Workday Rising: Witnessing the Incredible Growth of Workday

As I looked around a packed ballroom Tuesday during the keynote address at Workday Rising, my first thought was how much Workday has grown in just a year. Workday says there are more than 1,300 Rising attendees this year, up from 800 last year. I’m here with Kimberly-Clark CIO Ramon Baez, who also appeared in a great video played during the keynote, which my team watched on a live stream. It’s a special Rising for us at Kimberly-Clark, as it’s the first one we’re attending as a customer—we’ve already begun our global deployment of Workday across the company.

I enjoyed the presentations of both of Workday’s co-CEOs, and for different reasons. When Aneel Bhusri took the stage, he said something that for me really rang true: “You can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s technology.” I truly believe the sooner we all realize that, the more successful we’ll be. It’s something that takes courage to realize, as keeping up with innovations in technology requires a new way of thinking within organizations. Innovation of technology and innovation of thought go hand-in-hand.

Aneel’s remark also made me think of the incredible growth in functionality Workday has delivered in a short time. We started looking at Workday in 2008, when it was still a small company, and we saw some risks. Besides being so young, there were some gaps in functionality. Still, at that time, I already saw something special in Workday, and I believed those gaps would quickly close (I’m happy to report my prediction came true, and we became a Workday customer this year). I also believed Aneel’s philosophy that you have to start with a blank page to create next-generation technologies, and you could already see that philosophy playing out in the early stages of the product. Workday was so different from legacy solutions even back then.

Dave Duffield’s keynote address, meanwhile, reinforced my thoughts about the Workday ecosystem. He truly cares about customers, and that’s created a certain kind of culture that has extended to trusted relationships with customers. Talking with other Rising attendees, a common discussion point is that the partnerships Workday forms with customers and the transparency of its intentions is a real differentiator, and allows for greater product development in the end. There seems to be a whole methodology in place—Workday field strategists listen to what customers want, and the product gets updated based on that input combined with the vision of Workday’s product leadership team. What you need is actually delivered, which is quite amazing.

One of my favorite things about Workday is that all customers are on the same version, making it far easier to truly collaborate and have productive discussions with other customers. Which brings me to Workday 15, the update all customers will be live on in December, and what I find most interesting about this update:

  • Talent Reviews. It’s a new business process that Workday says is designed to make it easier to capture career and talent information about individual people within an organization. I see definite potential for this to make self-service much easier.
  • Workday for Outlook. I think we’ll really appreciate this at Kimberly-Clark, and many other customers will, too. It’s true that many organizations “live” within Microsoft Outlook for workforce communications.
  • Workday for Chatter. We use salesforce.com’s Chatter in different ways throughout Kimberly-Clark. We ask questions of one another and share information—I shared this video from Workday with other Kimberly-Clark employees on Chatter. Everyone’s looking for good workforce collaboration tools, and the combination of Workday and Chatter has promise.
  • Embedded analytics. Okay, this isn’t new to Workday, but I still love it. It’s about making Workday less of a system, and more of a conduit for giving managers the support they need at their fingertips to make better decisions.
  • Workday for iPad. Okay, also not entirely new, but…Wow! That’s all I need to say!

Wednesday’s keynote, meanwhile, was delivered by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, captain of what many have called the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when he safely landed a passenger plane on the Hudson River after a flock of birds killed the engines, saving the lives of all 155 passengers.

Captain Sullenberger’s address was gripping, to say the least. He talked about the event, which took place over just a few minutes yet required incredible calm and leadership, and even discussed openly his own personal challenges in the aftermath of that traumatic event. He also talked about values, and how they impact each and every interaction we have with others. I loved this statement from Captain Sullenberger: “Leaders drive values, values drive behaviors, and behaviors drive performance.” It’s that kind of culture that allows companies and organizations to make a difference. I think Workday is making a difference in its space, which is why I’m thrilled we chose Workday for our global human capital management deployment.