Many vendors talk about the “Future of Work”. It’s usually in the future tense. They forget that the future is already here. The BLS adds many brand new occupations in its listings every few years. We glibly talk about the “gig economy” when in many cases 70 to 80% of corporate talent is already on their platforms, in their franchises, their suppliers – “off payroll”. We talk narrowly about automation when robotics, drones, wearables, RPA. ML and other technologies are reshaping just about every job.
So, I was excited that Workfront’s theme for its LEAP user conference in London was “Mastering Modern Work”. Modern, not future. CEO Alex Shootman in his keynote said “we have moved past (the great) Peter Drucker’s knowledge work to very different modern work”. What he calls global tribalism – our growing connectivity with the explosion in social and mobile technologies – and the massive digital transformation efforts in every enterprise are driving that. He also predicted enterprises will soon start to designate a Chief Work Officer. Already some customers have a Chief Automation Officer.
It is a recognition that work is not just done by those who get a regular paycheck. Importantly, it is being done in silos and at the junctions of traditionally automated business processes. It includes what my friend Sig Rinde, who recently passed away, used to call “barely repeatable processes”. It’s not uncommon to see companies “ring fence” core systems with tens of specialist solutions. No wonder, Workfront positions itself as a “glue” between many operational systems of record and is positioning itself as a system of record for “work”
I missed going to the Workfront event in Dallas last month due to a conflict. The one in London I attended actually allowed me to meet a more diverse set of customers. I have lamented that after 20 years of cloud apps, if you look at a grid of applications by country and industry processes, it’s only about 20% filled. LEAP in London stood out for the diversity of customers across geographies and process areas.
An example was Glenn Joyce, Senior Production Manager at Boden, the British clothing retailer which sells ladies and children’s clothes online, and continues with its traditional mail order/catalog model. An excellent salesman, he gave me a catalog for my wife when I told him she was a Laura Ashley fan. He then explained that in a form of mass customization they mail out multiple versions of the catalog, The catalog and the digital sites tailored across many markets around the world require an extensive Digital Asset Management of the imagery. Before they adopted Workfront there was little project management, little scheduling or analysis, and then much of it on spreadsheets. Now they can better measure economics and results of print catalogs, email campaigns and other digital efforts. Creative folks don’t like to be burdened with administrative minutiae and his team has helped create over a hundred templates to initiate email and other campaigns. Next, he hopes growing resource visibility will allow him to estimate effort down to an hour level.
On stage, Alex and Steve ZoBell, the CTO presented a case study on a fictional Citadel Medical. It wove together several creative groups in product design and product engineering. In the past, an idea for a bionic knee may have been noted but stayed invisible in the Salesforce system. Each product area would begin design anew. Workfront has changed all that. In another customer they requested I mask, it allowed their merchandising group to better audit utilization of their intellectual property.
Refinitiv, a 2018 jv between Thomson Reuters and Blackstone Group sells financial market data and infrastructure. It presented a complex, but more traditional IT-centric use case. Workfront has allowed them to gracefully retire tens of inherited custom built apps and will play a role in on-boarding 5,000 developers in the next two quarters. Look at the eye-popping numbers below.
It is an example of what Workfront calls “Land and Expand”. Start small, show impressive payback and encourage a wide deployment through free what it calls “collaborator” licenses. Workfront also does a nice job celebrating the early adopter executives, who then help spread it across the enterprise.
Nina Long in Marketing Operations at TSB, the 200 year old bank, described how her social media and even risk management teams are showing interest in the product based on her initial success. There were cut out figures of a dozen such early adopters across the show floor and awards recognizing many more.
I thought it was nice that Workfront invited JLL’s Rose Hayes to dinner with a few analysts. JLL provides a variety of real estate services. Rose is a prototypical modern worker, working as she does remotely from Kauai. She certainly won the farthest to travel award to be at the event and showed no effects of jet lag at dinner. After all, she is used to 3 am conference calls. Similarly, Dave Randall had flown in from Michigan, representing Atlas Copco, the Swedish company. He joked he is surrounded by SAP systems around the world, and little Workfront still plays a pivotal role for him.
So what exactly is Workfront’s sweet spot? In a one on one, Alex told me he sees three prominent uses cases in his customer base:
- Increase speed of work/productivity especially in creative areas like product design and marketing.
- Squeezing cost out of more traditionally automated areas – as with Refinitiv
- Helping with compliance – Nina at TSB had described compliance across marketing campaigns as the big driver for her Workfront project
Is Workfront too unfocused with so many industries and geographies across its 3,000 customers? I also mentioned to Alex their definition of “work” may be too narrow – it’s missing out examples from the shop floor, from the hospital emergency room, from the warehouse etc. He politely pushed back. His analysis shows there are 400 million knowledge workers in companies with 1,000 or more employees. Nearly 180 million of them have access to some modern applications. That is a massive market for Workfront to target. Blue collar and operational areas can wait. See, they are not that unfocused. Still, analysts will try to pigeon hole them as a project management or CRM tool.
I am glad I went to the London event. I heard of a much wider range of process areas and geographies than I would have at the Dallas event. The diverse, hand crafted flavors at the ice cream stand in the “Experience Zone” at the event was a good metaphor. In a world of too many vendors selling “cloud solutions” which are mostly spray painted but actually vanilla general ledgers and SFA solutions. Not really representative of modern work. This was refreshingly different.
Confession – I did try the Baileys flavor 🙂
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)