Since its early days, I have heard Workday executives talk about having a highly scalable cloud so large companies would feel comfortable moving off their on-premise finance and human resources applications. So, it is not surprising that multinational customers like United Technologies can consolidate over 100 payroll systems across 80 countries on Workday, and many others report very large volumes with its financial management application. I think even more impressive will be the transaction volumes of two recently signed Workday customers, Amazon and Walmart.
However, it would be a mistake to assume Workday is designed only for large customers. The system was architected at inception to support multi-tenancy and can accommodate a large number of individual entities. Indeed, Workday already has many medium enterprise customers across its customer base.
Workday recently briefed me on a deployment approach, using their single line of code, that features fixed-scope, fixed-fee, pre-configured packages. The approach is based on learnings from past successful, midsized deployments and helps get medium enterprise customers live quickly and at lower risk. We also spoke about Workday’s successes to date in serving this market, and I spent some time learning what medium enterprises find attractive about Workday. Here are some common themes:
We are seeing a dramatic shift in the enterprise application market where the ratio of designers to developers is being reversed to greatly improve the user experience. Customers report how this “consumerization of IT” manifests itself in their Workday deployments.
One is through employee and manager HR self-service. I learned about Interstate Batteries, whose human resources team is now able to focus on more strategic initiatives, rather than manual processes such as keying in employee information. Even simple things like giving executive assistants the ability to look up employee birthdays without manually maintaining a spreadsheet has boosted productivity.
The user experience itself is driven by Workday’s persona-based design—meeting the very different needs of many types of people, within the same system. Take how we all use smartphones differently: a grandmother to FaceTime with her grandkids, an IT manager to remotely monitor network performance, a teenager to Snapchat with friends, a CHRO or CFO to lead their organizations while traveling. Workday has strived to bring that level of personalization to enterprise processes.
Workday also supports what it calls “built-in insights.” Users benefit from over 50 different dashboards that are pre-built in Workday that utilize real-time data to bring forth snapshots on collections, projects, and other areas. That lets cross-functional teams collaborate more efficiently to reach decisions based on the same data, including one set of numbers.
Another example is how Workday has solved a common spreadsheet conundrum. Microsoft Excel users know the problem of ending up with countless spreadsheets after they’ve extracted data. Workday solves the problem through its Worksheets, a collaborative spreadsheet built directly into the core of its technology platform.
As I described in this post, Workday analytics will get even more powerful and user friendly in the next couple of years.
While many of these features come standard, Workday also allows end users to personalize the system with custom validations, custom fields and more, again freeing up IT staff for more strategic work.
Consolidation of multiple applications
Most customers report that Workday has allowed them to consolidate multiple applications, spreadsheets and data stores. Ensono, previously a division of Acxiom, split from its parent company and is now a fast growing IT services firm near Chicago. Alan Cole, vice president and controller at Ensono, describes his experience.
“Before we deployed Workday at Acxiom, we were using PeopleSoft for HR and finance, Concur for expense reporting, Taleo for talent succession planning and reviews, and CA Clarity for project management. We were able to eliminate all of these systems, and at Ensono, we estimate we’re saving roughly $1 million a year compared to what it would have cost to maintain those functions in separate systems. (Also), from a maintenance perspective, one system is much more streamlined with just two major updates each year.”
Having HR and finance in one system, in turn, significantly improves the quality of data and reporting. Joseph Fanutti, CFO at Bill Gosling Outsourcing shared his thoughts in a video:
“Our people metrics and our financial metrics work hand-in-hand. The dashboards we’ve set up for our operations managers now include both financial and HR metrics. Profitability means just as much to an operations manager as turnover. So understanding the correlation between those two is very important.”
Reduced need for IT infrastructure and staff
One of the biggest advantages of the Workday cloud reported by midsized customers is they do not have to provision IT infrastructure in their own data centers. Workday also needs a much smaller contingent of IT staff to deploy and manage the infrastructure or to help with updates. Workday Co-Founder and Chairman Dave Duffield likes to talk about the “Power of One” – having all customers on the same release, with updates delivered in the background. It is a welcome change from disruptive upgrades which plague most on-premise applications.
Still other Workday customers cite the increased efficiency and speed at which they can operate. Since opening a single clinic on the Upper East Side in New York in 2010, urgent-care chain CityMD has rapidly expanded. CFO Louis Salamone describes in an interview how Workday Financial Management helped his team accelerate closings and other financial processes.
“When I first got here, it took 90 days to get the first financial statement done with the help of eight people in accounting, for just four sites. Now six people can close our books in seven business days for 60 sites. We will soon be at five business days.”
Workday also has a track record of rapid deployments and offers a choice of mid-sized systems integrators like Appirio. While Workday partners with larger firms like Deloitte and PwC, many mid-sized customers like the variety of implementation talent they can choose from.
While its larger customers will keep pushing Workday to “industrialize” its cloud in scale and robustness, the real beneficiaries are a growing group of mid-sized customers. I expect many more in the coming years to sing praises of the user friendliness, agility, smaller IT footprint, and other benefits of the Workday cloud.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)