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Friday, September 23, 2022

The longest reign: Musings on 11 remarkable days

For someone who lived in the UK in his late teens, and have ever since visited the country for business and leisure over the decades, I have always looked at the British monarchy quizzically and at times uncomprehendingly. 

And yet like most Planet Earth residents I spent an inordinate amount of time last Monday and the previous weeks watching on TV, streaming or reading the press: debates, parades, processions, tributes, national anthems, religious services, that at times felt as long as her 70-year-long reign.

What impressed me and remained with me is the following.

First, not the sheer number of people who lined up  to file past the Queen's coffin in Westminster Hall, but the fact that they were willing to wait for over 12 hours or more for the honor. President Nasser's death drew throngs of people and fired up the whole Arab world,  but I doubt that anybody would have waited that long for him. I still can't wrap around my head what made hundreds of thousands of Britons (and foreigners) go through what must have been at times a painful wait just to see a coffin, illustrious as its contents must have been. This will remain as one of those mysteries of the British psyche I may never unfold. 

Second, the craze wasn't limited to the UK, or the Commonwealth, but was basically global. I would switch from one TV channel to another, or read the online press from around the world and for days and days they carried only one major topic; "The funeral of the century", as the tagline went. Has the world gone mad? Aren't there more important things to focus on? An increasingly scary war in the Ukraine? Global warning? Runaway inflation? Immigration crisis?

Third, in spite of billions of pixels and gallons of ink spent  on the Queen's passing away and the rites associated with it, one topic was simply never mentioned. What did she die of? Sure, it's not particularly shocking that a 96 year-old would die, and sure she looked increasingly frail, but on Tuesday last week we saw her bidding farewell to Boris Johnson and greeting incoming uncurtsying Prime Minister Liz Truss with both of whom she spent a couple of hours (more below on that curtsy - or lack thereof.). And the next day she didn't feel well and then ...she was gone. She can't have been missing BoJo that much, already, can she?

The blogger appearing on a postcard
with the Queen when she visited his 
Central Paris neighborhood in 2004


Fourth, the British are (in)famous for their quasi-total lack of skills when it comes to major infrastructure projects but when it comes to large spectacles, especially involving the military and extolling the monarchy, they are unbeatable. In just a matter of days they put in place a dazzling show involving complex logistics and organizational excellence that was astonishing. Cecil B. DeMille, the legendary Hollywood film-maker known for his lavish epics, wouldn't have been able to pull it off so spectacularly. And Mr. DeMille had the advantage of countless rehearsals and takes, something unavailable to the organizers: if you make mistakes it's in full view of the whole world. I was also amazed at the punctuality of the various events, despite so many unknowns and the large number of people involved. Probably explains how a tiny island lost in the mists of northern Europe managed to conquer one-third of mankind and build the largest empire the world has ever known and whose remnants the late sovereign represented. 

Fifth, no one would dare make a prediction of what the new King's reign will be like, but two things are certain. One, he won't reign half as long as his august mother. Second, the road is bound to be bumpy when you see the tantrums he threw before a global TV audience just because his pen was leaking. Seriously? There's something definitely wrong with a man who goes berserk on such a mundane issue. With his predecessor, we wouldn't even have noticed that something was amiss.

Sixth, the press was the major broker in getting the show over to us and I was hugely entertained by the crass incompetence of some of the reporters or self-proclaimed specialists pontificating on various TV shows. In France, it was cocorico! as our Sun King, Louis XIV's record as longest reigning monarch in mankind's history still holds: 72 years over Elizabeth II's 70 years (she's still the longest reigning female monarch and longest living monarch ever.) However, a not insignificant detail that French TV and press overlooked is that of Louis XIV's 72 years on the throne, 10 were spent as part of a regency since he was a minor. Meaning that he exercized his full royal prerogatives for only 62 years, whereas the British queen enjoyed all the trappings of power on Day 1. In that respect she does hold the record for longest effective reign in recorded history. 

