Analytics takes Center Stage at Workday Rising






Workday Rising, the annual Workday conference for its customers and prospects was held in early November in San Francisco. Attendees heard from Workday executives on upcoming products, from current customers on their deployments and ensuing outcomes, and from vendors and systems integrators on the fit of their solutions with their Workday customers’ technology and implementation requirements. In addition were the well-received customer collaboration meet-ups, which were customer-driven discussions about relevant topics of customer common interest. With close to 5000 in total attendance, this year’s conference is the largest Workday Rising to date.

Workday now reports close to 700 customers on its human capital management platform, 100 of which also use the financial management platform. The spring 2014 announced recruiting product has twelve companies live in production on it. All customers are on an identical version of the product, with their own configurations running on top of it. New releases are bi-annually, with, the company announced, updates that used to take 24 hours now taking as few as six.

Key areas of the presentations at the conference included the ever-of-interest analytics, the new user experience, and technology updates on applications and the platform in general.


“Analytics is the new frontier ,” according to Aneel Bhusri and Dave Duffield, co-founders and, respectively, the CEO and Chairman of Workday. Analytics played center stage in their joint keynote, as the two leaders of the company kicked off Workday Rising with a discussion of current and future product features from the company. They see three progressive phases in analytics of increasing sophistication and benefit to end users: the first, more common today, is data that describes the organization as it stands; the second is predictive: a theme common to many software providers in the HR community today; and the third, demonstrated in this keynote, adds the ability to recommend actions based on those predictions. Simply put, Aneel stated that the versions of analytics support moved from “that happened,” to “what could happen,” and finally to answer the question “what should you do about it?”

Workday Insight Applications, the new suite of applications, uses advanced data science and machine learning algorithms to enable both financial and workforce-related decision-making. Each Workday Insight Application will address a specific business scenario by providing insights, surfacing predictions, and recommending actions that a decision-maker can take, all of which can be accomplished on mobile devices. To accomplish this, Workday also introduced SYMAN, an intelligent information engine that weaves a predictive engine, a recommendation engine, matching algorithms, and search relevancy throughout the Workday foundation of HR, talent, and financials.It creates industry trees, which are taxonomies organizing hundreds of job positions and job categories for more than 20 industries representative of Workday’s customer base. Here mapping of like titles and positions are classified and normalized into common definitions.As adaptive technology, the solution “learns” over time, in theory, making it more reliable in its predictions and recommendations.

With its unique perspective among standalone HR and talent providers with support for a complete financial suite, Workday also provides analytics on financials.

Predictive analytics — almost a buzzword in today’s software vernacular — was demonstrated at Workday Rising with this example: ascertaining the fit and likelihood of success for an existing employee in various “next jobs.” In this example, an employee has a very high risk of leaving the firm (95%) and is a fairly high performer. The system evaluates the likelihood of Jack’s success in three different moves that his manager could suggest as a career advancement. The employee retention model in general contains a total of 62 factors, including evaluation of such areas as the market demand for skills, the employee’s tenure in the organization, and the length of time between promotions.

To this end, Workday had acquired Identified in February 2014, using both its data scientists and technology for improved sourcing technologies, predictive analytics, and machine learning.[1] The new product sets will be available to Workday customers in 2015.

User Experience

Like all providers of software solutions for HCM today, Workday is focused on improving the experience that end users – employees in addition to HR staff—have with their applications. The new interfaces were designed to make the experience of technology at work mimic the ease of the consumer experience. This is the second “new look” that Workday has created over this year; this incorporates the flat design as seen in Apple’s iOS 8. With a “develop for mobile first” philosophy, Workday is close to completing a migration from Flash to HTML5 support throughout the product. Users can elect to access the new interface now if they are users of iPhone or iPads; Android users will see these in March with the release of Workday 24.

Application Updates

Higher education, often an ill-served industry, is the target of Workday’s student applications, developed for mobile devices. Higher ed is a key vertical for Workday; the ensuring product set was designed with input from institutions including University of Texas at Austin, Yale University, Stevens Institute of Technology,Broward College ,and Tallahassee Community College, among others.

The first offering in the higher education suite is student recruiting which uses analytics to match prospective students to profiles of historically successful predecessors who actually complete their degree. Recruiter management, campaign and event management, success tracking, and the use of smartphones to keep track of likely applicants is part of the current release, with more features beyond student recruiting scheduled for the future.

