12 november 2018

#UNLEASH18; The real innovation in HRTech lies within the data

One of the major players in HR Tech present at UNLEASH18 in Amsterdam was Workday. In an interview with Dave Sohigian, their CTO EMEA, he explains how for Workday finds the true power of innovation lies with their single database for HR and Finance.

Categorie: UNLEASH
Geschreven door: HRTech Redactie

DavidS_headshot1-closeDave Sohigian has been with Workday for 8,5 years already, now as CTO EMEA, and is one of the strong believers in the single database approach at Workday. “In general Workday will serve customers in high growth or above 1.000 employees. Especially for larger enterprises Workday has proven to be an HRTech provider that may help in the digital HR transformation.” Sohigian says.

How does innovation through a single data source work?

“The innovation in Workday products is actually based on some of the foundational elements that Workday has been designed from. One element is the ‘single source of data’ for all types of interaction, from browser to mobile, to reports and integrations. Also from day one, which in that period was pretty new, Workday uses an ‘in memory’ database instead of a relational database.

These principles have allowed for new innovations to be not so much of an innovation as for example ‘in memory analytics’ has always been the standard for Workday. So there was never a need to make a database copy to run reports on to make sure end users would not notice performance problems when running big reports.

A first step when implementing Workday is always to just get the basic people data available for all stakeholders in the company, including the people themselves. For most companies this basic step still causes major problems. In this step also the Contingent Workers should ideally be included to create a full worker report. From Workday point of view all ‘workers’ should be included within the system, hence the name Workday”

Why is a chatbot is not the holy grail?

“At Workday we are following a lot of what the consumer internet is doing, like Spotify, Amazon and Facebook. What we see there is a high usage of the mobile interfaces. The bot is only going to be an additive to the mobile employee/manager experience, because there is only so much you can do using a bot. The first customers have started using the ‘Workday Assistant’, which will be general availability early 2019, where you can do all basic HR processes. This bot can also be connected to other chat applications through an API, like with Slack.”


“To have a bot that gives real added value, machine learning comes into play. For Workday machine learning is accelerated because of the ‘Data as a Service’ product, where customer sign up to share their data anonymously. When the bot receives more and more real questions from end users the machine starts to learn faster and give better answers. Especially since this is combined over the more than 500 customers that have already signed up for this data service.”

How does Workday deal with local HRTech requirements?

“Indeed payroll is a very local specific requirement. Workday only provides payroll services in 4 countries, the US, Canada France and the UK, and are not planning to expand this quickly. There are however many country specific integrations to payroll applications available through  templates. Still this is serious effort in implementations to set this up.

For time tracking and attendance it depends a lot on the requirements of the company. There are many customers in Europe using Workday for time tracking, but when the requirements become too much dependent on local regulations we will interface with local time tracking applications.”

What makes the difference on the customer side for a smooth implementation?

“One element in this is the decision processes at a customer. When more people need to be involved in the decision making process these may delay the implementation as a whole. Also the  transformation a company is willing to make during the implementation may help a smoother transition. When companies want to keep their current way of working into Workday this is possible, but requires significant efforts from both sides. A third factor is the data that customers want to migrate, as the data is often not clean. This requires tough choices on the customer side to only migrate a limited set of data or to spend a lot of effort in cleaning the data. One solution Workday offers is to dump the data in a specific corner where at least it can be accessed later on, even if it’s not cleaned up.”

Why do cloud applications work best with an Agile way of working?

“One last element in customer success is when they consistently embrace the new functionality from Workday through an Agile way of working. Continuous innovations can then be picked up by an agile HR team that looks at the new functionality and implements it within existing processes. Then customers can really get the full benefits out of their subscription.”

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