On last week’s earnings call with financial analysts, Workday Inc. CEO Aneel Bhusri was asked for his opinion on the broader economic outlook. He was both vague and definitive. His company wasn’t seeing problems in its own product pipeline, “but there is no question there is uncertainty in the air,” he said.
In HR departments, the uncertainty has turned into action, according to Gartner. In a survey of 171 HR managers, 92% said they are now “prioritizing budgeting and cost optimization initiatives.”
This means HR managers are taking specific steps to control spending, said Daniel Dirks, managing vice president at Gartner’s HR practice. The most likely effects are on department hiring and technology buying decisions, he said.
A hiring freeze would be near the top of HR budget actions, “because it is relatively easy to do,” Dirks said. HR managers are also taking a hard look at their tech vendor contracts. They are “making sure what was promised in the contract is really being delivered,” he said.
But no worries, so far, in HR tech
The concern about an economic downturn is not turning up in HR vendor spending.
On Aug. 29, Workday, for instance, reported total revenues of nearly $888 million, an increase of 32% from the same quarter a year ago.
Aneel BhusriCEO, Workday
ADP LLC recently reported a revenue increase of 6% to $14.2 billion. Lisa Ellis, a MoffettNathanson partner who leads its payments, processors, and IT services business, described the increase as “great results” on a July 31 analyst call. Ellis also noted on the call that ADP’s guidance for 2020 “implies a pretty robust outlook on the U.S. economy.”
Nonetheless, Dirks said there is a “change in sentiment and in mindset” in HR because of the economy. For the last 10 years, HR priorities have focused on finding talent and investing in tech; cost optimization is now emerging as a new priority. But Dirks said the new priority isn’t necessarily emerging at the expense of HR’s other priorities.
Gartner is also advising HR managers to play a broader role in watching the economy. It recommends teaming up with peers in finance and sales, for instance, to look at broader economic data.
HR managers have expertise in the labor market and may be able to identify market shifts. This could include, for instance, an increase in part-time hiring, if firms are becoming more conservative in hiring full time.
For the first time, Workday is offering DaaS benchmarking services the company said would extend the capabilities of its cloud platform and provide timely benchmarking metrics based on big data.
HR and IT professionals will be able to develop apps and compare the age, diversity and tenure of their workforce against similar employers, or quickly analyze talent retention rates across industry sectors.
Workday unveiled the data-as-a-service benchmarking, analytics and application development capabilities at its Workday Rising user conference in Chicago, which is overlapping with the industry’s biggest conference the same week.
The introduction came a day before the start of the HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas Oct. 10 to 13, and joined a wave of new technology announcements from major HCM suite vendors, including Oracle and Ceridian.
Customers must opt in for service
To use Workday DaaS benchmarking services, customers must legally agree to share their chosen categories of HR and finance data with Workday; the company will then aggregate the de-identified data and merge it with data from participating Workday employer clients around the world, and other data sources.
“We’re giving customers the ability to not just plan and execute – we’ve had that for some time now — but also to analyze,” Dan Beck, senior vice president of product marketing and technology strategy at Workday, told SearchHRSoftware.
The Pleasanton, Calif. vendor originally revealed plans for its Workday Prism Analytics system last year after it acquired Platfora, a big data analytics platform developer. Workday also announced its benchmarking strategy in 2016.
Beck said the DaaS product is available immediately in Workday’s Release 29, while Prism Analytics will have “limited availability” in the current release and general availability in the second half of next year.
HCM analytics competition stiff
With the benchmarking move, Workday has bolstered its offerings in a competitive HCM analytics arena already filled with the likes of software giants Oracle and SAP and native HR tech vendors such as Ultimate Software.
Dan BeckSVP of product marketing and technology strategy, Workday
Beck said the Workday DaaS benchmarking services would compete vigorously with benchmarking technology from ADP, the payroll outsourcing and HCM mega-vendor, which claims to have data points from 33 million workers in its cloud.
However, Beck acknowledged that Workday is only now embarking on building its data storehouse while ADP already has wide-ranging benchmarking capabilities across industries and HR categories.
Even so, he maintained that Workday would build its benchmarking data store quickly and that Workday clients would soon begin to benefit from Workday’s fully integrated and cloud-based HCM suite.
‘Sizeable number’ of customers plan to join
He noted that Workday has 26 million workers under contract with its 1,800 clients around the world, and said a “sizeable number” of customers have already said they would join the benchmarking program.
“We need customers to participate in the benchmark to populate the benchmark,” Beck said. “The really compelling data customers want around compensation, makeup of their workforce, is going to come from customers opting in.
“Even with a modest acceptance rate of taking us up on our offer, we’ll have very compelling benchmarks,” he said.
In addition to workforce composition and turnover and career retention benchmarks, Workday said in a release that its customers would also have access to a growing catalog that will include benchmarks on:
leadership and management effectiveness;
Workday usage, including system utilization and business process; and
As it has traditionally, Workday emphasized in its new releases what it characterized as superior security and integration with software that provides current, reliable data in the right context of the sections of Workday its customers use most.
Workday suggests wide use of HR analytics
The company accentuated the self-service aspects of Prism Analytics in particular, saying the HR analytics capability would be usable throughout an enterprise.
Workday also showed a new user interface based on a smartphone-like card metaphor and optimized for desktop and mobile.