The press also got it wrong when they often predicted that the Commonwealth would shrink as some countries inevitably ditched the monarchy. Actually there's no direct link between the two. Even if, say, Jamaica took the lead of Barbados and became a republic, they would still remain in the Commonwealth. Remember that Elizabeth II was queen of South Africa until 1961 and of Malta until 1974. Both are still part of the Commonwealth. Even New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, was largely misquoted as saying she wished her country would become a republic in her lifetime. She never said that. I saw her interview on the Beeb and while she predicted such a thing, she never expressed such a wish, and clearly stated that she wouldn't instigate a move (like a referendum) in that direction. I found it very interesting to see her (and the NZ Governor-General) take a deep curtsy before the Queen's coffin, when the UK's own Prime Minister, Liz Truss, wasn't seen once curtsying to either the Queen on her last days or when she met Charles III. Maybe that Tory Liz is secretly planning a move towards a Republic with Boris Johnson as first president.


The blogger in his teens while he lived in Britain.
Visiting Glamis Castle in the Scottish Highlands,
ancestral home of the Queen Mother's family
and where the late Queen's sister, Margaret, was born


Seventh, a constant in my long acquaintance with the country has been the lousy, soggy, wet weather I had to endure as a price to pay to live in the UK or visit it. And yet, during those 11 days, without almost no exception, it was either flawlessly blue skies or at least lack of rain, as if the gods had decided to do their bit on the historical moment. If anything, we'll remember it for that.

Eighth, at times, especially at the end, the whole thing felt a bit protracted. Two lying-in-states were a bit much (thank God they didn't decide to drag the coffin around Wales and Northern Ireland or the 14 other "Realms" or countries where the queen was monarch!) and as we got to the end, the endless processions and ceremonies and religious services felt like stretching the point. On the 11th day, Monday, the funeral included several processions, and after the service at Westminster Hall, arriving at Windsor Castle for yet another one, with many of the same attendees, and then a third service, blissfully, for family only, it was clearly overkill

Ninth, reflecting on the meaning of it all, it was even more astonishing that it was to honor someone who in eight decades of public service never said anything memorable. Elizabeth II must be the only head of state who never gave a single press interview (Charles and William both have - let's see whether they keep their mother's and grandmother's tradition alive once they start reigning.) 

Tenth, why did Elizabeth II's popularity trump that of her predecessors, current peers and other politicians? My explanation is that rarely has a leader so much identified with her country the way she has. One revealing example that nobody seems to have noticed: She never went on vacation abroad. Not for her, skiing in Gstaad or St Moritz (as Diana was wont to) or frolicking  in the Caribbean (like her own sister, Margaret). Year in and year out, it was Norfolk and Scotland, and Scotland and Norfolk.

Well, it sure was a one-of-a-kind moment and here's one prediction I can safely make: I am unlikely to witness something similar in my lifetime.

Friday, June 3, 2022

When Workday’s “Power of One” fails: An example from Payroll-Compensation integration


At the turn of the millennium, PeopleSoft, the then-undisputed HR tech leader, asked me to join them as Product Strategy Manager to help them with their European payrolls. Until 2001, PeopleSoft only had payroll for North America. For other countries the spin was that what really mattered was to have all your employees’ key data in one global system (Core HR) which you would then interface to various downstream systems (Payroll, Finance, Time Tracking, Expenses etc.) depending on needs. The underlying message was that Payroll was just an engine, not a strategic tool and therefore there was little value in having it in the same system. Actually you didn’t even need to have it in-house, just outsource it to ADP and the likes.

That was until PeopleSoft realized there was a lot of money in the Payroll business and that there was a lot of value in a Payroll-Core HR/Compensation integration after all. That’s when they built a global team, of which your humble servant was part of covering France and Spain. In a payroll blitzkrieg unheard of in the industry until then and since, we brought to the market close to a dozen payrolls (France, Spain, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Japan, Australia and a sprinkling of other countries).

