You may well wonder why I’m writing about this when Workday’s newest release (yes, those releases are coming three times a year when PeopleSoft releases are coming every 3 years) has already been covered by several of the top enterprise software analysts, including Altimeter’s Ray Wang, InformationWeek’s Doug Henschen and Strativa’s Frank Scavo, and many more have full research notes in preparation. I’ll defer to my colleagues and their detailed debriefings on what’s new in Workday 10, but there are a few less frequently discussed points about Workday in general and this release specifically that I’l like to mention.
First, when you subscribe Workday’s HCM product, at whatever that subscription costs monthly, you get ALL the HCM functionality, to include ALL the new talent management functionality in Workday 10. I’m going to repeat this for absolute clarity. There are no separate talent management modules to subscribe, and your subscription pricing doesn’t change just because Workday keeps releasing, three times per year, lots of relevant new talent management functionality. I suppose a customer’s pricing might change when their agreed subscription period is up for renewal, but that’s an issue to be addressed by your clever contracts people during the sales cycle. With a lot of core talent management (so not talent acquisition nor learning) now delivered in 10, and an announced roadmap, through two more 2010 releases and beyond, that’s packed with more core talent management functionality, this is a substantial advantage for Workday customers.
Second, not only is there no additional charge to Workday’s HCM customers for all of the new (and more to come) core talent management functionality, but all of this core talent management functionality is totally integrated with their system of record. This saves Workday customers from a lot of otherwise costly, error-prone, and inherently unstable integrations (dare I say interfacing?) across their system of record and talent management modules when those are obtained from different vendors. And for those of you using an ERP/HRMS whose talent management functionality (for which you may well have paid separately, by module) has been built (at least initially) in silos, you know that, even though it all comes from the same vendor, the integration can be less than perfect.
Third, at least within the HRM software industry, Workday is one of only two firms with which I’m familiar that practice models-driven development. Meta4, another global HRMS vendor, is the other, but they don’t yet market their products in the US. With Workday 10′s considerable new functionality across HCM and payroll, not to mention the financial management applications, they appear to be reaping the savings in time, quality and cost to market of this most contemporary approach to software requirements definition, design and development. In models-driven development, the desired system’s conceptual objects, the attributes and methods of those objects, their relationships and behaviors, as well as many other aspects of the business processes under study, are described by business analysts using the formalisms of the selected modeling tools/language. In the case of both Workday and Meta4, they have built their own proprietary tools tailored to the types of business applications that they are building. Where models-driven development makes the leap, is that the models, embedded in these tools, become the applications. Without putting my foot too far down my throat should this be read by some of my Enterprise Irregular or other heavy weight software archtecture/engineering/methodology colleagues, let me just say that I believe Workday’s ability to move from domain models to delivered applications without the usual hand-coding of those applications is a critical part of their “secret sauce.”
Fourth, in addition to their three times a year and everyone’s on the same version big releases, Workday is able to do weekly “patches” to take care of the kinds of smaller needs that arise when you’re rolling out an integrated system of record/talent management suite to global, enterprise-class customers. But those weekly “patches” are also the vehicle for deploying needed changes from the never-ending parade of regulatory and legislative changes, the pace of which has escalated tremendously in the US over the last year or two — and with a lot more to come. Not as glamorous as talent management, HRM legs and regs are enough to put insomiacs to sleep, but they are the heavy lifting that must be done as cheaply and easily as possible or they suck the air out of our efforts to do the more valuable work of HRM. Can you even imagine the systems implications of the recent health care legislation? How many HRMS vendors are wishing they had much more agile ways to develop and deploy the needed changes to their software? Wishing that their software was on firmer foundations to start with before they have to bend/fold/mutilate it to administer all of the new rules? And what about the end-user payroll and benefits staff who are going to be slammed with manual workarounds to compensate for the shortcomings of their HRMS? However, I do think they need a better name for this process because “patch” implies fixes to correct errors whereas this is also the vehicle for adding/changing small amounts of functionality which is localized and easily consumed without formal roll-out or change management.
Summary: More functionality for your current subscription dollars coming every few months. Real integration across your system of record and core talent management (as noted above, Workday does not today do external talent acquisition at the deep level of their newest partner, MrTed, nor do they today do learning management at the deep level of a true LMS). Models-driven development, with all that implies about improved agility, cost, quality and time-to-market. And a solid process for delivering all the legs and regs that regulatory activism at every level of government appears to be generating. Can Workday 10 stand up to all of my “killer” scenarios? Does it deliver on all of my preferred architectural behaviors? Of course not. They don’t call them “killer” for nothing, and there’s not yet a hint of interrogatory configuration (to mention just one preferred behavior) in Workday’s story. But there’s a lot to admire in Workday’s software, and I do.