Beck, in the interview with SearchHRSoftware, also focused on what he said was the more advanced adaptability of the vendor’s technology ecosystem along with new extendibility of the Workday cloud HCM platform.
“We are not trying to compete with the likes of Amazon, Google, Azure, but we are going to offer services that make sense for Workday,” Beck said. “You want to build a page or a presentation service for Workday — you can. You want to access our machine learning algorithms for artificial intelligence — you can.
“We’re going to open up lots of applications … so you can build essentially enterprise-grade mashups across the entire Workday application footprint,” he said.
It’s a question posed by none other than Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri in a blog entry he posted on July 11, 2017. The answer appears to be October 2017. In his post, Bhusri said Workday plans to enter the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) market, opening its Workday Cloud Platform to customers, partners and independent software vendors.
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Bhusri’s question has been asked before. “Workday has been asked about this for a number of years,” said Chris Pang, a Gartner research director focused on human capital management (HCM) and ERP technology. “From a technical perspective, Workday is catching up to both Oracle and SAP. This Workday PaaS has been a long time coming.”
A Workday PaaS should come as good news to businesses considering a revamp of their legacy HCM environments. As enterprises work to reduce their reliance on legacy applications developed in-house, the value of specialized, subscription cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings rises.
If a SaaS speed bump exists, it is the need to customize those offerings to fit each organization’s unique methods, whether it is Salesforce for sales force automation, Concur for travel and expense reporting, Slack for collaboration or Workday for HCM. This ability to customize — and integrate — these services through a PaaS to meet individual companies’ needs is essential.
In his blog post, Bhusri addressed that very point, writing, “Workday intends to enable customers and our broader ecosystem to use our platform services to build custom extensions and applications.”
According to Dan Beck, Workday’s senior vice president for technology strategy, the Workday PaaS will provide developers with the ability to work outside the confines of the Workday ecosystem, making it easier to build multi-SaaS integrations. That capability could lead to developers recommending Workday, despite its high cost, to IT decision-makers who might have been reluctant to select an HCM platform perceived as not fully open.
Why wait until now to introduce a Workday PaaS? “We’ve been busy building out our applications,” Beck said. “We’re at a point now where we can be open and support the tools that you want to use — Java, Node.js or clean RESTful APIs.” Pointing out a key difference with Oracle, he said, “Oracle is pushing its databases on people, but we don’t care how you persist data. You want to use S3 [Simple Storage Service] or Redshift — both from Amazon — knock yourself out.”
A spokeswoman for the global consultancy Accenture acknowledged the plans for a Workday PaaS, but declined to provide further insight, saying only that Workday “plans to share more details about the Workday Cloud Platform at Workday Rising in October.” Workday Rising, slated for Oct. 9 to 12 in Chicago, is the company’s customer and partner conference. A European counterpart is scheduled for Barcelona, Spain, in November.
Second-generation Workday PaaS
Though Bhusri and Beck said the time is right, it turns out this initiative is not Workday’s first PaaS go-around. In March 2011, the company launched the Workday Integration Cloud Platform, making it an early player in providing customers with a limited development platform.
From that PaaS, based on technology that would now be considered passé, Beck said thousands of integrations were built. “We took the tools that our own developer team was using to build integrations and made it available to our customers,” he said. “In 2011, that was more about system-to-system integration. Now, it’s about building apps where you can control the user interface and have access to our libraries.”
Another key generational difference is the older platform relied on SOAP technology for data exchange, whereas the new Workday PaaS is built atop thoroughly modern REST technology, Beck said.
Dan Becksenior vice president for technology strategy, Workday
To provide developers with the ability to exchange techniques and ideas, Beck said the company is gearing up a community called cloud.workday.com, expected to launch before the end of 2017. Staffed around the clock, the site is slated to feature tutorials and offer a feedback loop. “We’ll spin up dedicated environments for developers,” Beck said. “The act of getting a Workday environment, historically, was reasonably challenging. It was too much friction for developers.”
Pang said with each passing year, Workday has made its platform more configurable, allowing the creation of custom fields, but it has taken a cautious position when it came to throwing the doors wide open to custom development. “As competitors have become more sophisticated in their usage of PaaS, Workday has had to follow suit,” he said.
The company will provide a series of API tools for developers, but Beck said it was too early to provide details. To help educate developers, Workday has begun offering eight-week, intensive developer training courses tailored to the Workday platform.
HCM segment is growing
The market for HCM software — what used to be known as human resources — is soaring. According to a forecast from MarketsAndMarkets, the global market for HCM software is expected to grow from $14.5 billion in 2017 to $22.5 billion in 2022, a compound annual growth rate of 9.2%. Workday itself scored a big win in January 2017 when it landed Walmart as a client for the Workday subscription-based SaaS HCM platform, according to CNBC, which also noted that the casual-dining chain Panera Bread also signed on recently. In February 2017, Workday announced it had signed Amazon as a customer.
By 2020, Gartner predicts 30% of midmarket and large enterprises will have invested in cloud-based HCM, according to the most recent Gartner Magic Quadrant report, published in June 2016.
Joel Shore is news writer for TechTarget’s Business Applications and Architecture Media Group. Write to him at [email protected] or follow @JshoreTTon Twitter.