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Micah Fairchild Workday Rising Highlights Financial, Recruiting, Analytics Enhancements

3.5 stars Average rating: 3.5 (from 74 votes)
 By Micah Fairchild

Workday’s Conference Showcases Future Mobile, Recruiting, Big Data Apps

Sometimes I swear it feels like we’re turning into a Workday marketing machine around here considering how many posts we’ve made in recent days about the company. After all, we’ve put together a comprehensive review of Workday’s HRMS capabilities; we talked about the industry implications of what the company’s S-1 filing meant; and we even did a post-mortem analysis of their IPO at the tail end of last month. So what else could we possibly have to say about Workday? Well, quite a bit actually, given their latest system announcements that took place at the vendor’s annual Workday Rising Conference this past week. Here’s the highlight reel that we came away with.

  1. Workday Continues Financials Build-Out
    As we mentioned in an earlier recap of what’s happening with the company’s recent IPO, one of the decidedly ambitious goals for Workday moving forward is the build-out of their Financials package. And while there are plenty of arguments about whether these enhancements are part of the company’s bid to create a cloud-based ERP suite (which seems unlikely to us), the fact of the matter is that Workday is gaining significant ground in their Financials product development.

    For instance, the latest release (Workday 18) includes improvements in both their tax and payment feature sets for global companies; adds on in-depth reporting capabilities; and finally partners (for project planning) the back-office functionality of Financials with their comprehensive HR package—creating the ability for businesses to (as Workday representatives state) "allocate resources seamlessly across projects with details that include cost, worker availability, skills, and experience".

    What’s more, Workday is bringing to bear their near-unmatched capabilities for scalability to large enterprises—currently allowing journal line editing in the neighborhood of 50M, with 100M just around the corner for next year. Aside from the fact that this function will allow large companies the ability to scale up or down as accounting needs change, Workday’s architecture is also putting a rather serious dent in the amount of time that it takes to process financial data. That said, as to be expected (given the recency of these developments), Workday’s Financials aren’t quite in the same league as SAP, Oracle or Infor right now. However, as Constellation Research’s CEO Ray Wang puts it "These back office products take time to get there, but the cloud model means they are iterating and innovating very quickly."

  2. Workday Is Building Recruiting Functionality Rather Than Buying It
    Even more impressive though than the progress the company has made towards a complete Financials offering though, is the post Workday IPO announcement the company made about Recruiting. Specifically, as it turns out Workday has decided to build a recruiting application on their own as opposed to acquire that feature set in the vein of SAP and Oracle’s respective SuccessFactors and Taleo strategies. We say impressive because in true Workday fashion, the company wants to re-think the way that Recruiting is unified with the rest of their HCM suite; rather than simply position an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) into the mix to fill out one of their major talent management gaps.

    Of course, other than Workday’s penchant for re-engineering, there are a few additional elements that make this announcement worth detailing. For one, a healthy amount of speculation from pundits and analysts within the HR Technology space turned out to be off-track. For instance, once the acquisitions of Taleo, SuccessFactors, and Kenexa ramped up, few thought that Workday wouldn’t be jumping at the chance to buy up one of the smaller best-of-breed providers like Cornerstone OnDemand or even Saba for that matter. This newest announcement suggests the company may not opt for an acquisitions strategy to shore up deficiencies.

    What’s more, Workday’s partnerships that were built on providing those recruiting functionalities largely seem like they’re in jeopardy—especially if you consider the company’s announcement that "it's time to make plans to decommission your existing ATS". Still, in a move that rivals Oracle’s pre-announcement of Fusion back in the day, Workday’s recruiting functionalities aren’t even going to be available until 2014 at the earliest. In fact, it’s not even available for demos yet. Whether that’s a stroke of marketing genius or simply jumping the gun is yet to be seen.

  3. Workday Is Building Up Big Data
    On the same hand of pre-announcements like Recruiting, the company also let the audience in on their development plans for Big Data—expected to be released with Workday 19 for early customers and generally available in the latter part of 2013 (i.e. Workday 20). Specifically, the company’s plans are to provide a pre-packaged (Datameer-driven) toolkit to allow customers the ability to integrate multiple data sources (including 3rd-party information) for analysis and visualization. What’s interesting about this is that the company describes this as their “third leg” behind HCM and Financials; and expects data streams to be able to be incorporated from a number of other cloud applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

    The important thing to gather from this news is that Workday is making a play to be able to take on the analytics capabilities that Oracle and SAP have had for years; and in a not-so-ironic twist is actually playing a bit of catch-up to these larger providers. What we mean by this is that up until now Workday’s database structure has not allowed customers the ability to load in external data into the application—a process that essentially equated to customers having to go out and buy additional tools to create out-of-system data warehouses for analysis. Granted, Workday already had an in-memory column store database working for it, but now the company will be able to offer customers with connectors for loading data, pre-built analytics for a host of sought-after metrics, and tools for analysis that play off the speed and performance that those in-memory capabilities provide.

Workday Rising: Some Concluding Thoughts

It’s hard to come away from a user conference without at least a modicum of excitement about things to come from a vendor. After all, these types of events are explicitly dedicated to generating fervor from both the current customer base and those that are waiting in the wings. What you don’t always expect is the level of appreciation that Workday executives kept up for the entire time. Seriously, I lost count of how many times Duffield, Bhusri, and company said the phrase “it’s all because of you” when speaking to their respective audiences. What’s more though, is that the company’s front-men were able to point to exactly how much they’re gaining from those clients in terms of what is offered.

Out of the 367 features that were added to Workday 18, 192 came from customers. Mind you, not all of those were true “enhancements” but the changes were made in direct response to what customers asked for. That’s not a little thing; especially when the company itself is striving to turn the HR technology world on its head by reengineering the entire process by which data is entered, manipulated, analyzed, and extracted. And this customer-centric attitude may just be what puts Workday into its best position moving forward. Sure, they’ve been able to capitalize on forging a system on the latest technologies. Yes, they’ve been able to make a compelling case that businesses should seriously consider the strategy of “rip-and-replace”; but, in the end, every vendor relies on their customer relationships to drive revenues. If Workday is able to keep clients front-and-center as they are now, then we might just have to agree with what Wells Fargo analyst Jason Maynard recently said: "We believe that Workday has a wide-open runway for growth over the next 3-5 years". End

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The latest Workday 18 release includes improvements in both their tax and payment feature sets for global companies; adds on in-depth reporting capabilities; and finally partners (for project planning) the back-office functionality of Financials with their comprehensive HR package—creating the ability for businesses to (as Workday representatives state) "allocate resources seamlessly across projects with details that include cost, worker availability, skills, and experience.

 

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