Suddenly, in a not-so-subtle move that I found highly entertaining, Payroll/Compensation integration was all the rage. At every meeting with customers, at HR tech conferences, in press and analyst encounters, our message was that an HR system without payroll wasn’t worth the pixels it showed on your PC monitor. You needed the Payroll module as a mandatory accessory to your global Core HR/Compensation.

Fast forward two decades and to today’s indisputable HR Tech leader, Workday. Just like its forerunner, Workday started with a limited number of payrolls (and no finance tool), so it was all about having a global core HR system, the rest was dismissed with a wave of the hand as optional, ancillary and unimportant. Then came finance and the slow drip feed of payroll and, lo and behold, out of the cloud emerges the fundamental, indispensable need to be able to integrate both within the same system with the same data model and UI (which now goes by the fancy term of UX). Workday coined the phrase of the Power of One which as they say in their marketing material does not “require any process or configuration changes on your end”.

Well, as we all know, there’s marketing and there’s the truth. Or, to paraphrase Mark Twain, there are three types of lies: lies, statistics and software marketing (truth be told, Workday is certainly not the most egregious perpetrator here; the Oscar probably goes to Oracle and their fanciful claims about basically every product they throw at their customers.)

But, back to Workday, since this post is about Workday. There are many examples where the Power of One is contradicted by the reality of many. The one that I want to focus on deals with one of my favorite Workday and HR topics: Compensation under its various guises: Core Compensation, Payroll and Compensation Review.

Compensation Review is the process whereby you increase employee salaries and award them bonuses and stocks, usually once a year, based on their performance (and the company’s.) To run this process Workday has a pretty strong module called Advanced Compensation, on which I got certified in 2019. I’m not going to inflict boring technical and business details on you, but suffice it to say that in order for a bonus to be calculated you need a reference compensation if your bonus is going to be a percentage rather than an amount. That reference compensation (which is called Compensation Basis in the Workday lingo) is usually the standard salary (Total Base Pay in Workday-ese ) or it can be created from scratch to include any compensation component such as allowances as long as these compensation components are…available in Workday. If they are not (such as overtime which is often part of another tool, Payroll) then you need to load those amounts back into Workday using some esoterically named Eligible Earnings Override.


The villain revealed

So far so good. Everybody understands that Workday cannot retrieve a data not held within Workday. And since a majority of Workday customers use third-part payrolls (especially outside North America), it is perfectly understandable that these amounts need to be extracted from your payroll system, appropriately formatted  and then loaded into Workday for Advanced Compensation’s consumption.


Except that, and here’s the rub, there are many customers who use Workday Payroll. In that case you’d assume from Workday Payroll to Workday Core/Advanced Compensation the data should flow as easily as the River Thames under London Bridge.


Rather than being able to point your bonus calculation to the relevant Payroll earnings (or sum thereof) you still have to go through the whole cumbersome task of extracting/preparing the data in payroll, then loading it into Workday, then going and referencing it for your bonus calculation.  Where is the Power of One? Looks more like the madness of many as we all know how messy integrations are. When you’re using separate systems, no queda más remedio as my Spanish friends would say, you have to build that interface. But why would you have to do that when you’re running the SAME system? That’s what you were told and sold: buy one and no integration need, right?

I heard that Workday is planning on fixing this, which is long overdue. But why did you even have the issue in the first place?  Bad product design happens everywhere, even with the best. But then be a little modest when taunting your Power of One which has been found lacking.

And don’t get me started on absence management. With Workday you can track your employee absences in Core HR, in Time Tracking and via Payroll as well. In Core HR you have it more than once: the standard Absence features and the Leave of Absence functionality. Like estranged siblings, neither seems to be aware of the other’s existence. Another product strategy gone mad.

Workforce Planning? Integrated only in name. Another Power of One derailed.

Alright, I thing I’ll stop here. You get my drift. Time for Workday to spend a bit less time on Marketing and more on Product Strategy and Development.


(This is the latest in a series of posts on Workday. The most popular feature below. Many more can be found by searching chronologically the list of posts on the right-hand pane.

-Feb. 2021: "10 features Workday should deliver - yesterday!"

