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As Workday held its annual Workday Rising conference this week, it’s a good time to note the accomplishments of the company and to provide a fair and balanced coverage that has yet to be spoken by my industry peers for some reason. Co-founder and co-CEO David Duffield, who founded PeopleSoft, champions a set of core values in its culture and leads a workforce that has built a new generation of ERP applications for deployment in the cloud computing environment. The suite brings together human capital management (HCM) applications to manage absence, benefits, compensation, goals, performance, succession and career planning, along with payroll; accounting applications for general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable and cash management; and spend management applications for procurement and expenses including labor. Workday prides itself on the innovative design of its application technology, compared to the on-premises approach of PeopleSoft (now part of Oracle). It has received significant financial investment to support development, including $85 million in recent Series F financing, which indicates support for its approach.

Workday initially established itself with its HCM applications. It has been expanding to financial and spend management, along with talent management, including performance, succession, goals and career development. Workday has been elusive in having more hands on application specific reviews which raises more questions than answers. For example in compensation are they able to compete with other providers we have evaluated in our total compensation management value index. These advances encroach into the market where ADP, Cornerstone OnDemand, PeopleFluent, SuccessFactors, SumTotal Systems, Taleo, Ultimate Software and many others. Workday has gaps in its applications in areas, particularly learning and recruiting, which hinder it in meeting HR teams’ complete needs. Workday has decided to partner with other providers so as not to lose out in evaluations that consider these applications critical. Since there are no real stand-alone providers left in these areas after many have been acquired, Workday has been announcing partnerships for a select set of cloud-based applications it can manage in accounts and will need to complete further user and data integration with its own suite. This week the company announced a partnership with Cornerstone OnDemand, with which it has significant competitive overlap, and with JobVite for recruiting and Saba for social learning, which have more complementary value for companies evaluating or using Workday. Workday has navigated the same tricky partnering path with ADP, Ceridian, Kronos and Taleo who partner and compete with them and also appears to be seeing the opportunity to take on the workforce management applications market. The new analytics-based performance management provider Tidemark has unveiled a new generation of capabilities that are available on tablets and smartphones. Workday is partnering with Zuora for subscription billing and commerce makes it easier for Workday to help its customers onboard and bill their customers.

Workday’s advances in its application suite culminated in the recent announcement of Workday 15, which includes integration with Microsoft Outlook and Salesforce.com Chatter, as well as growth in:

  • talent management, with reviews and careers, 
  • global payroll support of Canadian customers and a data connector, and
  • financial management, with transaction reporting and a release of its server called Object Management Server. 

The advances look substantive, although Workday has postponed any details to the industry until after the new software was announced at the conference; I would like to see better communication from the company on its applications and access to its products.

Recognizing the importance of mobility with tablets and smartphones, Workday recently announced its Apple iPad application. While the app is available for download in the Apple App Store, it is protected with a secured login, and the company has not provided a freely accessible demonstration environment for potential customers or analysts. Here, Workday follows in the footsteps of Oracle, which does not want potential buyers to see its software without sales intervention. Workday will have to open up access to further promote its applications on tablets that are now becoming the cool new focus of many providers in human capital management. 

In fact, Workday has been elusive in giving analysts any opportunity for hands-on review of its applications, which only raises questions and most coverage is still what I refer to the Workday love factor. For example, in compensation, can it compete with other providers we have evaluated in our Total Compensation Management Value Index? Workday seems to avoid interacting with anyone from whom it expects serious scrutiny that I can see and very select on who they have a collaborative and more detailed dialogue. The company has many cloud computing competitors for servicing HR and finance with its ERP in the cloud computing environment, including Oracle with its new Fusion application suite in HCM and Financials, SAP with BusinessByDesign, NetSuite and even now coming slowly forward is Infor and Microsoft. Workday has been successful in avoiding detailed public comparisons by many in the analyst community and their partners and competitors have let Workday gain a substantive position in the market. This is great for Workday.

There is genius in Workday’s approach. It is rebuilding the PeopleSoft mojo of a decade ago, while its nemesis Oracle has done little to protect the customer base it acquired with PeopleSoft. Oracle could have been more aggressive in its product, sales and marketing advancements in the last five years with the Fusion applications, a business unit that happens to be mostly led by PeopleSoft alumni who worked for David Duffield, but it has stood by while Workday has grown consistently. It is clear that Oracle’s energy is not focused on the applications business, as my colleague Robert Kugel pointed out as it is on its appliances and database business. That’s why I think its future is cloudy in this area of business providing Workday plenty of room for growth. Oracle on its part with its recent public cloud advancements is getting anxious for faster growth in its cloud computing approach with Fusion and recently announced its planned acquisition of RightNow for bolstering its presence in customer service. This only places more focus on who they might acquire in human capital management to gain customers and experience in selling rentable applications to business. Oracle lacks a strong business spokesperson for its focus with applications and cloud computing to challenge David Duffield and others in their continued migration of Oracle on-premises application customers to their cloud-based application environments.

Companies using Workday will find moving to the next generation of ERP in the cloud helps them become more agile and offers lower IT overhead for their business needs. I personally see the unique elements of its application are around the process and workflow and less on the focus of the applications or that they are provided in software as a service (SaaS) manner since most of ERP has been around for many decades or longer. Many find more value in using applications in the cloud than in continuing to pay maintenance on in-house software, especially if they have not been able to deploy and use it sufficiently. Workday is building a better version of PeopleSoft the second time around, and its private club approach clearly is working for the time being and has not been seriously contested by Oracle. As it converts early adopters to its unified ERP in the cloud approach, it will find the next group more difficult to recruit, since the use of cloud computing for HCM, financial and spend management is not new and there are plenty of other providers today already servicing business. We expect advances by large providers Oracle and SAP to create more challenges as they wake up and address this feisty and new provider but expect to see more growth in the rising of Workday.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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