Many a company has tried to cajole and bribe Workday to develop “books of record” in the cloud for their industries, and I must admit I have been guilty of encouraging them to consider such requests before the market opportunity closes. But other than for Higher Education, it has demurred. It keeps adding vertical features like average daily balancing for banking and revenue recognition for the software industry in its HR and financial modules, but stays away from utility billing, retail merchandising or electronic medical records for healthcare.
As Aneel Bhusri, CEO told the analyst summit this week
“We have a lot of HR in front of us, we have a lot of finance in front of us……in our previous company (PeopleSoft) at our size, the market was beginning to slow down and consolidate. In this case, it feels like the market is actually accelerating…”
Instead, Workday keeps extending the core of its horizontal cloud and scaling it to new heights. Its investments are showing up in several areas. Here are some we covered during the day:
Like most vendors are investing in business intelligence, visualization and other analytical capabilities around their data, Workday has over 50 dashboards like the one below.
More importantly it is extending its reach into vertical data with its Prism analytics, which builds on the Big Data discovery tools its acquired via Platfora . They discussed use cases like tying TripAdvisor ratings to HR data in hospitality, integrating patient accounting data in HR data in healthcare and eTrade unvested stock data. In the past, that has required investment in ETL and other data manipulation tools – Workday is simplifying the effort to allow end users to handle it themselves.
Soon after its GridCraft acquisition in 2015, Workday introduced “collaborative analytics” in its Worksheets – some called that its “Hyperion killer”. The team in Boulder has been busy and will be releasing additional offerings which could be even more useful as authoring tools to create docs with dynamic inputs from Worksheets.
While many legacy vendors talk about data-as-a-service, much of their customer data is locked up in on-premise settings. Workday’s customer data is all in the cloud, and Workday has long talked about offering a DaaS service to allow customers to benchmark against their peers. That thinking continues to evolve as privacy, collusion and other concerns require plenty of legal scrutiny.
The slide below shows Workday’s vision for Prism, Worksheets and DaaS. As they say, the analytical environment is frightfully fragmented today and part of their value is helping customers decommission many of the tools.
b) Machine Learning
Of course, no vendor presentation these days is without some conversation around AI. Workday has been working with machine learning since it acquired Identified in 2014. The SYMAN technology influenced its Talent Insight applications, predictive capabilities around AR collections and elastic searches in recruiting and learning areas. The pace will accelerate with time series forecasting and Workday’s growing collaboration with Amazon with its services like Lex, Polly to allow for conversational interfaces.
c) Opening up its Platform
Workday makes the point it has long allowed users to personalize the system with custom validations, custom fields and more. But competitive barbs have long led to speculation when it will open up its platform more fully. It plans to start exposing over the next few releases the building blocks of its applications like security and organizational models via programmable APIs. Workday expects much of the initial use to come from customers and SIs, not ISVs to build, say the vertical engines described above
d) Scaling its cloud
Under NDA, Workday shared eye-popping transaction volumes at large customers like Bank of America. UTC is consolidating over 100 payroll systems across 80 countries on its cloud. And the crazy thing is these giants will look puny compared to the volumes at customers like Amazon and Walmart that Workday has recently signed.
e) Industrializing its cloud
Several application vendors are turning to IaaS from Amazon/Microsoft/Google/Oracle for economic reasons. Workday looked at that angle a few years but wanted SLAs to mirror those they were themselves promising to customers, such as less than 2 hours of planned downtime (primarily for weekly updates). With Amazon’s help it is aiming for zero downtime. The day was refreshingly clean of competitive potshots, but Workday could not resist presenting a chart on SAP’s confusing HANA cloud SLAs by world region.
Interestingly, the market opportunity for vertical “books of record” continues to remain wide open. Few of the big vendors have moved their on-premise industry applications to the cloud.
Bhusri told us several customer CEOs had called the CEO of Walmart to vouch for Workday during their evaluation. I suspect some of these very CEOs will bribe and cajole Workday to develop industry apps. I think they will be more persuasive than I am
I am not going to keep pushing Workday into verticals till they are ready. They are doing fine with their HR and finance applications and will continue to do so with their expanded analytics and PaaS capabilities. Their focus is commendable.