critical before implementing changes in Production to avoid disruptions.

4. Requirements for an Instance Refresh in SuccessFactors

Coming to the instance refresh, we have certain restrictions for which instance can be target and source. Particularly, the Data Center and the environment play a central role here.

  • Data Center: This is the physical location of the servers hosting your Instance. An Instance Refresh can only be made within the same Data Center! If you’re unsure about where your instance is hosted, you can have a look at this KBA.
  • Environment: The system can operate in either a Preview or Productive environment. Accordingly, this defines how you can instantiate your Instance Refresh. More precisely, you can’t initiate a Refresh with a Preview Instance as a source targetting a Productive one. (This constraint applies only to the Instance Refresh Tool. More precisely, you will have to contact SAP in case you want to bypass this restriction)
  • Instance Refresh vs Instance Sync: Just for differentiation’s sake – the Instance sync transfers configurations. As you can see in the below image, the direction goes from Dev to Test to Prod. Accordingly, this tool can be used to transport your developments to the next higher instance.
    The Instance Refresh however is used to overwrite the whole Instance to improve the data and configuration quality.
Instance Refresh in SAP SuccessFactors: overview of data center, environments and instances.

This image only portrays a standard setup by SAP, your customer environment might be different.

5. Additional boundaries for an Instance Refresh

Furthermore, there are certain limitations that you should keep in mind on top of the tenant architecture. Here I will name the essential ones (more here):

  • Release Calendar: As you might know, SAP provides bi-annual updates for SAP SuccessFactors. These updates will be implemented in the Preview environment first, before they go live on Production. Hence, you will only be able to initiate an Instance Refresh as long as both tenants have the same version. Accordingly, you can find the schedule in the SAP Community.
  • Weekly Slots: Moreover, there is a restriction for the days you can schedule your Instance Refresh. Since SAP wants to provide support in case of errors, you can only schedule it between Monday and Thursday. Also, the Refresh will always begin at 2 am, the local time of the Data Center.
  • Audit log and attachment handling: Another considerable restriction is the deletion of all audit logs and attachments for a Refresh.
  • SAP Modules: Some SAP Modules (e.g. Recruiting Marketing (RMK),… ) are not supported (more here)

6. Things you’d want to keep in mind for the Instance Refresh

First and foremost, I want to emphasize once more the extent of an Instance Refresh in SuccessFactors. Namely, that all configurations in the system as well as in Provisioning will get overwritten. This ranges from API users over Integration Center Jobs to developments you might not have set live yet. Consequently, it is advisable to create a cut-over list of all the backups and preparations that have to be made. In addition to the aforementioned, there are further topics that you might want to consider before an Instance Refresh:

  • SAP Modules connected to SuccessFactors
  • Integrations to other SAP or 3rd party systems
  • Interfaces for Identity Provisioning

7. Level of Anonymisation

Lastly, I would like to briefly mention the topic of data anonymisation when refreshing instances. Specifically, you’ll be able to determine whether and to which extent employee data will be anonymised in the target instance. For instance, you can replace the home address with random numbers or the business E-Mail with a fixed value. For that purpose, SAP provides a list of all the fields where you can apply anonymisation, find the link here.

On a final note, through our support of our clients, we have accumulated valuable experiences with Instance Refreshes in SuccessFactors. Therefore, please feel invited to drop us a note, if you’d like us to assist you with this or other topics regarding SAP SuccessFactors and Integrations.
Here you will find our contact page and if you want to know more about us have a look at our lively LinkedIn profile.

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