Interview With Workday Labs Director Joe Korngiebel

The term “Enterprise 2.0” has evolved over the years from the original idea of using blogs and wikis in business, to incorporate that very powerful thing we call social networking. TechWeb is hosting the “Enterprise 2.0 2010” conference in Santa Clara, Calif., this week, where the focus is on technologies that “liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email.”

At Workday, there’s no better person to talk to about Enterprise 2.0 than Joe Korngiebel, Director of Workday Labs. Joe is constantly thinking about and working with modern technologies that support new and better ways for people to work together. So I got Joe on the phone and asked his thoughts on how Enterprise 2.0 concepts can best serve companies, and to share some of what’s going on in Workday Labs.

Hayes Weier: The focus of the Enterprise 2.0 conference is on technologies that liberate people from “legacy” tools like email. So what do you think—is email a legacy tool?

Korngiebel: While it may be long in the tooth by today’s technology measures, email is still the de facto way that most businesses communicate, and you can’t turn your back on this enterprise workhorse. Take a look at Microsoft Outlook, with well over 450 million desktop installations throughout the world, according to litmusapp.com. While there’s been great progress on more powerful collaboration tools that I believe will eventually replace email, the key for us here at Workday is to help our customers find better ways to communicate and collaborate with their existing tools, as well as demonstrate the business value that the new wave of collaboration tools will provide.

In Workday Labs, one of our key focus areas is what we call the “natural workspace,” or the applications and devices where people go most days to get information, collaborate with others, and get work done. We want to deliver information and functionality to workers within their natural workspaces, so they don’t waste time jumping from application to application and device to device. Information will come to them, instead of people having to seek out the information that they need.

Hayes Weier: Can you provide a real world example?

Korngiebel: We’re offering customers a new way to connect Workday to Microsoft Outlook via our APIs. Our Workday Outlook Sidebar brings in all of the important information about your colleagues, including their contact numbers, IM addresses, business titles, and organization information, in context, to your email client as you click from email to email.

All of your Workday action items are also available, so if you have to approve an expense report or complete an HR business process, you can do it within your natural workspace. There also are enterprise-grade search capabilities incorporated into the sidebar−say you met someone in another department named Jack who had a great idea, but you can’t remember his last name. You can search for anyone named Jack within your company and find your great idea guy by his profile picture. You can look up your history of emails with a specific person in the sidebar, and even filter them by time period or content, to more quickly find the specific email you’re looking for.

Hayes Weier: Social networking has exploded on the consumer side with Facebook and Twitter. How can the enterprise best use social networking so that it improves communication and collaboration, rather than become a productivity drain?

Korngiebel: At Workday, we want to leverage the power of collaboration and support knowledge sharing in the context of work. In the areas of talent and performance management, for example, we’re working to incorporate communication directly into business processes so that people can provide their co-workers with feedback anywhere and anytime. So whether you’re on the go with your smartphone, in the office within Outlook on your PC, or directly within Workday, employees can provide feedback on a project, presentation, or any type of business activity. And it’s a two-way street: request and give feedback anytime, anywhere.

Hayes Weier: Can’t you do that now, by sending an employee and email, or calling your manager on the phone?

Korngiebel: Definitely, but then you have to find that email in your endless sea of emails, or sift through your voicemails and hope it didn’t get deleted. Then, you may have to move that information to a document or even a separate performance management application so that it’s available for your performance review. With Workday, the feedback starts and stays in your core human resource management system of record. You can view and search all the feedback you’ve requested and received, and as a manager, view and search all the feedback around a given employee when it comes to deciding on a bonus or a promotion alongside all of his or her other core HR data.

Hayes Weier: What do you consider some of the most exciting areas of development or experimentation for using technologies to “liberate” the workforce?

Korngiebel: One area we’re having some fun with is “voice-to-text,” or bringing voice commands into the workplace. That really hasn’t been exploited in the enterprise, and I think there’s a ton of potential there. The idea is to be able to communicate with your core enterprise transactional system with your voice to make approvals, request time off, and perform other day-to-day business transactions. The business-use case to quickly and efficiently interact with your enterprise system is powerful, because it’s an entry point capability in the path to building systems that are naturally responsive to where users are, what they’re doing, and the easiest way for them to interact.