Aneel Bhusri on stage at Rising 2019 Milan
Aneel Bhusri on stage at Rising 2019 Milan

Since it held its first European Rising event in London in 2014, Workday has grown quickly on the continent. This year it held Rising in Milan. An audience that was 300 in 2014 at that first event has grown to more than 3000 attendees. Aneel Bhusri, CEO and co-founder welcomed both attendees and the on line audience to the event under the strapline of “For a changing world”. Bhusri said: “We want to show you how we can help you run your business in a changing world”. The keynote did not disappoint.

As part of the keynote, Workday pledged €100,000 to Generation Italy, a non profit organisation that trains unemployed young people with skills that enable them to find a job. This admirable donation is a recurring theme of the Workday Rising events and it will be interesting to see which city benefits next year as Workday aims to move it to a different European city each year.

Workday has one of the highest customer satisfaction scores in SaaS. This year its executive survey polled 97% customer satisfaction. While this is 1% down on the previous year it is still remarkable. Workday also tracks NPS (Net Promoter Score) across different industries and business sizes, that measurement increased this year according to Workday. There are few if any SaaS companies that achieve such a high mark. One of the reasons for this is that while customer expectations increase it constantly invests in its customer engagement program.

To further improve customer success it will roll out Workday Success Plans next year and this initiative is already in pilot. These are engagements that enable customers to create a vision, and then detail a path of how to achieve an objective of using Workday better. It consists of seven elements:

  • Feature adoption planning.
  • Detailed roadmap.
  • On demand expertise.
  • Webinars/training.
  • Change management kit.
  • Business reviews and check ins.
  • Crews.

This is not for implementation of new modules but rather plans to improve use of the application. It seems similar in nature to Oracle NetSuite’s SuiteSuccess program.

Rising in importance

That growth has seen Workday gain customers across many of its product pillars. HCM now has 2,800 customers, Finance 725, Planning 500, Prism 275 and Procurement 650. It is partly because of the strength in the latter that Workday made the investment in Scout RFP last month. Bhusri explained later that Scout is a “great cultural fit” and while it is currently attached to finance, it may in time become its own pillar.

He believes that procurement and its new umbrella category spend management, is having an impact of the sales of its financials software. Companies often want to bundle the two together, through having Scout within the portfolio it will help boost financial sales. He noted that: “Sourcing is a super viable place to be”. With Coupa the only clear market leader with a complete solution he added on that Ariba is “a good product that hasn’t been updated in a long time.” He did acknowledge that there were gaps in the solution that Workday would have to fill, but seemed confident that it would do so.

Workday has a revenue outlook for 2020 of $3.59 billion, up 27% year over year, it now has 2,000 employees in Europe and 11,400 worldwide. It is the same revenue that Saleforce had in 2014. With financials now gaining traction, can it replicate the growth trajectory of its strategic partner? Perhaps because of the rapid growth, 30% of its signed up customers are not yet live. This may seem little high though Workday believes this is a market leading statistics for a fast growing SaaS company in its market. A deeper analysis of those numbers would be interesting, especially if you looked at how long some customers have taken already.

Rising products

In previous years there has been a comprehensive product update within the keynote. However, an indication that with more product pillars and more significant updates that could be covered in a single keynote, there was a different format. Attendees were introduced to a couple of those updates from Workday product owners.

Leighanne Levensaler, CMO and EVP Workday (Source linkedIn)
Leighanne Levensaler, CMO and EVP Workday

Leighanne Levensaler, CMO and EVP Corporate Strategy first gave a rapid overview of the products:

  • Planning: A full year since the acquisition of Adaptive Insights and customers such as Airbus and Astra Zeneca are benefiting from a unified approach.
  • HCM has revamped recruitment and added workforce planning.
  • Financials has seen global expansion and more target industries added.
  • Procurement: In combination with Scout this will become a best in class source to pay solution, it will help enhance supplier collaboration and engagement according to Levensaler.
  • Analytics : Prism is now generally available and already has a significant number of customers. There will be more investment in the product.

Workday Platform: This will become generally available to customers in 2020. There are already 79 customers working on applications and 59 live applications. Levensaler called out three specifically:

  • Rakuten have developed a transit route search applications.
  • Flex vehicle is a vehicle registration application, which has saved the on site security teams 300 hours already.
  • Sunlilfe – has developed a tuition reimbursement solution to improved its learning solution.

Workday is also investing into machine learning. As it promised last year, this is about augmenting intelligence rather than solving problems. As Bhusri noted: ”Its power lies in making people more powerful.”

