SaaS ERP: In the Foxhole with Customers

I learned of a recent exchange between the CEO at a prominent Workday customer and a CEO from a company we hoped to gain as a customer. The first CEO asked the other, which vendor “do you want in the foxhole with you?” He then added (and I paraphrase), “Because at the end of the day, it is all about competitive advantage. Any enterprise system you put in should help you achieve greater competitive advantage.”

At Workday, we are in the foxhole fighting the battle for our customers alongside their HR, IT, and Finance teams—in ways that I believe set us apart from the competition. That’s because in today’s economy, customers’ competitive advantage comes from knowing and effectively managing talent—their defining business resources. That’s difficult in a world where business models are constantly shifting, regulatory changes abound (with some threatening serious disruptions), and organizational complexity is increasing.That is what I believe our customer CEO was looking to communicate to the prospect (who has since joined the Workday customer community).

Great communications with our customers, of course, is key to fighting the good fight. Just a few weeks ago we hosted our HCM Product Advisory Council meeting here in Pleasanton, California. Eighteen HR executives from our customer community took time out of their busy schedules to spend a day to have frank conversations with our senior product executives about development priorities. We covered a lot of ground and learned from each other. (It was also just a lot of fun—something we value here at Workday.)

I know every enterprise solution provider claims to be a great “partner,” but I would argue that we have a compelling case as to why Workday is different. For one, we all take our cues from our co-founder, Dave Duffield, an extraordinary advocate for customers and employees (unlike I have ever encountered in business). Many know that the Dave “factor” has contributed to the success of several companies in the HCM space, so this should not be surprising.

The second, and less-talked-about customer benefit of SaaS, is the symbiotic nature of the relationship between solution provider and customers as a result of the delivery model. It is not a relationship in which software is shipped and maintenance revenue is collected annually. Rather, as a real SaaS provider we must continuously engage with our customers. We have three product updates a year and no customer is ever left behind. We are actively involved in the communication, testing, planning, and updating for each and every customer. This model of frequent updates also allows us to respond to external impacts and customer feedback. Our current customers have a significant impact in the development of our product roadmap.

During our HCM Product Advisory Council, we asked our customers about their current challenges. We learned about how they are dealing with changing business conditions; if and how they were looking to grow in emerging markets; and how they are handling growth with continuing cost constraints. We talked about increased regulations, and increased use (for many) of contingent workers.

HCM Product Advisory Council

We also asked our Council members to share their top HR initiatives, and this is what they said:

  • Differentiation of global talent practices to attract and retain the best.
  • Providing better workforce intelligence.
  • Putting workforce intelligence in the hands of the people that need it the most—the business users.
  • Reducing the cost of HR service delivery.
  • Simplifying employee and manager experiences.
  • Increasing HR service levels.

Through our exchange of ideas, it was very clear that our Council members are laser-focused on business results, innovation, and are committed to continuous improvement. Plus, they are exactly the type of people with whom WE want to be with “in the foxhole.”