Workday Technology
Apr 12 · 6 min read

By Aidan Molloy, Sr Product Manager, Platform & Infrastructure Product Management, Workday

Start your Journey with a Map

A key product management skill is storytelling, especially true for highly technical products. It’s one of the best ways to convey your product’s value in a simple and easy-to-understand way, and it can be a major tool to align different groups with your team’s mission and vision. Describing the evolution of your product, explaining challenges faced, decisions made, and resulting outcomes is a powerful way to demonstrate the value provided to customers.

I’m the product manager for a collection of services known as the Workday Grid. The Grid is Workday’s job execution platform, and it helps run some of Workday’s largest workloads. For the Grid (and many other Workday services with a long history), succinctly summarizing our product’s lifecycle is a primary way to explain its growing value to our customers over time. My team and Iain Hull, principal development engineer (@IainHull), introduced me to Simon Wardley’s Value Chain Mapping as a tool to help describe the product history and value.

As I researched and learned more about Wardley’s mapping approach, I discovered it to be incredibly useful for telling the Workday Grid product story.

Any map should be able to show you where you are at present against a reference point, and where you are trying to get. A Wardley Map uses the customer as a reference point or anchor, so you can outline the main interactions of the customer with your product in terms of value. The X-axis moving from right to left defines the product’s evolution or lifecycle in terms of maturity from beginning to full utility/commodity, and the Y-axis handles visibility of components and their perceived value. The mapping process facilitates breaking the product into components, which allows you to highlight the different value propositions for your customers. This, in turn, applies focus to what is important in a competitive market.

I’ll demonstrate how I used a Wardley Map to reconstruct the past and present of the Workday Grid, gaining the knowledge to take my product into the future, better positioned in the constantly-changing technical and competitive landscape.

Mapping the Past

Learning about a product’s past gives you a better understanding of how it has evolved to where it is today. Using a Wardley Map in this context, I found that you can track the key decisions over the lifetime of the product. The Workday Grid was created to cater to various customer integrations, which can be defined as a programmed use-case involving interaction between Workday and one or more external services.

Wardley Map — Workday Grid 2010 etc.

The first map (above) outlines the genesis of the Grid in 2010. Workday needed to create a standard and repeatable way to run these integrations, using standard, underlying components such as storage and resource allocation. Reuse of commodity products like the new, growing Amazon Web Services (AWS) provided an attractive technology solution. But even though it made sense from a technical perspective, at the time, many customers were simply not ready to move to the public cloud. It was too early — a normal reaction to emerging technology, with lack of understanding, limited availability, and security concerns hampering adoption across all industries.

It’s important to outline the development challenges that were faced back then, and to tell an honest story of the product. In order for customers to use our solution, we moved the storage and resource allocation back into the Workday data centers, and developed it there. This involved a lot more than software engineering; it required servers to be deployed, and all the associated costs and effort that come with them. We also needed to productize the platform API to ensure we continued to scale in parallel with limited resources.

Mapping the Present

After completing the Grid features targeting initial customer needs, the product needed to transition to address platform scale. Here, the Wardley Map highlights areas of the product in a custom-built state. The team worked quickly to evolve towards a commodity platform offering, increasing value and overall adoption. Customers recognized the value of a platform over a custom-built solution.

Wardley Map — Workday Grid 2012 etc.

As the platform scaled, so did customer confidence. And as a result, new use cases began to emerge. At that point, the Grid could diversify its offerings, by tailoring the job scheduling for more advanced use cases that could be deployed and modified using well known, repeatable methods.

Job scheduling of increasingly similar integrations provided opportunities for breaking the single service into distinct microservices — all being maintained by Grid architecture catered to the Workday tenant lifecycle. The important takeaway is that the Grid lets customers focus on their application, without worrying about other items such as hardware, lifecycle, dynamic scaling and capacity planning. They can run integrations by simply adding them to the platform.

Additionally, the Grid leveraged a much more productized offering on storage and resource allocation.

Wardley Map — Workday Grid 2016 etc.

Mapping the Future

Every product manager must be acutely aware of what features need to be built in order to stay relevant in a constantly changing technical environment. You should embrace this change! As new technologies arise, be ready to take advantage of them to further your overall product vision. At its core, the Grid is made up of two main components, job and resource allocation. The introduction of Kubernetes, with its exceptional resource scheduling, provided us an opportunity to review our offering and ensure relevance in a changing environment. So we decided to develop a strategy for leveraging this new technology.

Wardley Map — Workday Grid 2018 and beyond etc.

There is also a wider context of using Kubernetes as part of our offering. It effectively means we can now have a single developer and customer experience in the Workday data centers, and on AWS or any public cloud. And with the Grid being a more portable platform, our time to market is drastically reduced.

This will eventually provide customers the ultimate choice of where their data is stored and used. We know that customers appreciate this greater flexibility and transparency on demand. We continuously review our offering and prioritize customer needs at the top of our decision making.

Conclusion

Wardley Mapping can help you construct a living story of your product, continuously monitor emerging technology and competitors, and communicate customer value over time. I recommend this technique to other product managers to better understand their product history and evolve their product strategy.

Resources:

More information on Wardley Mapping: https://medium.com/wardleymaps.

Simon Wardley on Twitter: @swardley

Recent article reference:

https://evolve.hiredthought.com/

Events that you can attend to see how others leverage maps for a range of topics, with further details here: https://www.map-camp.com/

About The Author

Aidan Molloy is a Senior Product Manager responsible for a number of products within the Workday Grid, ensuring Workday continues to scale and orchestrate across a number of platforms such as Kubernetes, AWS, VMware and Openstack. He holds a B.Sc; Honours Degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering and is currently studying for his Msc in Strategy and Innovation from Maynooth University School of Business.

Twitter: aidan_molloy

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aidanmolloy/

Workday Technology

The Workday Technology Blog is a collaboration of engineers, product managers, and designers at Workday to share and discuss best practices, lessons learned, and innovative solutions for the next wave of technology products.

Workday Technology

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Workday Technology

The Workday Technology Blog is a collaboration of engineers, product managers, and designers at Workday to share and discuss best practices, lessons learned, and innovative solutions for the next wave of technology products.

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