Workday: Living in an HR and finance cloud

Image: Other Photography/Adobe Stock

A cloud computing instance is a “clump” of compute and storage located in a data center, typically on a blade server, often with optimizations for specific use case types. The entire package is delivered under a specific license agreement, but some clouds target specific line-of-business use cases. So how would they differ and what kind of special features might they offer?

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Pete Schlampp, Workday’s chief strategy officer, sought insight into this topic and tailored the analysis to the subject matter at hand. He used his appearance at his company’s recent annual user conference to explain what life in a cloud for human resources and financial management services could be like.

During Workday Rising Europe, held this month in Stockholm, Schlampp met with press and analysts to explain where his company’s platform is headed next and what factors might be converging to shape this vision of a cloud for people and finance to build.

The staff conundrum

To first unravel the HR conundrum, let’s use the term HR in its broadest sense – i.e. to also include the notion of what is known as human capital management, a means of managing the value, value and condition of the workforce throughout the employee lifecycle, in typically via a cloud-based platform.

For the sake of completeness, let’s also say that a financial cloud is a set of services designed to handle a company’s accounting and financial needs, and not a cloud specifically tailored for the capital markets and trading space.

As a specialist in enterprise cloud applications for HR and finance, the Workday Enterprise Management Cloud is one of the company’s flagship go-to-market offerings. Schlampp and his team used the event to show how their platform is now expanding through the use of industry accelerators, pre-built connections and pre-tuned solutions designed to help clients get HR and finance operations running faster and more effectively in the cloud .

Working with key partners like KPMG, Deloitte, Accenture and PWC, Workday is building HR and finance clouds by leveraging the combined knowledge and expertise of these companies across industries to help customers solve complex business challenges and to transform the way they manage these important businesses.

This means that an HR and finance cloud, while still a cloud, is a cloud instance and a set of services designed to exist and work in what may be a highly regulated industry, where digital initiatives are emerging are always associated with particular limitations and challenges.

Transformation, first steps

“Companies come to Workday and our partners and say, ‘Hey, I have a business problem, I need to make a change,'” Schlampp said. “It’s not just about the software. It’s about how they transform the business itself. The first thing we do with these companies is get them onto our digital platform so they can transform their business in an agile way, and our partners play an important role because they have worked with a variety of other companies that are in in the same place, and they’ve seen how to change processes and do it successfully on top of Workday.”

We’re getting closer to how an HR and finance cloud works, but these are still relatively crude things that could apply to any digital transformation scenario at this stage. Where do the personnel-specific elements come to the fore and how are they dealt with?

For HR scenarios in the banking industry, Workday has designed its cloud offering to meet the sector’s stringent reporting and accounting requirements. Workday Financial Management and Workday Accounting Center solutions combine with partner-developed products to provide financially reconciled data with regulatory reporting capabilities to streamline operations.

For healthcare, Workday’s Industry Accelerator was designed to specifically address the sector’s financial and talent resource needs. It was developed to offer supply chain management functions such as: B. the possibility to automate the validation of medical cards. In other words, it helps get new caregivers on the ground faster.

Deeper granularity of functions

Looking at a practical application of the technology shown here, Workday’s Schlampp explained some of the processes at an even deeper level of granularity.

“Let’s say we have a CFO who’s trying to close their books at the end of the quarter,” Schlampp explained. “They’ve got a bunch of transactions in the ledger and they’re like, ‘Hey, this one seems potentially duplicated. Could it be a typing error?’ We can uncover this record in Workday and investigate whether they are two different suppliers with names spelled slightly differently that may appear as one entity. This is the kind of capability we’re talking about here, and not being able to do that can really slow down a company.”

Workday points to a key USP in its service and reiterates the fact that all live customers are using the same version of its software. In the truest sense of the word, every single customer worldwide always uses the same version of the software. According to Schlampp, this means that each user touches and uses only a single data model at a time, powered by the company’s machine learning algorithm.

This is important because different customers may use different versions of the core software for users of other merchandise management systems with HR and finance functions. From Schlampp’s perspective, it’s important to talk about apples and apples, not apples and oranges, when it comes to people and money.

Data exchange across commonalities

As the technology that extends this HR and finance cloud concept outward into the realm of data sharing, Workday has a lot of impact on the game. The company’s Innovation Services Addendum is described as a key enabler for adopting Workday Skills Cloud. ISA is an opt-in that allows customers to take advantage of advanced technologies and intelligent applications such as ML and analytics.

Applying these technologies to people and building an enterprise management cloud is a difficult task. Schlampp described a scenario where a company might have some common industry elements, but many more that might be completely specific to just one operation. Applying ML to these scenarios is much more complicated, and Workday has invested most of the last decade in research and development in this area.

Is Workday acknowledging that parts of its data center inventory are being pre-provisioned for specific HR functions and specific finance functions that would be less efficient if applied to other business needs?

“We specifically developed cloud-based human capital management software and are the first company to do this at large enterprise scale,” said Schlampp. “We are leaders in this area. I would say it’s different from a finance cloud because some customers use our HR applications but not finance applications… Ultimately, these two systems are actually on servers that touch in the data center and they share the same data model.”

bypass metropolitan areas

Workday’s message here is that all of its applications work better together, and they work better than any conglomeration of legacy vendor products in an inevitably looser arrangement.

While it’s often difficult to get a technology vendor to really explain what they’re doing outside of the context of their own platform, Workday has done a fairly comprehensive job of explaining real functionality in real applications in real cloud instances – in this one Case HR and finance ones. Count people and money.

The cloud is overcast. Check out more cloud event news with these breaking reports from AWS re:Invent 2022 and Google Next ’22.

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