“For a Changing World” was the theme at the Workday Rising user conference, held the week of October 14th in Orlando. At the event, Aneel Bhusri, Workday Cofounder & CEO, pitched machine learning (ML) as the means through which it will enable companies to transform business management to successfully navigate through changing workplace and workforce realities.
In Bhusri’s keynote, he shared its perspective that machine learning (ML) will be key to enabling business solutions to unlock the next level of automation and decision-making for their customers. To paraphrase Bhusri, ML will be as disruptive as the cloud. Companies that take advantage of machine learning to automate tasks, save time, make better decisions, and move faster. Those that don’t will be “left in the dust.”
Of course, no company wants to be left in the dust. To that end, Workday announced a firehose of new capabilities and solutions, many incorporating ML. The question is—especially in the midmarket—can Workday make it easier for its customers to keep up with and take advantage of these innovations?
Turbo-Charging HCM and Financials
Among the slew of new solutions and enhancements announced at Rising, some are available now, and others on deck for general availability within a year or so. For instance:
- People Experience uses ML to personalize the employee experience and deliver more relevant content and career guidance. It incorporates a natural language processing (NLP) interface so users can ask questions via tools of their choice—be that directly to the People Experience knowledge base, the HR service team, or through tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.
- Skills Insights for HCM, now in early adopter phase, uses ML to pull information about performance, training and other criteria into HCM to help managers find employees with the right skills for job openings.
- Credentials, slated for general availability next year, is built on blockchain. It is designed to verify, manage and secure peoples’ credentials, such as their identity, education and experience.
- WayTo, now in beta, offers anyone the ability to add, secure and share their credentials with an easy to use mobile app. Workday promoted WayTo at Rising, offering attendees a free download to take for a test drive.
- Enhancements to Talent Marketplace, which provides employees with information about new job openings. Enhancements help employees get a better idea of what skills are needed and in demand in their company, and the skills they’ll need to develop to qualify for new internal opportunities. In turn, it helps employers boost retention. Talent Marketplace is available now to support temporary assignments. Over the next year, Workday plans to expand it to include full-time job openings, and create connections for job hunters on third-party job sites.
- Accounting Center enables users to run third-party data transactions (such as loan origination or claim systems) through its analytics engine, and bring this data into Workday Financials, where users can create reports combining both Workday and this third-party data. Accounting Center is part of Workday Financial Management and is in limited availability today.
- Discovery Boards offer drag-and-drop data discovery to reduce the time and effort required to create reports and analysis for pay, expenses and other tasks. According to Workday, Discovery Boards allow users to create four reports in the time it used to take to create one. Workday announced that it will make Discovery Boards standard in both its HCM and Financials solutions.
- Success Plans address Workday customers’ requests to help them implement new Workday capabilities more quickly and easily—and the issue I mentioned in the introduction to this post.
Great Alone but Better Together—Adaptive Insights and Workday
Workday’s strategy is to position Adaptive Insights financial planning solution as “best in class, better in the suite.”
Interestingly, while most of Workday’s installed based skews towards large enterprise and mid-market customers, Adaptive has a strong foothold in the SMB market. Adaptive wants to both expand its share of the SMB planning market, and also make Adaptive a compelling solution for Workday’s larger customers.
So far, it looks like this strategy is working. In the 16 months since Workday acquired Adaptive Insights’ financial planning solution, the company has added more than 700 new customers to Adaptive’s ranks.
Continuing on this tack, Workday announced that it has added new ML-enabled features to Adaptive Insights to flag errors and anomalies in the planning process. These new capabilities are available to all Adaptive users. Meanwhile, Workday and Adaptive have deepened integration between their solutions to make Adaptive more attractive to Workday’s installed base. For instance, Adaptive users can now automatically publish budgets in Financials, and post new positions into HCM after budgeting for new headcount is approved in Adaptive.
Workday is also leveraging “elastic cube infrastructure” scaling capabilities to meet the needs of Adaptive’s larger customers with very complex business models.
Workday’s Midmarket Journey
About two years ago, Workday introduced Workday Launch to help address the fact that midmarket customers often come up short when it comes to having the time, money and skills to replace old, disconnected business applications with modern, intelligent and integrated cloud solutions.
Workday Launch provides fixed-fee, fixed scope pre-configured deployments designed specifically for midsize businesses (which Workday defines as those with 500 to 3,500 employees). These include pre-packaged best practices in North America for HCM, HCM and Payroll, Financials and for the full suite, and HCM, HCM and Financials in Australia and New Zealand.
Workday also simplified sales contracts to streamline the negotiation process for midsize customers, and has dedicated part of its sales force to focus on the midmarket. The vendor relies entirely on its own sales force to sell to midmarket services, but implementation services are available both from Workday and its partners.
Workday says that in addition to its internal implementation team, it now has five partners serving midmarket customers in the U.S., some of whom are developing additional tools to help speed deployments.
According to Workday, Launch has been successful, and it now has several hundred customers with 500-3,000 employees (Workday’s midmarket definition) using the solution. However, this is just starting to scratch the surface of the total midmarket opportunity.
Since we didn’t get a detailed update on Workday Launch and its midmarket strategy at this year’s Rising, I’ve asked for one. Stay tuned for more on this.
Summary and Perspective
Workday is nothing if not innovative. It has been extremely successful in convincing in large enterprise customers to switch from legacy HCM and to a lesser degree, financials solutions, to Workday offerings.
The vendor’s relentless focus on adding value through technology is evidenced through current initiatives to increasingly intertwine AI, ML, NLP and now blockchain capabilities into its solutions.
However, especially in midmarket, this relentless pace can be a double-edged sword. The majority of midmarket businesses understand that they need to use technology to transform their businesses and stay ahead of competitors. But many feel overwhelmed and under-prepared to put new solutions to work in their businesses. Most will need strong vendor and partner guidance to help them plot a phased approach that is aligned with their priorities and constraints—and provides them with a clear, fast return on investment as each phase is implemented.
Workday Launch and Workday Success plans are a good start towards addressing this issue. But as the rate and pace of innovation accelerate, there will always be more work to do. Given the fact that creating an easier onramp to customer success is itself an innovation, I’ll be paying close attention to see how Workday innovates to tune into the gap between aspiration and execution for midmarket customers.
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