October 1, 2020
7 min read

SAP SuccessFactors vs. Cornerstone OnDemand: What’s the difference?

Written by
Yang Josiah Chow

"How does Cornerstone OnDemand compare with SAP SuccessFactors?" We evaluate the differences so that you can make the best decision for your business' HR needs.

As Cornerstone OnDemand’s (CSOD) main implementation partner in Asia, one question that we often get from our clients is – “How does your product compare with SAP SuccessFactors?” This is an important question to address because both Cornerstone OnDemand and SAP SuccessFactors were the only providers ranked as leaders in the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Talent Management. Leaders are defined by their credibility clear understanding of market needs and capabilities to drive the acceptance of new technology.

Sure enough, there are differences that make CSOD more suitable for some businesses and SAP for others. At TalearnX, we always strive to provide our clients with honest information to best resolve their needs. In this article, we will evaluate the differences between SAP and CSOD, so that you can make the best decision for your business.

Functionalities: What do Cornerstone OnDemand and SAP SuccessFactors offer?


Cornerstone OnDemand is a cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) platform that features comprehensive recruiting, personalised learning, development-driven performance management, and holistic HR planning. CSOD drives a unified talent strategy as it allows businesses to manage and provide an engaging employee experience for their workforce. CSOD specialises in Human Capital Development.


SAP SuccessFactors offers leading performance capabilities, with functional depth and breadth across the full HCM suite. Both cloud solutions and on-premise solutions are offered depending on clients’ needs. Recent innovations include an intelligent job analyser that uses machine learning to check for unconscious bias.

While CSOD focuses on Talent Management, SAP’s offerings also include traditional HR functionalities that we refer to as Human Resource Integrated Systems (HRIS), such as payroll management. SAP, therefore, aims to be the one-stop center for all your HR needs. Both CSOD and SAP structure their modules differently.

(In a separate article, we discussed more details on what HCM and HRIS entails.)


It is often the case that clients will require data stored in a third-party software to be transferred into their HR systems. Both Cornerstone OnDemand and SAP SuccessFactors allow for integration with other software so that data can be transferred automatically in real time. This is an extremely relevant feature for CSOD as it allows for integration with third-party HRIS solutions. For example, clients can transfer data from SAP’s Core HR module to CSOD’s Learning module.

SAP integrations can normally be solved by their implementation partner as the tools and training have already been provided for them to do so. CSOD however, works with clients themselves in order to solve technical problems. This practice could contribute to a longer process than SAP.

Ease of Use

HR systems are used by both management and employees to achieve their talent strategy, compliance, business, and workflow needs. Like most software, User Interface (UI) is an important factor that plays to User Experience (UX). An interface that is convenient and intuitive can promote software adoption amongst the workforce. Unfortunately, SAP SuccessFactors scored below average in terms of mobile support and collaborative capabilities (2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Talent Management). However, SAP responded to this by launching a redesigned mobile app. Further, SAP’s core HR features are more customisable compared to CSOD.

While SAP’s core HR features also offers better visualisation of user information, its UI varies according to each module and functionality. The difference is largely observed between SAP’s Core HR and Talent Management solutions. Both end user and admin configuration interface are varied, appearing as though two different development teams are in charge. This has been a persistent problem since the merger of SAP and SuccessFactors in 2012.

Customer Support

a. Personnel

Both Cornerstone OnDemand and SAP SuccessFactors run on an implementation model. That is, they provide the software while their partners do the implementation. TalearnX for example, is an implementation partner for CSOD. Client support from software providers is extremely important especially after implementation.

Scoring above average in terms of vendor-customer relationship (2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Talent Management), a CSOD client success manager is assigned to every client from the start of the process to help them identify short- and long-term business goals. The Client Success Manager is involved during and post-implementation to ensure that these goals are reflected after businesses adopt the software. CSOD has an established Client Success Framework to support their clients. On the other hand, SAP provides only one “health check-up” after the system has gone live. SAP SuccessFactors clients are heavily reliant on third-party support such as their implementation partners whose quality of support may not be guaranteed. Therefore, they must choose their vendor (implementation partner) carefully.

b. Workshops and Helpline

Further, Cornerstone OnDemand provides free Customer Success workshops through the Cornerstone Success Portal. During the implementation process, workshops will also be conducted to train internal system administrators with global best practices. Customers also have access to the Global Technical Support which is a 24/7 online community helpdesk provided and included in the annual subscription fee. It has been found that most issues can generally be solved virtually and remotely. This helpline feature is currently not available with SAP SuccessFactors. SAP ranked below-average customer satisfaction with enhancement request processes, additional deployments and upgrades, and after-sales care (2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Talent Management).


The expense to maintain and support SAP SuccessFactors’s solutions is generally three times more expensive than Cornerstone OnDemand. There is typically a premium price associated with SAP’s offerings. SAP scored below-average satisfaction for contract negotiations, pricing and contract flexibility (2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Talent Management).

As discussed in a previous article, licensing fees are one of the major costs associated with the procurement of an HR system. The cost of licensing fees in turn, are determined by the number of active users. While SAP has taken steps to simplify its pricing by moving all solutions to a user-based pricing model, active users are calculated differently according to modules. For example, there is a different formula for SAP’s Performance and Goals module, and SAP’s Learning module.

On the other hand, CSOD considers active users consistently throughout all modules as defined by the client’s system admin. As long as the admin assigns a license to a user, they will be considered active.


a. Content Creation Tools

With a heavy focus on learning, Cornerstone OnDemand’s standout feature is Cornerstone Create. Cornerstone Create allows companies to create new courses from easy-to-use, pre-built templates and customise existing courses from the Grovo Library. The ability to customise is essential when organisations want to tailor standardised content to specific countries. SAP SuccessFactors currently does not have a similar feature. A case study from Forrester finds that the adoption of CSOD has allowed a multinational organisation with 25,000 employees to reduce learning spend and onboarding time by 50% through content curation and onboarding automation. The three-year value of this benefit is $2.1 million.

b. Number of Content Providers and Courses

After acquiring Saba earlier this year, CSOD features even more content partners and content curation flexibilities compared to SAP. CSOD has partnered with over 30 content providers, offering more than 36,000 courses across industries. On the other hand, SAP’s content partners are currently limited to lynda.com, Coursera, Udacity, and OpenHPI.

CSOD also actively seeks out new content partners based on clients’ needs. For example, some clients may desire localised content in their native language to meet the specific regulatory system’s compliance requirements.


Features of SAP SuccessFactors vs. Cornerstone OnDemand

SAP is better for organisations that:

  • Prioritise Core HR needs rather than Talent functionalities.

CSOD is better for organisations that:

  • Prioritise Talent Management alongside traditional HRIS.

It is important to note that clients rarely have to put all their eggs in one basket. Clients can mix and match between modules offered by different vendors.

To further understand the differences between Cornerstone OnDemand and SAP SuccessFactors, please don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a demo with us. We look forward to providing you with cutting-edge tech-driven solutions for your various HR needs.

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