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Workday GenAI upgrade aims to speed and simplify app dev

Workday speeds up creation of apps with AI-powered Developer Copilot and Visual UI Mode. Low-code improvements aim to help citizen developers.

Workday has taken steps to speed application development on its platform and enable HR to have a more hands-on role in development.

A big addition to Workday's app development environment is the introduction of generative AI tools, which the firm believes will significantly reduce the time it takes to create an application.

Workday uses Google's Gemini large language models to power Developer Copilot, its new generative AI tool that automates code writing on its platform. Developers began testing it at its recent DevCon conference, and it will be released later this year.

Workday introduced low-code and no-code development last year. This year, it added a Visual UI Mode inside App Builder, an integrated developer environment, to improve the ability of developers to create applications using drag-and-drop. This capability is available in beta to all Workday Extend customers. The plan is to make the feature generally available later this year. Extend is Workday's comprehensive platform for building HR and finance applications.

"People who are not as technically savvy can now get in and get applications written," said Matt Grippo, senior vice president of core software at Workday. "You're not dealing directly with code anymore. You're dealing with dragging widgets around on a page."

Grippo said this ability to write a Workday app from beginning to end "without touching a line of code" will encourage HR managers and administrators to start building simple applications without the help of IT.

Low-code is mainstream

Low-code development, often referred to as citizen development, is mainstream in business and is accelerating digitization and automation, said John Bratincevic, an analyst at Forrester Research. Its use results in buying fewer SaaS applications and reduces the need for consultants, he said.

You're not dealing directly with code anymore. You're dealing with dragging widgets around on a page.
Matt Grippo, senior vice president of core platform, Workday

Developing applications is becoming a fundamental business skill, akin to reading or writing. It transforms development from a specialized skill into a fundamental business competency, Bratincevic said.

Workday is also opening its platform with its new Built on Workday initiative, letting its independent software vendors build and manage apps on the Workday platform as well as distribute them through the Workday Marketplace. Workday says this effort opens a new source of revenue for developers, but for its users, it is also likely to increase the range of applications available to them.

"Workday is now fully committed to opening up the platform," said Josh Bersin, an HR industry analyst and founder of the Josh Bersin Company. He said it should enable more vendors to integrate their products into Workday.

"What Workday really wants is new, verticalized solutions that help Workday expand into new industries," Bersin said. "Over time, we can expect to see many more solutions integrated into Workday."

Patrick Thibodeau is an editor at large for TechTarget Editorial who covers HCM and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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