Workday People Experience Arrives: The ERP Landscape Evolves

The enterprise software world has been attacked by the Coronavirus. Most of the big, complicated, multi-year ERP implementations have taken a pause and companies decided “we have to get something out immediately.” So they lashed together the tools they had to build communications programs, testing and feedback apps, training programs, and all sorts of programs to help people work from home, maintain their mental health, collaborate, and track the progress of the Virus.

Which leads to the question: why couldn’t we do these things so fast before? 

I can’t tell you how many companies have said to me “we took a two-year implementation of our new system and did it over the weekend…. and it worked.”

Companies have learned something during the pandemic. Large scale ERP systems are needed, but the biggest need is systems that connect employees together, communicate new policies, deliver real-time training, and give people tools to work remotely in teams. This is why Microsoft Teams, Workplace from Facebook, and ServiceNow are growing so fast. And right behind these collaboration systems are fast-growing vendors like Qualtrics (100% YTY growth), Medallia, Glint, BetterWorks, Lattice, 15Five, and an army of vendors with easy-to-use tools for surveys, feedback, recognition, performance management, and learning.

What about Workday? 

What happened to Workday, the biggest darling in HR Tech?  Well it’s still a vitally needed system (the “system of record”), but as an agile tool to deal with massive change, there are many new options.

I believe there’s a holy war going on – the war for employees’ eyeballs. And these tools like Teams, Workplace, ServiceNow, and Qualtrics are winning – giving employees and HR managers quick, easy to use “employee experience” tools that immediately address employee needs. And this includes vendors like Degreed, EdCast, Medallia, Guidespark, and hundreds of others. And these companies are all growing at near triple-digit rates.

Given the pandemic, companies are no longer waiting for vendors to build the tools they need – they’re using what works now. So while every company needs an ERP system of record, the hottest part of the market is the Experience Layer of software, which lets companies build workflows, surveys, communication, and learning solutions quickly. And as I described in my article about Workplace from Facebook, this means “mashups” that may bring Google Maps, John Hopkins virus data, travel data, and ERP data together into one.

We used to call this an software “Employee Experience Platform,” something that you can use to build workflows and multi-system applications. Now I think it’s being replaced by what I call WorkTech – systems like Microsoft Teams, Qualtrics, or others that simply work as “employee first tools.”

And there are many applications that sit on this upper layer. They include collaboration, team management, goal and performance management, on-demand learning, communications, and then more advanced applications like onboarding, employee transition management, case management, and even career management. Vendors like Workday, SAP, and Oracle want to build a lot of these applications, but they can’t easily because they want to preserve all the business rules and security in their core systems. Hence the marketplace of “add-ons” is exploding.

We used to call these “talent management” applications, but I don’t think that does it justice anymore. Let’s say they’re “employee experience” apps, and they need an architecture to work in.

Each of these boxes could be an internally built system, a third party application, or a module in the ERP. You, as an HR manager or IT professional, get to decide how you build them. And in a large company these apps need to fit together, leverage the security and domain information in the ERP, and are hopefully driven by intelligent data as much as possible.

Enter Workday People Experience

Well, Workday has not been sitting down. Last year they announced the Workday People Experience (a toolset to make Workday more dynamic, easier to use, and helpful), and today it is available to buy.

The Workday People Experience is made up of three new things: first, a new, no-cost user interface (built on cards) that makes it more modern, elegant, and personalized to use the system. Second, you can buy Workday Journeys, a new ML-driven system that lets you set up step-by-step employee journeys (with alerts and personalized experiences) to handle more complex employee activities. And third, you can now buy Workday Help, which includes in-depth case management, the Workday chatbot, and advanced personalization for support of employees.

Workday People Experience

This entire layer of software, which has been in development for more than two years, is important and complex. It leverages data about each employee to deliver a personalized experience and it also uses the security and job architecture to make journeys relevant.

Initially Workday built “onboarding” and other off-the-shelf applications, but the customers said “don’t bother – we are going to customize this anyway.” So, similar to the path ServiceNow has taken, these are customizable applications that let you build employee apps.

Workday People Experience Journey

If you compare where Workday to ServiceNow, the offering is more integrated but behind in functionality. ServiceNow has a wide variety of development tools and vertical and horizontal applications that plug into Workday, but over time I’m sure Workday will push ahead.

