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Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software category that includes an array of business applications that includes human resources and finance. Workday is a vendor at the center of a new generation of ERP. My colleague Robert Kugel recently covered that company’s advances in finance using cloud computing to operate its platform. And I recently attended Workday’s technology analyst summit, where I got a deeper view of the technology under its applications and its efforts to perfect its processing potential. The company’s platform can support a broad range of applications, and it is advancing its efforts in analytics, collaboration and business planning. Today, however, only Workday itself is allowed to build applications on the platform, a situation that contrasts with many other ERP providers that make theirs available to third-party software developers and consultants.
At the summit Workday demonstrated the cloud-based spreadsheet technology that it acquired in 2015. Referred to as worksheets, it is embedded in its platform. Workday insists on the value of having a spreadsheet on its platform to provide flexibility for workers in the lines of business. We think it is a smart approach to bind spreadsheets into the platform as our benchmark research frequently finds that using them independently can be unproductive and even problematic in an enterprise setting. I did not agree with Workday’s presentation on the history of analytics and spreadsheets in computing; analytics and decision support systems were in business use well before spreadsheets were invented and date back to the 1970s and have been maturing for some time. But worksheets adds flexibility for the analytic in Workday Planning. With this addition, this application now competes with products of Workday’s partners, even ones in which it has invested such as Anaplan and Tidemark.
Planning is an essential business function that most organizations do not manage effectively in finance, HR and operations, and Workday’s efforts to unify planning like that needed to administrate the workforce can help organizations to optimally manage their business processes. Our research on next-generation business planning finds that two-thirds of organizations in which planning is integrated and its elements are linked said their planning processes work well or very well.
I am impressed by what Workday has introduced in its collaboration capabilities, which are blended with worksheets, unlike in the majority of analytics and planning products in the market today in which have no collaboration or not easily accessed from within planning. Some of its technologists have significant experience in developing collaborative capabilities, and I expect that the company will be able to exploit embedded collaboration across its platform for social collaboration, which works much better than email or external tools that don’t maintain the contexts of discussions. Workday enables Worksheets and collaboration to operate across mobile platforms but also secures the data they use. As part of its platform, the application can access data in real time to provide up-to-date information and enable fast actions. These advances will not be available until the next upgrade, Workday 26, and more fully available in Workday 27, both of which the company says it plans to release in 2016.
Workday also demonstrated to analysts its Workday Insight Applications architecture, which provides analytics and metrics that are shaped into applications and used by its tools. It has continued to embed advanced technology including Apache Spark, machine learning and elastic search as part of its approach to big data and analytics. Probably most valuable are the simpler user experience and the ability to seamlessly present third-party information from across the Internet and within the enterprise. Workday has some work to do on data preparation and integration of other applications and systems, but I don’t doubt it’s assertions that it will deliver a simpler approach to the presentation of metrics and context for individual roles. Using its advances in collaboration and planning Workday will be able to set goals and track key performance indicators, which can fulfill the promise of scorecards and performance management for business. My colleague Robert Kugel outlined the finance overlap of ERP and performance management recently that outlines this shift This would help businesses focus on achieving their full potential.
The latest release of the platform, Workday 25, was the highlight of the annual Workday Rising conference last fall of 2015, also has advanced its suite of applications. Its human capital management (HCM) applications provide not only the core HR functions through self-service methods but also management of recruiting, learning, benefits, performance, time tracking and payroll – subtle but significant improvements since our last analysis in 2014. It also includes packaged application-specific dashboards. A new application called Workday Learning can help workers improve their job performance to realize their potential in the organization.Our research into next-generation learning management finds that nearly half of companies have increased their investments in learning. Workday now provides more flexibility to connect to third party payroll through its payroll interface and with what it calls Payroll Effective Change Interface (PECI). Workday has advanced its partnership with ADP to streamline access and processing of payroll. Our research into payroll management finds that payroll management integrated with talent management helps organizations establish more effective processes. Workday did not mention compensation management during the analyst summit . The company sees this application as a capability of HCM, and could use the worksheets technology for modeling and analytics and adding workflow that operates across management, managers and workers.
I really like what Workday is doing in the area of employee engagement, which I see as essential to ensuring worker satisfaction and retention. Workday has built a framework to run campaigns and surveys to measure feedback and provide recommendations for how workers can improve their performance. This framework streamlines the process for job offers and acceptances, which most organizations now do manually. Workday is also advancing its efforts in workforce management to integrate with time clocks, support checking in and out, and manage absences and time off; it also has added abilities to track time worked by job type and to process large volumes of time entries.