-April 2016: "SOW - A Comparison of 3 Global Cloud HR vendors: SAP, Oracle and Workday"

-Feb. 2015: "An open letter to Workday's Bhusri and Duffield: Time to fix Europe"

-May 2011: "PeopleSoft vs Workday - Old vs New" )


(The Global HR Technologist is enjoying a 4-day Jubilee Holiday in London, a place he has been visiting relentlessly on business and pleasure for over three decades now, going back to when he was a teenage student in Britain under the Iron Lady’s rule. “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London everything that life can afford,” said Dr. Johnson a couple of centuries ago. So true now as then.)

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Why Russia will gobble up the Ukraine, the West will fail to stop it and China is lapping it all up


French President Emmanuel Macron made a fool of himself with his shuttle diplomacy. In his folie des grandeurs, he dreamed of winning a Nobel Peace Prize and boosting his re-election bid in the upcoming French presidential election. What an amateur he is. During all the time the West, a.k.a. the US and the major European powers, "negotiated" with Putin, the Russian Czar took them to the cleaners, gaining time to get his military might in place and, once ready, launching an invasion of the Ukrainian territory.

Russia has decided it wanted the Ukraine (yes, I keep on using the definite article as it has always been the case in English for decades) and I will not enter here in a debate on how justified Russia's grievances are. Suffice to say that once Putin has made that strategic decision the West (meaning America, since the EU is largely useless and ineffective) will not be able to stop it. 

Sanctions? Yeah right!
Apart from the case of apartheid-era South Africa, sanctions never work. Did sanctions and condemnations make Israel change its (mis) treatment of Palestinians? Or prevent North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons? Or stop Iran doing just that? Did sanctions in place against Russia since it took over the Crimea in 2014 make them give it up? And of course we always have the example of the mother of all sanctions, the embargo on Cuba: the Communists are still in power more than 60 years later.

As the 1930s showed, the only way to stop an expansionist power is to meet them force by force. And here the West is not willing to declare war on Russia

Strong with the weak, weak with the strong
When it was felt that Serbia wasn't treating its Kosovo minority in an acceptable manner, the West attacked small Serbia and forced it to accept Kosovo independence. When Saddam Hussein's third-rate Iraq conquered Kuwait, again the West assembled a mighty force to dislodge the Butcher of Baghdad from the emirate. But Russia? Nope, the West won't dare engage it militarily as it is not only a nuclear power but we would be well advised to remember history and how the Russians managed to outlast both Napoleon's and Hitler's armies.

Actually, speaking of nuclear weapons, the Iraqi experience wasn't lost on the Koreans: despite Hussein's boastful threats of using nuclear weapons, it was soon revealed the emperor had no clothes and there were no mass-destruction weapons. Hence Iraq's defeat. The Koreans learned the lesson and now that they have nuclear weapons, nobody dares attack them. Iraq's neighbors, the Iranians, are keenly aware of that lesson too, which explains the games they're playing with the West and its agents like the IAEA. How unfortunate for the Ukrainians that they didn't learn that lesson and when they got their independence following the disappearance of the Soviet Union, they accepted to get rid of their nuclear weapons in exchange for a guarantee of their territorial integrity. What a spectacular miscalculation. When your neighbor is the Russian bear, only a fool would let go of the most effective military deterrent.

Putin is now laughing the West's condemnation ("bad boy, Vlad, you are misbehaving") and additional sanctions all the way to his dacha. He even afforded himself the luxury of invading the Ukraine while "negotiating" at the U.N. Security Council. I told you, my friends, the West is led by incapable fools. And hypocrites as well. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003 for no justifiable reason, except that they had WMD which turned out to be untrue, the world ended up accepting it. Even France which opposed it initially ended up collaborating with the US on the Iraqi occupation. The US didn't like Saddam Hussein so they invaded Iraq to carry out regime change, which is exactly what Putin is doing in the Ukraine: he doesn't like the current Ukrainian government, result of the so-called Maidan Revolution, so he's invading it to carry out regime change. What is good for the gander, should be good for the goose, as they say.

