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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.) 

Friday, November 13, 2020


Gartner's HR Magic Quadrant: A Stronger Rebuttal


November is usually a time for celebration: On one side of the Pond it  brings Thanksgiving, on the other the new beaujolais. This year not only does it take place during a persistent pandemic but it also brings the latest edition of technology research firm Gartner's HR Magic Quadrant. I'm unsure which of the two is worse: At least we know that next year the pandemic will be behind us; whereas Gartner will continue to inflict upon us its annual tale of glaring omissions, inaccuracies and biased information - biased towards the highest bidder, I mean.


For anybody who has worked with and implemented SAP, Oracle and Workday (as this blogger has,) it is shocking, even hilarious, to see  Oracle ahead of Workday on the Vision dimension. Really? Who in their right mind would countenance for a split second that the vendor that has revolutionized HR technology by creating the first global cloud-based HR system can fall behind the vendor that for many years pooh-poohed the idea of the cloud? Completely insane.


When Gartner writes that "Oracle has a robust and global HCM offering with no major gaps" (italics added) it is laughable. The Oracle pseudo-cloud offering Fusion (which Gartner and Oracle try to disguise under the "Oracle Cloud HCM" label) has no Recruiting offering. Last time I checked, Recruiting (which also goes by the fancy new name of Talent Acquisition) was part and parcel of any HR remit. What about Taleo, the cloud-based offering that Oracle bought in 2012? (Read my analysis on that acquisition, Desperately Seeking SaaS: Oracle buys Taleo)  At Oracle's behest, Gartner is keeping silent on the topic because it is one of Oracle's dirtiest secrets: Taleo customers are leaving in droves to either SAP SuccessFactors or Workday, if not to best-of-breed systems. The last HRIS projects I worked on all had Taleo as their Recruiting tool (for either the whole multinational group or some subsidiaries) and they all decided to discontinue it. The haemorrhage is continuing apace but, again, mum's the word from Gartner. 


Another dirty little secret of Oracle's that Gartner won't tell you  about is that if you look at another even more (in)famous acquisition by Oracle, namely PeopleSoft, more PeopleSoft customers are moving to the cloud with Workday than with Oracle Fusion. If Oracle's cloud offering were so "robust" and "with no major gaps" as Gartner claims, why don't customers trust it and stay? Why do they move to Workday or SAP? 


In my 2018 rebuttal, I extensively documented Gartner's failings and motivation for such bias. It comes down to three words: CONFLICT OF INTEREST. Gartner's dirty little secret, well not really a secret to the cognoscenti, is that they get paid by vendors. And as we all know, nobody will bite the hand that feeds them. For over a decade I (and others) have been asking Gartner & Co. to stop getting paid from vendors. Would you accept from the government  a regulator taking money from the industries they regulate? Of  course not! Why would you then accept advice from a research firm who won't tell you how much money they make from the vendors they recommend? 


Of course, there are findings that I agree with, just like I agree with a fool when they say that water boils at 100° C. Glad to see that it took Gartner five years to recognize that Cornerstone has an HR offering. I was the first to predict that such an offering was coming:  first in 2015 (in my blog post

Cor(e)nerstone HR right around the corner ) and then in 2016 in Cornerstone, the newest kid on the global HRIS block. Well, I guess "better late than never" is a fair excuse.


As somebody who has worked on 7 Workday implementation projects, I can tell that Gartner's knowledge of this vendor is very sketchy - actually I doubt that they have deep knowledge of the other vendors either, since few if any Gartner analysts have ever dirtied their hands with actual HRIS implementations. If Gartner knew what it is talking about, it would have mentioned that Workday Learning is still WIP (I also agree about slow global Payroll progress). On the topic of Payroll, they could also have mentioned that there is no such thing as SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central Payroll (I know, what a mouthful!): Why not call a duck a duck? Hosted SAP Payroll it is.


Since most of my 2018 rebuttals are still largely valid (technology may move fast, not the companies that produce it), there is little point in repeating myself. You can check that detailed analysis in  Gartner's HR Magic Quadrant: A (Strong) Rebuttal.


And next time you read research by Gartner & Co., take their findings with a pinch of salt. Actually, make it a barrel of salt - you'll do yourself a big favor.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Forex fintech companies: Why TransferMate is losing out to TransferWise - and may have even more serious problems coming its way

With most mainstream banks embracing the internet now, even going mobile, one might wonder why one should bother with new financial services startup companies. There are at least two reasons I'd like to call out for the purpose of this piece.

First, the likes of Monzo and Revolut are digital and even mobile natives, meaning everything about them was designed for the internet/mobile experience from the moment you open your account to how you conduct your banking business about them. Traditional banks, on the other hand, when they embraced the internet/mobile did it (some still do) as an afterthought.

Second, when it comes to transferring funds from an account held in one currency to another held in a different currency, most traditional banks would charge you obscenely high fees and commissions for what is now a purely automated process. Hence, the arrival of fintech companies dedicated to this niche market: Painless, fast, reasonably priced wiring of funds from, say, a dollar-denominated bank account into a euro-denominated account.

