After several days in Vegas at Workday Rising, attending lots of sessions (including one I did with Leighanne Levensaler, VP for HCM product strategy, in which she did the play by play and I did the color, “what’s behind the mirror,” commentary on a series of strategic business scenarios) plus three social gatherings, quite a few meetings with Workday’s growing stable of partners, and many informal and “unchaperoned” conversations with Workday prospects and customers, here are some preliminary, non-software observations:
- Openness — All vendors should encourage industry influencers who are invited to/attending their conferences to mingle freely with whoever else is there and without handlers, to attend as many sessions as they’d like, and to participate fully in the learning and not just the partying. That was my experience at Ultimate’s user conference earlier this year, at which I was also a compensated speaker, and it was repeated at Workday Rising. I think I’m deciding that I won’t speak at/attend any vendor conferences that aren’t this open and welcoming. I don’t do flybys as a speaker, and I’m very willing to invest my own time in learning from the sessions and from the other attendees.
- Positive customer/prospect sentiment — It was very hard to find unhappy or even less than enthusiastic Workday customers or prospects (300 prospect people here from 100+ companies, many of which are very big names planning to rip and replace their ERPs, starting with HCM and whose names are off limits for tweeting etc. at their request) — and both Ray Wang and Dennis Howlett were here as speakers and doing their best to find the malcontents with similar results.
- Rapidly growing partner ecosystem — The large and rapidly growing partners list is public at the Workday website, and most if not all of these were exhibitors/sponsors of Workday Rising. The expo space was large, well laid-out and very busy. The program design had lots of time for partner/attendee interactions, and I assume that the partners are paying serious money to be here. And these partners, especially the larger implementation partners, are ramping as fast as their feet can carry them, making big investments to get people trained and, for those with their own long histories in on-premise ERPs, to learn how to do business in the cloud. In private exchanges, several partners noted that the level of interest in Workday from their stable of SAP and Oracle/PeopleSoft customers is exceeding even their wildest year-ago projections — and rip and replace is top of mind.
- Plenty of secret sauce — There’s a growing but still modest (in my opinion) awareness among the #EnSW influencer and competitor community about the size of the competitive moat that Workday’s architecture is creating. I’ve commented on the potential size of this moat since their launch, when I first learned that they were going all in with models-driven development, along with many other (but not yet all) items on my always growing list (covered here, here, here, here, and here of preferred behaviors for SaaS InFullBloom. A little more was revealed this week publicly about the techniques they’re using to scale high volume and calculation-intense processing for the largest organizations, to include a range of grid computing capabilities being used initially in payroll processing and financial closings. But the real story for Workday, in my opinion, continues to be the speed/quality/cost/breadth of functionality/flexibility of functionality/time-to-market lift they’re getting from application development that’s entirely models-driven. For vendors who’ve gone down a however leveraged procedural code applications development path, I think that it will be tough to achieve this same lift.
- Customer/prospect confidence — Because of the pace/quality/predictability with which they’re able to roll out new features, Thompson Reuters announced that they were able to take the plunge with confidence in spite of important missing features. They could see those needed features on the roadmap and felt sure they would show up when promised. This is such a departure from the unmet promises of many other #EnSW vendors whose roadmaps are couched in more legalese than substance, whose delivery dates have become a source of comedy, and whose complete inability to predict what will happen when, never mind at exactly what price, hasn’t stopped them from doing business as a series of press releases that they wish they could rescind.
- Conference acumen — From a purely logistical perspective — venue, catering, staff support, A/V, and similar — this is about the best organized/run conference of this size (I think about 1400 people total, to include partners plus Workday people, but I could be a little low) I’ve ever attended. If you read Dave Duffield’s latest blog post, you’ll know he’s a stickler for clean toilets, and the venue had plenty of same for women, a rare thing indeed. Everywhere you turned there were people, either Workday in green t-shirts or (I presume) locally hired staff in black t-shirts, guiding you to where you were going. There were only modest lines at the generous breakfasts/lunches/party buffets (mostly sponsored?), and the venue itself, the Aria, is outstanding. If I were looking for something to improve, it would be the horribly dry air (clean but too dry) at the Aria and the many temptations on offer at the attached Crystals highest of the high end shopping mall.
- Coopetition — It was very much in evidence. For example, the broader partnership with Salesforce was discussed, and Salesforce platform EVP was on stage briefly during the keynote. Customers/partners will be able to build extensions to Workday on Force.com with WD 15 coming 12/3 through 12/17 (they feather their upgrades with customers choosing when during this window to take the new release). But I’m of the opinion that, when Workday is ready, they’ll allow the use of their own development environment/platform by customers and partners, which they don’t do now. So even as there are a number of HRM products emerging that are built on Force.com, could there be a long-term play that infuses SFDC’s architecture with some of Workday’s? And then there’s the partnership with both Saba and Cornerstone OnDemand for learning, both of which are broad talent management (TM) suite vendors who are getting broader all the time, even as Workday is claiming, with considerable justification, that with WD 15 they’ll be at parity in many areas (they don’t do full recruiting or learning) with the TM suite vendors and, furthermore, that TM must be integrated with core HRM for many reasons, to include delivering the types of embedded analytics that they are showcasing. But perhaps the most interesting to me examples of coopetition in the Workday ecosystem are those major SIs, who only yesterday were bringing us the zillion dollar and many year on-premise ERP implementations (and who continue to do as much SAP/Oracle/PeopleSoft work as they can find within their target markets), who are now “citizens of the cloud” (to use the tag line/theme from Workday Rising 2011). These are the folks who still do (some might say dominate) the business and IT strategy work — so IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, and Wipro, so name just a few — that leads to major corporate IT infrastructure and applications on-premise buys and the big ticket implementation/support contracts on which these firms continue to thrive.
I’m sure that Workday will provide links on their Web site to a wide variety of posts resulting from Workday Rising, and I’ll have more to say about Workday’s software when I’ve had my WD 15 briefing and a chance to digest what’s new. Aneel provided some glimpses during his keynote, and there were further references during other sessions, but let’s not get ahead of their release schedule. In the meantime, you might want to check out some of the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iDu2wiO6MU Can you see me in the video? No?
(Full disclosure: Workday is a client, and I was a compensated speaker at Workday Rising 2011.)