Interview: Amy Wilson, VP HCM Product Strategy, Workday

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1. How is the vendor landscape changing and where do you see it in three years’ time?

The HR and finance vendor landscape has gone through a dramatic change and will continue to do so due to the increasing demands on businesses to evolve, grow, and make strategic decisions quickly. In addition, pressures on business users will only intensify. They will require access to more information, simpler ways to digest information, and increasingly effective approaches to plan and communicate.

In order to support these demands, organisations require a system that brings data-rich core applications and decision-making tools together into a single experience. Decisions and actions can then be performed simultaneously in the business users’ natural workspace.

Many vendors have acquired these tools and stitched them together as a first step. What we are seeing is the necessity for all of these pieces to work seamlessly together, so that business users have the best possible experience. Furthermore, the system must be cloud through and through so that data gathering and decision-

making can shift quickly to accommodate changing business interests and demands.  This could range from accelerating approval processes, re-locating talent to another country, or taking a different approach to on-boarding at an acquired company.

Going forward, we will see increasing consolidation and investment in embedded planning and decision tools that combine HR, finance and business interests.

2. Some people criticise integrated suites for enabling everyone to be average but no-one to stand out i.e. having a global perspective ensures strategic decisions can be made effectively but reduces focus on the individual. What would you say to these critics?

That’s an interesting perspective, but I think it’s exactly the opposite. What we increasingly hear and see from customers is that a single, seamless system does far more to empower individuals as well as global teams, than a bunch of separate systems tied together that can’t effectively evolve at today’s pace of change in business and technology.

Our customers tell us that a unified experience lets their employees take on more strategic roles rather than staying mired in administrative tasks that limit what they can contribute to their organisations. Overall, business users are adding more value to their organisations by being more efficient in their roles and have more access to insights for decision-making about their careers, their team, and what is best for the organisation.

They  also tell us that now they finally have the right suite of applications to not only understand exactly who they have in the organisation across all of their regions globally, but they also have the tools for team calibration, on-boarding, succession planning, performance management, and workforce planning. As a result, they have the strategic decision-making resources for global operations.

The reality is this combined view of HR and finance together provides more insight than ever before on who the biggest contributors are in an organisation, where the opportunities for growth reside, and what strategic decisions need to be made on a global level to ensure the business and workforce are positioned for continued growth.

So from either perspective outlined here, there’s a clear opportunity to empower your workforce and individual performers, rather than limit them.

3. Workday has achieved significant growth in its relatively short lifetime. What differentiates you from other, more established heavyweights in your industry e.g. Oracle and SAP?

Workday has been able to serve the increasing demands on businesses to evolve, grow, and make faster, better decisions. Workday’s primary differentiators are:

  • A unified experience that was created organically and purposefully, with end user decision-making in mind.
  • A pure cloud architecture that was built for change – enabling businesses to change processes, data, and analytics easily, and without the cost and time-intensive upgrade process of legacy technology.
  • A mobile-first design approach, building applications from scratch for the specific form factor of today’s technology – smartphone, tablet, and desktop – and delivering them free of charge to our customers that need to work globally, on the go and on their terms.

4. You make a lot of the client/vendor relationship and how this drives new functionality and better iterations – how does this work?

The cloud model allows for a much tighter relationship between Workday and our customers. We work together on new enhancements, and our customers are able to adopt the enhancement immediately and provide further feedback for future iterations. This is very different from previous software delivery models that often take months or even years before a customer can take advantage of the feedback they have provided.

Since every customer is on the same version of Workday, they are providing feedback on the same version with the latest capabilities. This allows us to be much more in tune with what our customers are looking to accomplish. To take it a step further, by having all customers on the same version also means they have new and deeper relationships with each other. This is the basis of the Workday Community: everyone working together, helping each other to make Workday more valuable and transformative for their businesses. We call this the Power of One.

5. What advice would you give to companies looking to choose a software vendor?

Companies want software that fits their needs. In the past, this has meant building out a list of current requirements and identifying the vendor that supports the most requirements. With ever-changing business climates and recent technology advancements, this is no longer sufficient. Companies now must consider how a software system will fit their future needs – both those that are expected and those that are unexpected. When considering a software vendor, ask the following questions:

  1. How would you configure it based on today’s requirements and how easily can you change it if circumstances changed?
  2. How easily can you add new capabilities?
  3. Does the vendor have a proven track record of delivering innovative capabilities that you find valuable? (mobile, analytics, new products)

6. What are the biggest challenges facing multinational companies over the next five years?

The top priority for most multinationals over the next five years is growth.

To fuel growth and to make the right decisions on where to grow, planning is imperative. Most organisations are challenged with planning in a vacuum of information. They lack the data to determine if it will be feasible to staff the organisation in order to support a growth opportunity.

To support a growing workforce that includes acquisitions, regional expansion, and massive structural changes, organisations are challenged with systems that can’t change as quickly as the workforce changes. They lack the ability to fold in new organisations, make business process changes, and maintain full visibility into all aspects of the business.

7. What mistakes are companies making it when it comes to talent management?

Talent management bolt-on applications were introduced as a way for HR organisations to provide strategic practices and insight to the business. However, when accessing stand-alone talent applications, business leaders lack the compelling details to make good decisions. For example, a group of leaders may need to decide what to do with the employees of a declining business line. The talent system may provide a view into performance ratings, skills, and long-term potential, but if disconnected from the core system, it will lack key information regarding cost, seniority, and history with the organisation. To truly serve the business, HR should approach talent management holistically, recognising the value of solid core data in the context of talent practices and decisions.

8. What’s next for Workday? What are your goals for the next five years?

We continue to focus on bringing value to the business community, providing better, more comprehensive planning and decision-making tools, and doing so with a simple, intuitive, and easy-to-use experience built for the way people work today. Increasingly sophisticated analytics and the tight connection between HR and finance figure prominently in these plans. Throughout, we will partner closely with our customers on what is most valuable to them. Our goal is to continue to be a step ahead of our customers at all times – so that the next level of value is always within their grasp.

About Jamie Lawrence

Jamie Lawrence, HRZone

Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community HRZone.com. He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names, including Daniel H. Pink. He has worked previously as a small business journalist and a copywriter and has published non-fiction that reached #2 on the NYT Children's Bestseller List. In his spare time Jamie likes writing fiction, films, fitness and eating out.

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