Talking Vertical: Workday’s Approach to Industries

John Webb, VP of industry strategy and alliances at Workday, leads a team that works with customers and product teams to develop industry-specific features and applications. Webb has spent his career focused on developing and delivering enterprise applications, and  we sat down with him to learn more about Workday’s industry strategy, and what makes Workday—and our customers—unique in how we approach this effort.

You spend a lot of time with customers. What are you learning from those conversations?

It’s always enlightening to hear why they chose Workday, and rewarding to hear how their decisions are continually validated through their Workday experiences. I’ve also found that working with customers is much simpler and more productive at Workday, because all of our customers are on the same version of our applications.

Every company is dealing with substantial change in some way, whether it’s industry consolidation, new regulations, and new types of competitive pressures. Customers chose Workday because they recognized our applications could help them adapt to change more quickly than legacy systems. As their industry-specific needs evolve, they know they have a partner that will invest in understanding their challenges and help them stay ahead of change.

How does Workday support the specific needs of customers across different industries?

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John Webb, VP Industry Strategy and Alliances

Workday has always worked closely with customers to understand their industry-specific needs. From the very beginning we architected our solution to make it configurable for industries, and each update has provided progressively deeper industry capabilities. For example, several years ago we delivered a grants management application for education and government customers, and then followed up with Workday Student starting in 2014.  When we delivered our Workday 23 update a year ago, Workday Financial Management included a broad range of new industry features for  financial services, software and Internet services, educational institutions, governments, and non-profits, and this past April we began offering  Workday Professional Services Automation.

My team’s focus is to build on top of that solid foundation and accelerate the creation of industry-specific products and functionality. For example, we’ve spent a lot of time understanding the needs of healthcare providers. The result was our announcement last month about new supply chain management features coming in Workday Procurement, and the availability this fall of Workday Inventory in Workday 25. Over the next year and beyond, you’ll see more applications and features that focus on other industries and their requirements.

What are you most excited about in regards to Workday’s industry strategy?

We’re in a really unique spot, because Workday is so different from the traditional enterprise software vendors and how they handle industry-specific functionality. The traditional way is to develop industry extensions, which are essentially applications bolted on to a core technology stack. Across customer bases, customers can be on different versions of the technology stack and different versions of the extensions. Sometimes these extensions have come from acquired vendors with an entirely different user experience. This adds a lot of unnecessary complexity, time, and cost for both customers and traditional software vendors.

All that said, being in the cloud with all customers on a single version is only part of the equation. Our business process framework makes it much easier to configure applications to support different industries, and in a way that best suits customers’ business needs without coding or customization work from their IT departments. As a cloud-only provider, we continually deliver updates that help customers quickly adapt to change, such as support for new regulations impacting their industries. Our applications are unified, so real-time operational data can be accessed and analyzed from anywhere to help support business decisions. The sum of all this is that we’re able to do things for customers we couldn’t previously imagine in the enterprise software industry.

In what ways do customers influence Workday products?

There are multiple ways customers can collaborate with us and influence products. All customers have access to Workday Community Brainstorm, where they can submit and vote on ideas that are then evaluated by our product management team. Hundreds of those ideas have made their way into Workday products and updates in recent years.

Customers can get involved more intensively by participating in our industry advisory councils, made up of 10 to 15 customer representatives that meet with us multiple times per year to discuss how Workday products can best serve their specific industries. Some council members take their involvement a step further by participating in our design partner groups, working with our product management team on the details of product design.

No matter what level people choose to participate, these relationships are incredibly valuable and help us to develop the best industry-specific products we can for our customers.