In the meantime, in China
The Red Emperor is watching these developments very carefully to see how much Vlad the Devourer can get away with. He has his own Ukraine: Taiwan, which he never made any attempt to hide he wanted to add to his collection of additional territories (after Hong Kong and Macau.) So far, only the fear of getting involved with a military confrontation with the US has stopped China. But once it sees how ineffectual the  West is when a sovereign nation disappears, "What's to stop me from conquering what I never recognized as an independent country anyway?" will Xi Jinping rightly ask himself. And act accordingly.

World War III it ain't - yet. But looks very much like soon we'll have all its trappings and trigger.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Covid: What I learned and how it will affect my outlook for 2022


As we reach the end of Year 2 of the pandemic, I can't help but wonder what good, obedient citizens most of us have been and a fat lot of good it did us.

First, government told us that face masks were useless, so we discarded them. 

Then, we were told we actually had to use them. So, we complied (the Health minister in France responsible for this rigmarole, Olivier Véran, is inexplicably still in place. Scoop for my readers: President Macron likes to be surrounded by handsome men, gay or straight.)

Third, our dear political leaders put in place a flurry of restrictions including lockdown and curfews. Some governments got carried away and we were regaled with the height of absurd measures as seen in France with "self authorizations" where we sign a document allowing ourselves to go outside. 

Fourth, we were told salvation will come from getting vaccinated. We complied.

Fifth and sixth, we were told additional jabs will kiss the nasty virus goodbye. We complied with a second and third booster jabs.

And today, the last day of 2021 (actually 2020 redux) we are exactly back to square one with restrictions in place, Covid cases breaking all records. Sure, vaccination has meant fewer deaths, but we are now facing the very real prospect of society falling apart as many companies won't be able to operate correctly (we will probably look fondly on the supply chain issues we had in the past year.)

This is failure from our ruling class on an epic scale. Boris "Do as I say, not as I do" Johnson, Emmanuel "I love to listen to the sound of my voice" Macron, Joe "The Zombie" Biden, Angela "I'm out of here, anyway" Merkel, Pedro "How much longer can I stay in the Moncloa Palace?" Sanchez, Mario "Shall I be president or remain prime minister" Draghi, all have shown themselves to be clueless when dealing with the other great threat facing the human race collectively

I never believed much in the political class - and when it comes to France I stopped believing in it altogether in 2005 when they violated our fundamental democratic rights by canceling the results of a referendum: We the people decided we didn't want the European Constitution, and the French government (actually one man, President Sarkozy, and rubber-stamping Parliament) decided they didn't care how we felt and imposed their will on us. 

With two pandemic years under my belt, you will come to the same conclusion as I did: We don't care anymore what government says or does. So many rules are absurd and ineffectual, the results are so paltry that moving into 2022 here are my New Year's Resolutions:

- I will stop listening/caring about what our presidents/prime ministers/ministers and the lot say or do. 

-I will use common sense: face masks outdoors are meaningless, so I will NOT wear them - unless a cop forces me to. I will wear it indoors, I will be cautious, I will enforce social distancing. If I get a cold or some temperature, I can get a rapid test and no need to rush to full-capacity hospitals: a little fever and headache can be taken care of at home. 

- I will continue living my professional and personal life to the full. That terror that many governments want to instill in us to justify their existence is NOT going to work with me. I know what you're up to, you can't fool me.

-Make use of coming presidential elections (France, Brazil etc.) to throw the rascals out. Of course, there's no guarantee that whoever comes next is going to be any better but I'd rather give the benefit of the doubt to a new ruler than to one whose failed results are plain to all to see.

-I will hope for the best but plan for the worst - a principle that has guided me though most of my life - I see no reason to change that now. 

