5 Ways Continuous Development Benefits Workday Customers

Last March, David Clarke penned an outstanding blog on Workday’s move to single codeline development, meaning we now use just one line of code for both our current release of Workday and features we’re developing for our next release. Most importantly, this move has transformed our development organization to one focused on continuous development. Having recently completed our delivery of Workday 23, we have a full year of experience with this model, and I want to complement David’s blog with my perspective on why it is so fantastic for our customer community.

Here are five ways our customers are seeing the benefits of continuous development:

Greater collaboration on new features. An important part of continuous development has been the addition of a preview tenant for customers. They’ve always had their own production tenant—the live Workday tenant used at their organizations every day—as well as a sandbox tenant where customers can test reconfigurations (such as the rerouting of a business approval process) to see how they will look and work prior to going into production.  Late last year we added a preview tenant for each customer, which they can use to test newly developed product features using a copy of their own production systems and provide us with feedback.

We have been extremely pleased with the results of this collaboration with customers using the preview tenants. Customer feedback has increased in quality and quantity as they can see the impact of new features in the context of their unique configurations and data. Because we update these tenants every week, we are able to iterate at a pace that is phenomenal for the enterprise software space. The preview tenants (which come with updated documentation and translations) have allowed many of our customers to get a jump on training and job aids prior to new features becoming available in production.  They also give us improved statistics on how features might be used and how they might perform in production.

Faster response to regulatory and compliance changes. Continuous development also helps us to be very responsive to changes in government regulations and compliance.  We can make updates to support new and changing laws in the preview tenant, verify with customers, and then turn on those changes in production.

Reduced downtime. Because we are toggling the visibility of features from development to preview and then from preview to production, and all necessary conversions run in background mode, we have been able to reduce downtime for customers when they move from one Workday feature release to the next. Downtime for Workday 23 was approximately 6 hours, contrasted with our pre-continuous development updates when it took at least 24 hours for the transition (and even that was a phenomenal accomplishment and improvement when compared to the on-premise software world).

Delivery of new features off cycle without disruption. Another great benefit of this model is our ability to deliver key new features to our customers off cycle (between our numbered Workday feature releases) when it makes sense to do so.  When making decisions on what to deliver off cycle, we try to balance customers’ desires for new functionality as soon as it’s available against the potential disruption of absorbing those features.  If customers want to take advantage of features that become available between releases, they must take an action to “opt in” for a new feature. For those who don’t, they can wait until they are ready. For customers who want to minimize changes and only test new features at predetermined times, we target two five-week periods per year for this testing in their preview tenants.

More time spent innovating. Finally, this model allows us to focus the lion’s share of our product management, development, and QA effort on delivering continuous innovation to our customers instead of maintaining multiple codelines. We avoid the inherent complexity of moving changes around and trying to figure out how those changes might work in various environments.  In Workday 23, we added over 90 new features that were proposed by customers through our Brainstorm process on the Workday Community site. That brings the total to over 800 features coming out of Brainstorm in just over four years.

We are constantly working to improve our service, delivery, and customer communications.  I welcome your thoughts on continuous development one year into the journey!