Workday has set the bar high for business applications in the cloud with its progressive approach to its applications and platform and by embracing the new generation of innovative technologies in analytics, collaboration and mobility. Its platform is well prepared to advance nearly all aspects of human capital management for organizations and help HR increase its value to the business. Workday is on a mission to provide applications for HR, payroll, benefits, talent management and workforce management to ensure it can meet the merits of what is called human capital management. If you have not examined Workday’s products to see what is available today and what is coming in 2016, I recommend doing so.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
Stibo Systems has been providing product information management (PIM) software for decades. Its work has helped many organizations worldwide take control of their product information by developing a master definition that can be published acrossmany channels from Web to digital to print. We recognized its work with customers Delta Faucet and Masco Corp. in our 2015 Ventana Research Leadership Award in Information Management. In 2014 Stibo Systems customer Brady Corp. won a similar award for Information Optimization. I have made it clear that in our view, when it comes to use all kinds of product content and data in business processes, product information management trumps master data management. Delivering value to business with PIM is much different than managing data infrastructure with MDM. There has been much angst in varying industry analyst views on this market segment. We analyze and rate vendors more rigorously than analyst firms that look at them only through an IT lens. Our methodology and framework put business first and IT second, and that shapes how we score vendors in PIM, MDM and other aspects of the software industry.
I recently wrote about the state of product information management, outlining the market and the vendors that play in it. This analysis followed our 2015 Product Information Management Value Index, based on six months of research assessing vendors and products. In the end Stibo Systems ranked first overall as a Hot Vendor. For more details, read the executive summary at no charge on our site.
Stibo Systems’ main product is STEP Trailblazer, which helps companies access, transform, manage and publish the range of product information. Our formal analysis in the Value Index, earlier this year, assessed version 7.2, and since then Stibo has released two upgrades, 7.3 and 7.4. In them Stibo addresses one of our criticisms by initiating more frequent releases and communicating better about them. In today’s fast-changing world, it is necessary to keep the market and customers up-to-date on the status of products. My analysis of STEP Trailblazer 7.3 shows an improved user experience in all aspects of the product, from administration to consumption, and improved productivity through management of tasks and advanced search. There also is better governance through workflow, rules and approvals accompanied by an audit trail. Addressing some challenges in adaptability that we identified, it has improved its APIs and integration points at user, application and data levels. In addition it has started to advance system performance and scalability in the reliability category through in-memory processing and multithreading. In the most recent 7.4 release, it further advances in-memory processing and improves security, the product information designer and internationalization and localization support. There also is enhanced support for the GDSN standard and for deeper levels of product hierarchies and attributes. It provides both more robust support of data preparation and processing to support access and integration to other channels. This advances PIM’s mission to reduce the time spent on information management tasks; our information optimization benchmark research finds that preparing data for analysis is the task that consumes most time for almost half (47%) of organizations. These two incremental releases demonstrate Stibo’s dedication to continuing to improve its products.
In my opinion, however, Stibo has blurred its message by shifting to address a broader “multidomain” master data management market. The company is diverting resources to focus more on data infrastructure than on pressing needs to manage PIM across business processes and applications including e-commerce and the supply chain, along with adapting information to other business applications. This partly explains why it had slightly lower ratings in the manageability and adaptability categories of our Value Index. Competing against major data management providers such as IBM, Informatica, Oracle and SAP is not easy, and Stibo should be careful not to lose its business focus on PIM. The company has yet to address the popularity of cloud computing by making its software available as a service in a private or public cloud; this is sure to be important in the near future. At the same time it is important to provide product information on any platform including the Web and mobile devices. I also would like to see Stibo advance its analytics and reporting capabilities to make it even easier to assess the use of product information within its product.
The business case for PIM is multifaceted, from reduced errors to increased efficiency in the business, but just as important is its impact on the customer experience; accuracy and consistency of product information lead to improved sales and customer satisfaction. Our most recent research on PIM shows that more than half (57%) of organizations are planning to make changes in how they manage product information. However, any successful effort to transform product information will require commitment and resources. For organizations that are serious about product information management as a key business processes to interconnect applications and systems across the enterprise, we recommend examining the products from Stibo Systems. This company has a long heritage and commitment to it, and its global operations make it suitable for organizations anywhere in the world.
CEO & Chief Research Officer