 Best wishes for 2022 - that may turn out to be 2020 - part 3. Or not. Nobody knows. We'll find out as we   get there. If we do. And if we don't, well, what a great ride it has been!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Payroll vs Compensation: The sempiternal HRIS conundrum


Recently, a UN agency which is making the transition from an SAP-based HR system to Workday asked me what they should keep in their legacy system and what should be tracked in Workday. I was glad to share my knowledge and experience as this issue is something I witness in every HRIS implementation I work on. (Disclosure: In my distant past, I worked several years for the UN in New York and Madrid.) 

To understand the complexity of the analysis to be undertaken, you have to realize that the situation is radically different based on whether this is the first time you're embarking on an HRIS project versus whether you already had an on-premise HRIS system and are now moving to a cloud-based one.

If the latter, two situations may arise:

(1) Your scope includes Payroll: In that case it's to a large extent a shift-and-lift exercize. Of course, you may struggle with the limited availability of country payrolls in the cloud system you're moving to versus your legacy system (for instance, SAP has scores of country payrolls whereas Workday has only 4, with 2 more in the works.) This will limit your shift-and-lift capabilities as for the countries in your scope missing a cloud payroll you'll find yourself in a situation similar to the next one.

(2) Your scope doesn't include Payroll: either because (a) your cloud vendor doesn't cover your scope fully, or (b) because to minimize risk, you decided to keep Payroll out of scope for the time being. That's when you have to make a determination what to keep in your local Payroll system and what can be moved to your new cloud system's Compensation module. 

This exercize is similar to the one you'll have to run if you've never had a full-fledged HRIS in the first place. Or, which is the same, if your HRIS is basically your payroll system where HR Admin/Compensation and Payroll are subsumed in the same tool. You'll be surprised by how many companies, domestic or global, still fall in this category.

What is Payroll and what is Compensation?

There may be as many answers as there are unique circumstances. However, one can safely adopt the  following rules of thumb:

  • Gross versus net: Compensation, and therefore your new HR system, should definitely hold your gross salary and similar items (such as allowances), whereas the net amount will be held by your local payroll. Don't get confused by the word "calculation" and think that all calculations are made in Payroll and simple amounts are held in Compensation. A Seniority allowance will have to be calculated first in Compensation and only when you have the amount due to the employee, will it then feed Payroll which, after performing a gross-to-net calculation, will then disburse the amount to the employee (via direct deposit or check.)

  • Complex calculation: If a given compensation component needs to be calculated based on criteria and data which are not tracked in your new HRIS (let's say, time worked) then the decision is obvious: only track it in Payroll. 

  • Compensation Package/Total Rewards visibility: One of the advantages of a modern HRIS is the ability to have all your employees' full compensation at your fingertips with a few clicks. If a compensation component is considered as meaningful and can be calculated in your HRIS then it should be part of Compensation. This criterion should definitely be taken into account when selecting a system as Workday, SuccessFactors and Oracle HCM Cloud (a.k.a. Fusion) are far from being interchangeable when it comes to their ability to take different data types into account when calculating a compensation item

  • Document generation: If there is little doubt that producing a Payslip is a task best left with your local Payroll tool(s), you may decide that it makes sense from a business perspective that storing it in your new HRIS as part of Employee Documents (depending, of course, on your vendor's technological prowess.) On the other hand, if you use your HRIS to run your Annual Salary Review process, then generating your employees' Compensation Statements will be a task for Compensation, not Payroll.

  • Many other criteria  and factors could also weigh in, depending on a company's unique circumstances, but remember the cardinal rule: Your new HRIS should NOT be a carbon copy of your Payroll, the two are linked but as explained in the few examples provided above they are quite different beasts and as such should be treated differently. 

    (The Blogger/Consultant, after having just implemented an Oracle-based HRIS is now taking a two-week vacation in the Wonder City before starting a new HRIS implementation project, this time based on Workday.)

Friday, February 12, 2021

10 features Workday should deliver - yesterday!


Since 2013, when almost nobody in continental Europe could spell “Workday”, and I became the first person in France to get certified on the system and project methodology, I have worked on 9 Workday implementations. That’s an average of 1 project a year, with some taking over 2 years while others would be graced with my contribution for 5 or 6 months.

