@Workday’s Mission: Making #EnSW Easier

Stan Swete, Chief Technology Officer, Workday, offered insight into the company’s focus on good user experience during #CXOTalk, Friday, January 10th, 2014


The genesis of Workday was Oracle’s acquisition of Peoplesoft in 2005, which was completed for $10.3 billion, after an 18-month wrestling match between the two companies. PeopleSoft, at the time, was the number two provider of enterprise software in the world. Workday was founded by Dave Duffield, the founder and former CEO of PeopleSoft, along with Aneel Bhusri, former PeopleSoft chief strategist. With this ‘clean sheet of paper,’ Workday has sought to take to a modern approach with Human Capital Management, & Financial Resource Management, against legacy providers, according to Stan Swete, Workday’s CTO, & former Peoplesoft veteran.

There were three defining core principals behind Workday’s formation, said Swete, during a #CXOTalk Google+ Hangout, on Friday, January 1oth, 2014. User experience was at the fore in the inception of Workday.

“We wanted to write applications that were easier for users to use, than existing enterprise applications” Swete said.

Swete cited that Workday desired to make these EnSW, Enterprise Software Applications, widely accessible to users. According to Swete, many EnSW solutions make the primary user the back office and not the individual employee. The second focus was to create applications that were easier to change, without a heavy financial burden for retooling. The third challenge Workday sought to address was the high cost of integration, by offering more support from the vendor side.

“I think we’re still breaking old habits from our on-premise enterprise days,” Swete said.

Workday has looked to the consumer market for user experience leadership. Swete credits Aneel Bhusri, Founder and Co-CEO of Workday, that from day one, they’ve focused on what the consumer internet companies are doing, as opposed to what other EnSW vendors are doing. Workday reacted, and continues to react, to an EnSW market that traditionally doesn’t set a high bar for user experience.

“There are these consumer internet applications that people don’t get trained on, change continuously, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of users access daily,” Swete said.

The technological backend of many EnSW applications is incredibly complex. As a result, making changes to that software comes at a high cost. Some EnSW applications are running on thousands, or tens-of-thousands of tables. But Workday runs on fewer than 20 tables, according to Swete. This makes regular improvements to the applications significantly less expensive and thereby, makes Workday’s product highly competitive. Workday updates their products twice a year.

“If you focus on what is essential for users, and draw them in, they’re going to be more ‘expert’ at getting to where they need to go, as opposed to maybe sitting and staring at a screen with seventy items on it, figuring out which item they have to fill out, to get what they want,” Swete pointed out.

Speaking to the ease of use, Charlie Isaacs, CTO for Customer Connection at Salesforce, jested on Twitter, “When I use Workday’s self-service capabilities I’m able to report myself to HR.”

Co-Host, and industry analyst, Michael Krigsman posed Zachary Jeans’ question from the #CXOTalk Twitter chat, “What is a positive cultural change you’ve seen in a company that has implemented a Workday solution?”

Swete responded that they’ve heard stories of companies initiating a 100% roll out and users finding their way around the applications prior to receiving their official training.

CXOTalk co-host Vala Afshar inquired of Swete, “How has adaptive mobile design challenged Workday’s design?”

“We’ve been on the iPhone for the last four and a half years. We’re native on the iPad. We have a solution for Android, and a HTML5 solution for other smartphones,” Swete replied. “As we do more mobile first design we’re seeing those designs feedback into to the browser experience.”

“I think we got kicked out of PeopleSoft at just the right time,” Swete said.


Vala Afshar & Michael Krigsman sit down with thought leaders to discuss their evolving industries every Friday at 3 pm EDT. Use #CXOtalk to join in the conversation via Twitter.

Workday is a publicly traded company. For official company information: Workday.com