Rising functionality

The company introduced several new or coming soon products from across the portfolio. Workday People Experience will change the way that employees find answers to questions. Workday is introducing a video first approach. The solution adds several other technologies to help employees. Employees can search their Workday data, use chatbots and open a case from within Workday as part of the new case management solution. This is live for early adopters and will be generally available in Spring 2020.

For Finance, Workday is adding intelligent automation across several business processes. The intent is to change those processes from labour intensive to frictionless.  Processes highlighted included:

  • Procure to pay: Machine Learning will upload and scan invoices using OCR to fill data fields.
  • Contract to cash: Accounts receivable teams manually match payments currently. Using machine learning Workday will recommend matches based on existing knowledge and defined criteria. As matches are approved the engine will learn and provide better accuracy.
  • Record to report: Machine learning technology will provide Journal insights to uncover anomalies, surfacing exceptions as they occur rather than after the fact as part of a report to look through.

New products to address skills and talent

For HCM, Workday is adding Skills Insights. This builds augmented intelligence onto the skills cloud. It will enable organisations to answer the following question. Do we have the right skills in place to follow through on our strategy? It gives HR and business leaders a snapshot of an organisations strengths and gaps in their employee skills map. One early adopter Astra Zeneca noted that it enabled them to source and scout across the entire organisation to give them a competitive edge. In addition, they said that it saves them time, resources and money.

Workday are also delivering Talent Marketplace. This will surface project and job roles for employees. It will identify what additional skills they need and should help with employee retention. The aim is to reduce the churn when suitable career progressing roles for an individual are available in the company, ones they were previously unaware of.

It is introducing Workday Discovery boards, using a simple drag and drop interface, business users can leverage Prism Analytics to build reports quickly. Workday estimates the visual report creator will create reports four times faster with 68% less clicks.

Prism will also power Workday People Analytics. This is another solution powered by machine learning which will surface insights against several areas. For example, in one early adopter it highlighted where one team was significantly more successful in recruiting in a gender balanced way. On investigation, it found that this was as a result of an internal referral initiative. That initiative is now being rolled out across the company. These insights, available in HCM, will soon be available in Finance as well.

Workday Credentials

James Cross, VP Product Strategy introduced Workday Credentials, the companies first application using blockchain. Workday Credentials is a new platform that stores credentials using blockchain. It has two key components. For Enterprises it enables them to mark an employees certifications, training courses and qualifications on a Workday blockchain.  Cross did not indicate which blockchain they are using. The company can then instantly verify the credentials of an individual, anywhere within the organisations.

The solution also includes an app, Wayto that gives access to the blockchain entries for the individual. If they leave the organisation this access continues. If they apply for, or join another company which uses Workday they can reconnect their certifications to the new employer. This means that the new employer has surety about qualifications on a person CV. Cross indicated that they are using open technologies to do this but did not go into detail. Workday is not the first to launch such an application. Other solutions include:

It will be available in 2020 but some attendees were able to download the application at the event to try out. At the moment it is only available in certain countries though. Enterprise Times later spoke to David Clarke, CTO Workday who revealed that Workday has built its own blockchain using the Hyperledger framework. However, it is already in discussions with other certification solutions about integration. In fact the potential is much wider and integrations to applications such as LinkedIn might be considered as well.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

This was shorter keynote than in previous years, which gave a short overview of some new and upcoming features to Workday solutions. As usual the Workday customers were eager to hear and learn in more detail about the new features. These were seen by most as  welcome additions to the platform and importantly, ones they wanted to deploy. Workday Help with its case management solution was especially well received by many, as they look to increase the efficiency of their HCM teams.

Workday should also be applauded for changing the location of the city in which it is hosted every year. It makes it appear far more European than many other organisations and will certainly help to boost its customer numbers in each of the countries it visits. It will announce the location for next year at the end of this event.

There are few signs of issues in the Workday model of growth. It strengthens its pillars with around 30% of its costs spent on R&D. It makes acquisitions that are complimentary in terms of product and customers but also synergistic in terms of cultures. In some ways its greatest problems seem to be in the retention of its talent, it has recently lost several senior vice presidents to more senior roles in other companies. Joe Korngiebel and Chis Richards being examples. This is not unusual for a company of its size and Salesforce had similar issues at one point. However, it is something that it will need to be aware of and mitigate against. Perhaps Workday should do a case study on employee retention and succession planning on itself!


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