Workday Co-CEO, Aneel Bhusri, sat down (remotely) with Cloud Wars Founder Bob Evans in March 2022 to discuss his outlook for the year ahead, and get his take on recent events. We’ve compiled a handy summary of what’s on Workday’s mind for you, just in case you missed it.
Workday’s priorities at present revolve around health and safety, both of their employees and the wider community across the globe, believing in the importance of taking care of their broader ecosystem. A large portion of Workday’s customers are positioned in the healthcare industry, so the view of Workday is that they’ve been taking care of their customers on the frontline, so that they can take care of the public.
In general, it was a values-based conversation. Workday have been open about their belief in the importance of values in business, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this. Aneel expressed how the pandemic has answered the question ‘does your company have a soul?’.
It’s important that a company acts as a good citizen within society, and that’s why Workday set up the Workday Foundation early in the business. The Workday Foundation invests in workforce development organisations to help train individuals and facilitate them finding jobs in Tech. They believe that charity work not only benefits society, but also a business; it creates and strengthens bonds between your employees.
On becoming Co-CEO, the topics of the importance of relationships, friendships, and trust in business shined through again. It’s always a refreshing prospect to hear that organisations can accept and treat business as personal, with an onus put on making meaningful connections.
The subject of employee engagement was touched upon, with a report that employee engagement levels at Workday remain high and are only slightly lower than pre-pandemic. In 2021, Workday completed the acquisition of Peakon, now called Workday Peakon Employee Voice; a platform for engagement, actively listening and creating actionable insights on a company’s employees.
In terms of engagement, Aneel is eager for a return to the office, so fully remote isn’t on the cards at Workday. The vision is a hybrid model, as he believes that ties to employees can’t be as strong if you’re not face-to-face with them; fully remote wouldn’t be sustainable for people trying to lead teams, for example.
The state of mind of Workday’s customers is apparently optimistic, with a move back towards making investments and unfreezing projects. Workday have been surprised by how open-minded businesses have been since the pandemic, focusing on the positives of innovation and moving to the Cloud. Workday customers have been creative in their solutions, and the company has rejoiced in this.
There’s also now an appreciation from companies of the intricacies of data management and processing, which Workday have been dealing with for years. Using cloud-based solutions brings with it extra vulnerabilities, creating additional motives and opportunities for cyber-attacks. This increases the need to protect customers’ data with investment in cyber security solutions. International businesses are also now realising the intricacies of handling data in different countries, and the complexity of abiding by local data protection laws and regulations. Workday is a data processor for its customers, but the data is still owned by that organisation, whereas companies are now realising the complexities in situations such as on social media sites, where the data on there is no longer your own.
It’s an important age of learning, and companies are having to take more responsibility for data protection, something that Aneel links back to whether companies have a soul and is part of being good citizens in society.
In terms of looking ahead, the topic of industry specific Clouds was discussed. Workday are fully on board with the idea of collaborating with customers to build industry specific apps, but to do this, you have to speak your customers’ language. The company has an incredibly positive view on co-creation of products with specialists and customers, as the customer brings their own industry-specific knowledge. They have collaborated before, for example with healthcare partners, and higher education customers for the student platform. Finance functions can change dramatically between industries, so it’s important to work alongside a customer, whether in a full co-creation capacity or from a product management perspective.
The other future topic took the shape of automation and machine learning, which Workday have been keen to advance in. Design thinking (a non-linear design process used to gain user insight and challenge assumptions) has been adopted at Workday. Aneel described how if they try to automate a process, they don’t just automate the current process, but use design thinking to create an automation of how the process should be in the future.
With machine learning and automation in general, Workday’s aim is to create a situation where the system doesn’t slow down decision-making; only a human can. By unifying the planning, execution and analysis phases within a business, and unifying the data, the system is no longer a limiting factor in decision-making. With machine learning, the planning and executing phases can become continuous. All of this allows for continuous, speedy decision-making, which can be integral to the success of a business.
As we enter a post-pandemic world, a lot has changed, and the priorities of Workday still sit with the health and safety of their employees, customers, and the public while we figure out how to navigate this new world of work. However, there appears to be a positive outlook, with an emphasis on good company values going forward and the unfreezing of projects. Workday had a successful FY2022, with the acceleration of transitions to the Cloud accounting for this. With a focus on some exciting innovations, such as industry-specific Cloud solutions and the advancement of automation and machine learning, it’s looking to be an exciting year in the Workday ecosystem. Watch this space.
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