Workday Rising 2013: The Foundation for Tomorrow’s Workplace

September 11, 2013 Balakrishna Narasimhan

Workday Rising cloud cakesYesterday was the start of Workday’s annual conference, Workday Rising. The opening keynote from co-CEOs Aneel Bhusri and Dave Duffield had a bit of everything, from the predictably slick demos and dizzying growth stats to the less predictable moments including Dave and Aneel throwing “Cloud Cakes” at the audience. There was certainly a lot to digest. Here are our main takeaways from Day 1 of Workday Rising.

1) Workday has grown up and is no longer an upstart

Workday now has more than 500 enterprise customers, 2200 consultants in its ecosystem and ~98% of its customers are satisfied. Workday has achieved or exceeded feature parity with legacy systems. In addition, Workday put up some impressive numbers about the 170 prospects who attended Workday Rising last year. While a number of those prospects have not yet made their decision, only 5% have chosen not to go with Workday.

2) Mobile is about more than just UI for Workday

Mobility was a major theme for Workday at Rising this year. What was clear was that Workday is really challenging themselves to not just provide standard functionality on a mobile device but really use this as an opportunity to create more functional, useful software. Their new recruiting application is a perfect example of this approach. The application has a simple user-interface that provides a LinkedIn-like candidate profile combined with latest feedback from other interviewees, details about other positions the candidate has applied for, and more. In this case, Workday used their mobile-centric design approach to focus the application on what hiring managers care about most, and thus took a fundamentally different tack than most recruiting systems, which are designed with the recruiter in mind.

Workday also showcased their new HTML5-based UI which brings mobile design cues such as apps, unified notifications and smart search to the core Workday experience. One of the exciting things about this was hearing about how Workday actually solicited feedback from the top 20 consumer internet companies in designing their new UI. Workday knows that the new workplace will be mobile-first and will have new types of workers who are Digital Natives, and that’s what they’re designing around, rather than the traditional HR transaction-centric universe.

Note: Both the new UI and the recruiting app are coming in future releases of Workday

3) Workday is just getting started when it comes to data

Workday launched “Big Data” analytics for HR and Finance bringing together public data with company data, and benchmarks to create actionable analytics that are accessible on any device. Ok, that sounds like a whole bunch of buzzwords strung together so let’s look at a few examples to clarify the concept. One example is a Supplier Sentiment analysis that informs supplier negotiations with real-time social media analysis of brand sentiment. Another is a market compensation comparison that compares payroll data against external benchmarks to determine compensation levels for top talent. Workday is bringing together customer-specific data from their system, data from other customer systems such as CRM, external data sources such as social media and finally benchmarks/content from industry sources.

Even more interesting was a passing mention of Workday themselves becoming a data-as-a-service provider by aggregating data across all their customers to create benchmarks. This would be enormously powerful because Workday would be able to collect not only benchmarks on basics like compensation by level/function, but also process-level metrics such as time-to-fill a position. Just like with mobility, Workday has a unique and bold point-of-view on analytics and there’s a ton of potential here.

4) Workday Student and the reimagining of education

Finally, Workday unveiled their new vision for higher education. In partnership with a number of design partners including Broward College, Workday talked about powering a new type of student experience that’s modern, social, mobile and far more flexible than current student information systems. Where it got really interesting was that they are thinking about linking job information to curriculum and student information, which they can do because all the information lives in one cloud. One could imagine universities being able to understand where skill shortages are, or employers seeing which colleges and courses are most predictive of success at a certain job. Pretty exciting stuff!

5) Workday is going to bring its users along gradually

Workday listens to its customers well. 40% of the new features in Workday came from their customers. One of the things customers asked for was fewer annual releases. This makes complete sense when you’re talking about systems like Workday that touch every employee and are the lifeblood of the business. Workday has now moved to two annual releases. It’s an interesting dichotomy with the flood of innovation and their ambition to push things forward fast, but Workday recognizes as well as anyone that adoption is the key to success so they will release functionality in a way that’s consumable for their customers.]

So, there’s lots to be excited about and Workday is leaving no doubt that their HCM and Financial systems are at this point the core of a cloud powered business. It’s hard to imagine any business that doesn’t look at Workday and see enormous potential to change the way they run their core operations!

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