Such an experience warrants the $64,000 question: Is Workday the best HRIS tool in the world? The answer is an emphatic YES!
Is everything perfect with it? Not by a long stretch. I never was into the blind vendor cheerleading that so many “analysts” engage in. Back in 2015, I wrote a critical open letter to Dave Duffield (whom I had met and chatted with at the 2007 HR Technology Conference in Chicago when Workday was a 2-year-old infant) and Aneel Bhusri, Workday’s co-CEOs, about some issues that the company needed fixing in Europe.
Today, I’d like to focus on the product side of things. Here are 10 enhancements that are way overdue.


1.       Ever since Workday changed its User Interface (UI) I in Workday 29, I’ve been waiting for something better because, let’s face it, the new worklet icons are plain ugly. They look like some kid’s unfinished drawings. And while you’re at it, could we have the Directory Swirl (a.k.a. The Wheel) back? ? I loved it when it was there. I miss it now that it’s gone.

2.       Improved search capabilities. When Workday premiered we all oohed and aahed about the Search Box, something truly from the other world. In all demos, Workday’s sales people keep on harping on how easy it is to access a feature (report, task, employee, organization) by just “Googling” it. Well, software vendor hyperbole apart, back at the beginning this was largely revolutionary when compared with the Jurassic Park-era tree structure navigation of older generation systems. But Google? Not exactly. Only recently has Workday included memorized searches (and frequently used tasks) but I still cannot understand why they can’t provide suggested searches. Google “South Afrika” and Google will immediately suggest “South Africa”. Search for “Hier Employee” and Workday draws a blank, unable to understand the user means the frequent task “Hire Employee”. Really? How much complicated can it be to propose “Did you mean ‘Hire employees?’” 

3.       Better migration tool
s between tenants. One of the challenges of working on a Workday project is that you have to wrap your head around several environments or “tenants”. The end-user facing one is referred to as Production (that’s the one employees and managers see and use in their daily life) but the back-office team (HR, IT, implementation partners) work on various copies of this production version at varying stages of accuracy (or refreshes).  One tenant may be used for training, another one for a specific sub-project or stream (say Payroll or Recruiting), one for development, so on and so forth. When you update the configuration in one tenant and need to copy it onto another one, as a customer you can use Object Transporter, a.k.a. OX for the cognoscenti. The problem is that not all Workday objects can be migrated via OX (for instance, Participation Rule Sets can’t.) By way of consequence,  you have to rely on either mass loads or re-create the same configuration manually which, as everybody knows, is an error-prone exercize. And even when OX can be used, it does have its peculiarities: a compensation plan, for instance, will always be migrated with an effective date as of the day when it was done. You therefore lose all history and can’t see what a plan looked like at a specific date in the past.

4.       Improve the translation of delivered/custom fields. Workday offers a translation in 13 languages for most end user-facing objects/fields  that it delivers. (For some twisted reason of theirs, Workday considers French as 2 separate languages, forgetting that, as Churchill once said, “America and Britain are two countries separated by the same language”.) A perennial issue has been how to change those translations (or English-language labels) if you’re not happy with them (I for one positively hate the term “Contingent Worker” for contractors or interim staff). The polyglot I am always have fun when demoing Workday in French, Spanish or Portuguese where at times fits of uproarious laughter grip the audience. Once the guffaws have subsided, you often can’t do more than just bite the bullet and dump the issue on Change Management the poor team tasked with making the indefensible palatable to end users.

      Workday has recently introduced a feature called Custom Label Overrides which is a marked improvement, but it works a bit haphazardly and sometimes in overkill fashion. Let’s say that in the Compensation Review Grid you have a tab called Merit and you want to translate it in French as “Augmentation au mérite” rather than the standard Workday translation of “Mérite”. If you use Custom Label Overrides, Workday will translate it alright, but will apply the same translation throughout the system even where you don’t want it to. For instance, for “Merit Plan” you’re happy with “Plan de mérite” and you certainly don’t want the longish and absurd “Plan augmentation au mérite”. Why can’t Workday just offer a translation feature via a Relation Actions off any such objects, the way it does it for most translatable items? Obviously, its technology doesn’t support that yet, but hopefully Workday can improve on this front. 