A significant new offering is Workday’s Help (Case and Knowledge Management) system. This is a very big marketplace and vendors like ServiceNow, Salesforce, NeoCase, and many others have significant investments in this area. Most bigger companies already have these tools and they are always used for IT, HR, Finance, and other “Business Services” support teams. It’s not clear what market Workday is going after with this product, but I”m sure “all-Workday” customers will look at it.

Workday Case Management

One of the questions I asked the product teams was “why are you charging for all this?” The answer, of course, is that this is a revenue opportunity. I undertand this completely, but it begs the question that customers will do a “bake-off” between Workday, ServiceNow, Qualtrics, Medallia, and other similar EX toolsets. If it were me I may have given this away for free, but that’s a business decision for Workday to make. 

Part of the launch includes the introduction of Workday for Microsoft Teams and Workday for Slack, enabling these collaboration platforms to natively access Workday transactions and deliver data. You can be working in Teams, click a button to find an employee or open an expense report, and Workday produces and pops up this information in Teams. There’s no need to login, traverse menus, or even touch the Workday UI. I sense this is where the broader market will go.

Workday Teams Integration

How Do You Build EX Applications?

While this is a product that had to be built, it raises many issues to consider. Suppose you want to build a year-long onboarding program, and it includes meeting your team, taking various courses, developing a mentor relationship with a coach, and a whole series of other activities during your first year. Do you build this in the Workday People Experience? Do you build it in Workday Learning? Or do you look at ServiceNow, an LXP, or maybe your LMS?

IBM would want you to build an IBM Intelligent Workflow, a new application that sits on top of your existing systems and has it’s own user interface, data, and AI-based processing. These applications, built by IBM, let you build advanced new employee (and customer) systems like this, and now you can access any system in the world.

SAP would encourage you to use the SAP Intelligent Enterprise, and more likely the Successfactors Human Experience Management tools. These tools, similar to Workday People Experience, use chatbots and cards to create workflows that cross SAP systems. Since SAP has a mature, enterprise-class LMS, this year-long onboarding app could be quite extensible and would let you access any piece of the SAP infrastructure. They may even recommend you buy Qualtrics, so you have surveys, feedback, and employee-driven transactions based on the employee’s first-year experiences.

If you’re a ServiceNow shop, you’d build this in ServiceNow (“the Workflow Workhorse“). You’d connect the application to Workday, your LMS, and maybe LinkedIn Learning and a few other assessment tools, and you’d build an enterprise-class onboarding app that can also be used for employee transitions, promotions, and other journeys through the company. And the app may also include a module for “relocation” or “promotion” in case one of these other transactions happen during the process.

And let’s suppose you’re a small company and you have Workplace by Facebook. You may build the whole thing there, and make it a chatbot-based experience with lots of collaboration sessions with your peers. And then connect it up to your LXP and let the LXP manage the various learning paths you need to take.

See my point? Now we have a lot of options.

In the early days of the Employee Experience market, vendors thought it would be pretty easy to build nice easy-to-use apps on top of transaction systems. Since COVID-19 hit, however our expectations have gone way up. Now companies want to be able to mash together location data, ERP data, Johns Hopkins virus data, and all sorts of other regulatory data into applications that monitor, support, and develop people in near real-time. 

If you don’t believe me, read my recent article this week about Workplace from Facebook. Honest Burgers built a whole location-based staffing app that mashes together Google Maps with virus information, transit information, and skills information to provide real-time data on where to open the next burger restaurant. And it was built in three days, only using public domain software and Workplace as its core.

Workday, by the way, also introduced two out-of-the box COVID-19 Response Journeys, which looks pretty cool. They probably put this together in a few weeks, demonstrating how powerful these new “experience-based” apps can be.

Workday Covid Journeys

The Workday People Experience has enormous potential – in fact it may become one of the focus areas for much new functionality in the system. But as with all employee apps, the bar is moving fast.

In many ways Workday had no choice (just as SAP had to build HXM), customers want a toolset for information-rich employee apps. 

This platform will provide enormous value to Workday customers. But if you’re an HR department shopping around, the options just got a little more complicated.