Other additions to applications include those to the recruiting module to support questionnaires, activity streams, and social job postings. New organization charting displays are now included in the core HR module. Unlimited custom dashboards are supported for user who want to design their own – and often many different dashboards. Enh ancements to mass operations were another area of attention in current and upcoming releases. First translations of Workday’s mobile apps on mobile devices are now available, as is embedded video for use in onboarding. Supply and demand analysis for future workforce planning is also provided.

While announced earlier this fall, Workday highlighted its new Composite Reporting functionality at Rising, which enables customers to combine various data sources such as actuals, budgets, statistics, and headcount into live multi-dimensional reports that users can format, drill down into, and act on all within Workday, rather than having to export to tools such as Excel.

Financial Management

Betsy Bland, the VP responsible for financial management products highlighted a new application that will predict employee expense deviation and predict areas of overspending – including which workers are most likely to deviate. Upcoming functionality in Workday Financials will include financial scorecards and KPIs, as well as additional enhancements to reporting, dashboards, and analytics, according to Bland. Inventory management is also forthcoming—this will allow businesses to purchase materials, and track and manage their storage and use. For global customers, the future will include more prepackaged localizations of taxation and the like.

Technical Updates

Workday’s 700 customers are currently generating one billion transactions per month on the platform (which, by the way, is 45 million as an average each working day.) While they can never touch the code for the product, they can – and do – configure many processes and reports suitable to their specific organization. According to Stan Swete, Workday’s Chief Technology Officer, customers have created 448,000 custom reports, and 137,000 custom business process definition in the system.

Integration is always a critical issue for customers, as companies typically have many disparate solutions across their enterprises, especially if they are large or global[2] Workday’s early acquisition of the Irish company Cape Clear resulted in the Workday Integration Cloud, comprised of an integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) that allows all application integrations to run in the Workday Cloud without a customer having to use on-premise middleware.

Mr. Swete states that “Workday is committed to raising the bar on integration.” Here we review what the company provides today. One option is documented APIs with which customers can create their own integrations, another is tools such as the Enterprise Integration Builder and Workday Studio, and packaged integrations.

  • Customers can define and create their own custom APIs through Reporting Services, referred to as “Reports-as-a- Service”  to extract data out of  Workday.  They can also create integrations against the Workday API using other own middleware technologies, such as Microsoft.NET, TIBCO, or Oracle Fusion Middleware.
  • The Workday Enterprise Interface Builder (EIB) tool is a simple graphical and guided interface to define inbound and outbound integrations without requiring any programming.  At a more complex level, Workday Studio is another development tool enabling customers and partners to build sophisticated integrations to and from Workday that are deployed and run on integration servers in Workday’s data center.
  • Workday also provides “packaged” connectors that are tested, certified, and supported by Workday itself. These include connectors to, solely as examples, Cornerstone OnDemand for learning, HireRight for background checking, and in this release, large legacy payroll vendor integrations, such as to the SAP payroll, whether provided by ADP, NGA, or SAP itself.

Workday supports an in-memory architecture, which means its data is main memory resident rather than stores on disks, which allows faster retrieval of data. It uses a database named Riak, an open source solution from Basho Technologies, the creator and developer of Riak, an open source distributed database (sometimes categorized as a NOSQL database) and Riak CS, a cloud-based object storage system that sits on top of Riak. Riak is architected for low-latency, availability, fault-tolerance, operational simplicity, and scalability.


Today, as a nine-year-old company, Workday provides enterprise cloud applications for human capital management, payroll, financial management and analytics. It has grown rapidly to the 700 customers using its software suites today. Workday Rising is the major event for those customers, who gather to hear about new products, the future roadmap, and as importantly, to talk to other customers like themselves. The growing number of technology and implementation partners is demonstrated by the increased presence of software provider and systems integrators in the exhibit halls.

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[2] See Deploying HCM Technologies: Making Change Work. Katherine Jones, Ph.D., Bersin by Deloitte. June 2014.


Christa Degnan Manning

Vice President, Solution Provider Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Christa leads technology and service provider research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. In this role, she helps businesses align their workforce support strategies with appropriate third-party software developers, service partners, and governance models. A 25-year technology industry veteran, Christa’s expertise assists organizations in creating functional capabilities and employee experiences that increase productivity, engagement, and workforce efficiency. Frequently cited by business and trade media, she has presented market research on business to business trends, leading practices, and expected challenges and benefits at industry and user conferences globally throughout her career. Christa has a bachelor of arts in English from Barnard College, Columbia University, incorporating studies at University College, University of London. She also holds a master of arts degree in English from the University of Massachusetts and has completed executive coursework on business metrics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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