  5.    Consistency across the system. Sometimes to view an object in Workday you just have to enter the name. Other times you have to enter “View XXX”. It would be a big saver if we could just have a single way. I like the “View XXX” approach since you can contrast it with “Edit XXX” (although for the life of me I still can't fathom why to edit an object the task is sometime called “Maintain XXX” and not “Edit XXXX”.) Equally, Workday makes distinction between Delete and Inactivate (e.g., for an Organization) but when it comes to a Position the terminology changes to Close and Freeze. Why? It is exactly the same concept.

6.       More and better ways to hide fields. Another perennial localization issue has to do with those endless screens that some Workday tasks require. These screens could be made much shorter and less confusing to end users by removing all those pesky fields that may be useful to a US-based user but mean nothing to the rest of the world. Workday has made great strides with Configure Optional Fields, but those are still very limited. 

7.       Mass loads are quite useful and powerful but the glorified Excel spreadsheet that EIB is does take some getting used to. It can be quite frustrating to struggle with files where some Required fields can be left out and the data gets loaded, or some Optional fields turn out to be mandatory. My favorite? When you’ve loaded thousands of data (say, salary updates) and the system says, “All records loaded successfully”. You go back to the Worker Profile and nothing has happened, no update. Sometimes you just want to slice your throat and end your misery.

8.       Confusing terminology. I’m not talking here about how some customers struggle to relate Workday terminology to their own use? After all, when you adopt the SaaS model, you should adapt to it, that’s a given. What I mean here is that some objects are sometimes referred to interchangeably when they are separate objects. “Job” and “Position” are among the most egregious examples, e.g., “View Job history” when you are looking at a history of positions. Why not call it then “View Position History.”

9.       Additional country payrolls. Workday is largely nicknamed as PeopleSoft 2.0. And rightly so since it was largely built by former PeoplePeople (of whom this blogger proudly recalls his days as one of them two decades ago), and just like its predecessor has won the hearts and minds of HR users and leaders. However, in one respect Workday lags far behind its illustrious forerunner: I recall vividly that at the turn of the millennium when PeopleSoft went global, in just 18 months we added 6 new payrolls: France, Spain (I was the Product Manager for these two countries’ payrolls), Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland. Workday in 15 years of existence has only delivered 4 payrolls. If Workday were some second-tier HRIS vendor, or a dinosaur like SAP and Oracle, I could understand this under-performance. But you guys are the leader. I understand that creating a true SaaS-based payroll has challenges of its own, but are you guys the trailblazers or not? Show the industry that it can be done and deliver on it.

Coining the word "glocalization" a decade ago

10.   I have written extensively on the localization aspects of an HRIS in this blog, and I can only reiterate here what I have also touched upon a little bit earlier, that what is good for the US is not necessarily useful for the rest of the world. Prime example: masking a SSN (Social Security Number) to the employee, when they are the ones who provided it in the first place! In other countries, SSN is just one ID among many others and there is no point in being paranoid about it (Brainstorm 43602 for those who know what a Brainstorm is.)  Another example: City Lookups. Can Workday improve here as this is sorely needed because it creates endless issues when interfacing to third-party systems, especially payroll tools?


Before I wrap up here, let me give a piece of advice to my friends at Oracle and SAP. Before you gleefully rub your hands thinking how you could use this information in sales cycles to win some competitive advantage, remember that despite all its faults Workday is way ahead of you: whether talking about product, strategy, implementation methodology, partner engagement or the revolutionary way Workday treats and interacts with its customers, you guys just play second fiddle and catch up to Workday. It would be time well spent to focus on your own weaknesses and fix them rather than try to trash a vendor that has revolutionized our industry.

(This week has been particularly busy for the blogger who has just launched his second Annual Compensation Review in a row - this time  for a global client in the construction industry. Which probably explains why I am drawing so many examples from the compensation world.)