What is the demand for Workday HCM

Cloud computing

Inside knowledge of competitors

For a large SAP customer like Sanofi, it would have made sense to introduce SAP HR across the group. But then the Walldorf-based SuccessFactors took over and communicated that the migration of HR users to the cloud-based product was the mandatory way into the future from SAP's point of view. Sacré said to himself: If Sanofi is to get its HR support from the cloud, then it might be worth taking a look at the SAP competitors.

Apparently, other companies were doing the same at the time. Europe boss Fernandez worked for SAP before joining Workday. He said the work there became more difficult because some key customers switched to Workday. In addition to Sanofi, Unilever, Philips and the beverage company Diageo, known for numerous spirits and the black Guiness beer, fled to become newcomers.

Sanofi manager Sacré explains the reasons for the change of provider: With Success Factors, he would have tied himself to a four-year project, "without really getting a lot of innovations for it." Then you better have a hard cut! Oracle's cloud software was also ruled out at the time: "It might be debatable today, but it wasn't back then." Workday was consequently "the only serious competitor." Among other things, the fact that it was easy to navigate and that it was "really integrated" spoke in favor of its product.

Takeover of Cape Clear created an infrastructure base

Workday owes its deep integration to its one-platform strategy. And that in turn can be traced back to an acquisition made in 2008. At that time, Annrai O'Toole, one of the pioneers in the field of web services, sold his company Cape Clear to Workday. The web services integration developed there now forms the infrastructural basis for all Workday applications.

O’Toole himself is now Workday's "European CTO". When asked why the company needs a dedicated European chief technology officer, the charismatic Irishman laughs: "I don't care what title I have." Workday was his customer even before the takeover. And at that time there was a trend towards application providers using their own infrastructure as an integration basis: "The original standalone infrastructures have outlived themselves. Tibco is the last provider left."

Why does a SaaS provider like Workday need such an infrastructure? - Mainly because an HR system can be connected to up to 200 different applications, explains O’Toole. In order to manage this complexity, a robust and flexible infrastructure is essential.

O’Tooles developers do the work that the customer can feel but not see. Among other things, they are currently working on dividing the largely monolithic Workday applications into microservices. This is necessary, for example, in order to be able to support innovative functions such as learning machines and language processing (natural language processing) in a more differentiated manner.

In addition, the development team wants to replace the classic ETL procedure (Extract, Transform, Load) for data transfer and data analysis procedures with a less time-consuming and faster process that also supports the cleaning and categorization of external data during transfer. The "CloudLoader" christened function is intended to accelerate the go-live for new objects and to simplify the connection between Workday data and external data sources.

Own ecosystem under construction

Because Workday cannot or does not want to develop all the applications its customers need, the company has partnered with other software vendors for years. A cooperation with the CRM expert Salesforce.com has already lasted four years. According to Nittler, head of enterprise development, this collaboration is getting "richer" and stronger: Customers could use the sales functions of Salesforce and transfer the data to Workday Financials.

An agreement with ADP, a long-established specialist for software and services in the field of personnel information, is completely new: As of HCM version 27, ADP will help with the collection of local payroll information where there is no country-specific workday function. Bhusri is also striving for a "deeper integration" with Microsoft, which he does not want to specify at this point in time.

Oracle and SAP, on the other hand, are likely to remain excluded from this ecosystem. The former not only because of the personal antipathies of the Workday founders, but also because Oracle has meanwhile offered a serious competitor product with HCM Cloud. With SuccesFactors, SAP is also a direct competitor, which is why Managing Director Kull categorically excludes a partnership. After all, about six months ago Workday released an interface via which, for example, the SAP payroll application can be integrated with Workday HCM.

In the cooperation with other providers, Crisp Research man Haydecker sees a trump card that Workday can play. "Even if it is not always easy to give a competitor a piece of the cake, Workday supports the connection of competing systems through its open interfaces," states the market watcher. "This gives customers an important advantage because they can configure their system in the way that best suits their needs."

PAC analyst Niemann also sees opportunities here: "Partnerships like the one with ADP in matters of global payroll are strategic in order to offer customers comprehensive services." The partners played a central role in the further growth of the company, as the expansion of the platform also increases the need for implementation capacity.

The product and the platform are popular

According to Niemann, it is rather unusual in this context that Workday sells the solutions itself instead of using service partnerships. The sales concept even provides that a Workday team is always involved in the project, even if a partner controls the project. A decisive question is therefore whether and how Workday will manage to maintain the necessary sales and consulting capacities in this country on its own.

Apart from that, "given the growing demand for innovative HCM solutions", the company has good chances of "playing an important role in the German market," says Niemann. In any case, the product and platform are convincing. The renowned market research and consulting company Gartner shares this view. It certifies that the HCM-Suite can more than keep up with its two big competitors Oracle and SAP both in terms of functionality and architecture.

Especially when it comes to customer satisfaction, Workday stands out from its competitors, according to Gartner: In the categories of product quality, system throughput, user friendliness (employees / managers), system administration, workflow, reporting / analytics, integration with other applications, adaptability / expandability, documentation and availability of training courses the ratings Workday customers give above the Gartner average. The aspects of quality, integration ability and performance achieve the highest scores. Training and user friendliness, on the other hand, fall slightly.

Gartner, however, is less convinced of the community-based development concept: "Workdays ability to develop extended functions is limited," say the analysts. They also complain that there are still too few reference customers outside of North America. And last but not least, Workday is not exactly a cheap solution. The provider takes "premium prices", and the change to its HCM suite requires high initial investments, which may, however, pay off in the longer term.