PARIS2013, 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 tools 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.
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.)