ORLANDO -- Workday released new tools this week aimed at making management tasks -- and connecting to other systems -- easier and more seamless for IT, HR and finance leaders.
Workday, an HR software darling that continues to stretch itself into more general-purpose ERP, unveiled a bevy of new and enhanced features and products during the company's first in-person Workday Rising conference since 2019. The new releases include a program to rapidly migrate industries to the public cloud, personalized employee experiences, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) functionality for finance, and capabilities for business leaders to rapidly build and deploy new applications on the platform.
Workday, which is projected to exceed $6 billion in annual revenue this year, generated "good buzz" from its general message that it will work with other systems to improve the customer experience, particularly with its Workday Extend offering, said Gartner analyst Tim Faith. News around the Workday Skills Cloud provided another example, which is now opening up its ontology to connect with a company's internal systems such as learning and recruiting platforms, according to the company.
Indeed, Workday highlighted its vision for transforming its partner ecosystem into a relationship that "embraces a more open and connected approach to help create faster time to value for customers through more innovation, joint go-to-market strategies and an expanded services network," according to a press release.
Tim FaithAnalyst, Gartner
"Too many of the messages around ERP is 'let's just get everything into our box,'" Faith said. "But this idea of being able to reach out to other ecosystems, to be a player with other ecosystems, that's a very powerful statement."
Workday added new capabilities to Workday Extend, an app development platform that currently features 750 apps in production. Most notably is a low-code, no-code integrated developer environment (IDE) called App Builder that enables engineers to create apps using a drag-and-drop interface, according to Pete Schlampp, chief strategy officer at Workday.
"This announcement around the low-code, no-code IDE is really just to open the doors even more and get more people who aren't necessarily developers to use this Extend capability," Schlampp said in an interview with TechTarget Editorial.
New capabilities also include Workday Graph API, a tool that enables developers to discover all Workday APIs "and use them in the apps they build with Extend," Schlampp said.
Customers can continue to build apps on the Extend platform to modify Workday apps as well as create custom apps for tasks such as return-to-work efforts, COVID-19 management and environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting. For example, Brandon Fahey, Workday Extend functional lead at Otis Elevator Co., used the platform to quickly roll out an employee app at the onset of the crisis in Ukraine, Schlampp said during the keynote.
"Using Extend, Brandon created a simple way for team members to check in and support evacuation," he said.
Workday Extend provides capabilities both customers and partners have been asking for, said R "Ray" Wang, founder and principal analyst at Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research.
"Let's say you needed to do something to meet an ESG need … or you have a great idea to go build something that Workday isn't going to build in the next three to four releases, you can do that now," Wang said.
The app dev platform also enables connectivity to systems outside of Workday, Gartner's Faith said.
"There's a lot of buzz about working with other systems," Faith said. "With ERP transformation, there's becoming this more accepted phased approach, which means a Workday has to be able to play with an existing PeopleSoft or SAP ECC. Extend will allow something like that to happen."
AI, ML for finance
Workday executives highlighted additional AI and ML capabilities for the finance office, including contract search automation in Workday Strategic Sourcing for contract management, and expense protect in Workday Expenses for duplicate expense detection. It also unveiled ML Forecaster in Workday Adaptive Planning, which enables customers to train models using internal and third-party data to make more informed decisions.
Team Car Care, the largest franchisee of Jiffy Lube stores with 500 outlets across the country, is using ML Forecaster to aid in predicting labor requirements. It incorporates third-party weather data into the process because "weather has a significant impact on our business," said Matt Castonguay, senior vice president of finance, analytics and supply chain at Team Car Care, during a panel discussion at the conference.
Using several years' worth of weather data has helped train a model to better predict how a store should be staffed. "So the stores know, 'When do I need less people in the store? When do I need to bring in some extra heads?' so they can ultimately serve the customer," he said in an interview with TechTarget Editorial.
Castonguay said Workday's ML Forecaster provides a level of detail the company couldn't get without investing in engineering talent. Now the company can "broaden who we bring in to run those technical applications," a flexibility he described as a differentiator during the panel discussion.
Team Car Care became a Workday customer about a year ago, starting with Adaptive Planning and driven by its interest in refreshing its 20-year-old financials installation. The company initially considered Oracle and Microsoft but saw Workday's ability to bring HR and finance data closer together at the right price point and decided to invest in a full deployment, according to Castonguay.
"We started out with Adaptive, which turned into exploring Workday as a financials platform, which turned into looking at Workday as a work platform," he said.
Improving employee experience, moving industries to the cloud
Workday also launched Workday Engage, an initiative focused on making Workday easier to use for employees.
One new feature includes the mobile expenses experience, enabling employees to take a photo of a receipt and submit the expense directly to Workday.
Faith lauded Workday's focus on employees.
"There was a lot of emphasis by Workday on employees and how do we make employee lives easier, how do we get their voices heard," he said.
Workday also launched a new Industry Accelerator program designed to help customers in the healthcare, banking and technology industries speed their digital transformation from legacy, on-premises data systems to the public cloud.
While Industry Accelerator is a good program, Faith said it's not the most "earth-shaking." It's a templated approach to get customers onto the cloud quicker, he said.
Faith said where customers could see better value is after they get moved to the cloud with offerings like Workday Extend and continued engagement.
Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and federal regulation. Prior to joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington StarNews and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain Dealer.
Nicole Laskowski is a Senior News Director for TechTarget Editorial.
Senior News Writer Patrick Thibodeau contributed to this report.