Where these forex fintechs markedly differ from traditional banks is that where the latter provide forex (foreign exchange) transactions somewhat as an ancillary service and bleed you for the privilege, for forex fintechs it is their bread and butter. Because of that they developed everything about the way they work (technology, processes, manpower, location) to make the process as efficient as possible. 

Two of the best-known forex fintechs are TransferWise and TransferMate which I have been using for several years now for both my business and personal finances. As the following examples show I have found TransferWise better attuned to my business and personal needs, while TransferMate has gone from bad to worse.

The most shocking thing about TransferMate is how clunky and user-unfriendly the platform is. As an HR technologist I'm used to systems: It is therefore baffling that after so many years of using TransferMate every time I want to initiate a transaction I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out where to enter the source account, the recipient account, the type of transaction and sundry required fields. Any combination that the capricious system is not happy about will result in your moving to the next screen with an abstruse error message. Try to move back to the previous screen and everything is gone, so you'll have to start all over again with no guarantee of what field/sequence of data needs to be corrected. 

Of course, you can always try to contact the support team but if  you happen to be launching this transaction in the evening or over the weekend it may well be a couple of days before anybody gets back to you (see below on quality of TransferMate support staff) which negates the whole purpose of a forex operation where you want to block the current rate on offer. Wait/waste an hour and the operation may no longer be worth your while. Wait a couple of days as TransferMate often does and if you carry on you may actually be losing money. 

Compare this maddening system with TransferWise (see below screenshot). On the landing page they start with the most important piece you need: How much you want to change in your currency and how much you get. From here you may decide if you want to proceed or not. Very efficient. Fat chance of getting that with TransferMate where you have to go through the whole rigmarole explained in the previous paragraph before getting a sense of whether the rate is interesting enough that you want to log in and book the trade. 

And then once you decide you want to book with TransferWise (which in most cases you'd want to because their rates are systematically better than TransferMate) the next screen is simplicity personified: Select the account you're sending funds from, the beneficiary account and click SUBMIT. Et voilà! In a couple of minutes and as many clicks your transfer is on its way. Nothing like the horror story that TransferMate can easily turn into. 

Some typical examples of TransferMate nightmares:

- If the amount is above a certain amount you need to contact them by phone. Meaning that as explained earlier forget about booking the rate you want.

- TransferMate may ask you to provide a proof of wire of the funds, which can become a completely absurd request when the request is made after the funds have arrived. If the funds have arrived in their account, they must have been wired in the first place, mustn't they? And if TransferMate wants to make sure that the funds have indeed been wired from your listed bank account, can't their bank tell them?

-Worse, I've seen cases where TransferMate would not even accept the standard wire notice document delivered by your bank because of some weird reason like the logo or color scheme or other fanciful reasons. Yes, you've read right, a small fintech like TransferMate would challenge the payment advice template delivered by a major bank like Société Générale or ING or Bank of America. Welcome to the looney bin known as TransferMate.

-Sometimes, it may catch TransferMate's fancy to require you to send them a screenshot of your bank account whereby they will see all your personal and confidential data. They will justify this in lieu of the payment advice request mentioned earlier on. Of course, this is not only a violation of your confidential data but you and I understand why they would do that: Get more information on your spending and income patterns to serve what can only be sinister aims.

-All of these tricks serve a single purpose: During all this time, the money you wire into their account is being used to shore up their cashflow for free. Something that I NEVER saw being done by TransferWise.

-Don't try to reason with TransferMate's staff: Their incompetence is so obvious at the first call (what do you expect from people paid peanuts?) that talking to them is akin to trying to have a chat with a brick wall. You'll go nowhere, which is exactly what TransferMate wants: Remember that during all this time YOUR money sits in THEIR bank account for free.

-For Spanish, French and other non-Dublin-based Europeans speaking a non-English language, TransferMate's sales practices are so questionable that they verge on the illegal in some jurisdictions. For one, their Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) are only available in English so to a French user, sure, the platform is in French so they can conduct the transaction in a familiar language, but as soon as they want to check some specific T&Cs, sorry, only English is available. In addition, their French-speaking support person will have in their email signature a French phone number to give French customers the impression s/he is based in France when s/he is based in Dublin, Ireland. Even the company's French office is an empty shell: It refers to InterPay (address: 18 rue Pasquier, 75008 Paris) but this company  was deregistered in...2019! Yes, you read right: In September 2020,  TransferMate is using as their French address a company whose legal existence was terminated more than a year ago. If you run into a legal issue with them, fat chance of getting redress through your country's court system.  

Misleading customers in such a way is more than borderline: Regulatory agencies in both Ireland and Europe are currently scrutinizing TransferMate's practices. Another Wirecard scandal in the offing


In summary, not only does TransferWise deliver superior user experience, but TransferMate's current legal situation prompted by its sales practices is scary: As the Wirecard scandal showed, your funds can be blocked overnight following an investigation by regulatory agencies. I don't know about you, but I am not willing to take that risk.