Workday’s Approach to Integrations, Part 1: Q&A with Sonal Nuckols

As a Workday enterprise architect, Sonal Nuckols works with prospects and existing customers on how their Workday applications are secured, how they communicate with other applications, and helps them determine resource requirements to get the most out of their application investments.

Her job requires a lot of listening to understand what a customer needs and answering questions about what customers can expect during deployment. One of the biggest topics in those conversations is integrating Workday with other applications. In the first part of a two-part interview, we asked Sonal about how integrations work, the tools we offer, and what we do to make integrations as easy for customers as possible.

Why are integrations important, and how does Workday approach them?

For an enterprise to get the most value from its technology investments, it needs to be able to connect multiple applications and data sources so they can seamlessly exchange data and processes quickly and with a high degree of quality. Each customer has a different set of existing software and systems, potentially with multiple applications working together. These could be systems inside the corporate network or outside to third parties, such as benefit providers or banks. Integrating these different components is a critical job for any IT department; doing it effectively requires technology expertise and an understanding of an organization’s business needs.

At Workday, we understand that customers deploy our applications alongside other applications, and we’ve factored the need for interoperability into how we develop our products. Workday provides a built-in framework for integration that enables a customer to be agile in how these systems are connected with Workday applications. This framework allows for multiple entry points to create these integrations with connectors, wizards, or a full-blown integrated development environment (IDE). Any of these can be used, based on the users’ skill level.

The simplicity is really in how integrations are deployed and maintained over the life of the service. This is done by making it a part of the Workday Cloud. This is huge for IT organizations, and it frees up their resources, takes into consideration the entire system as a whole, and shifts their thinking around systems at large. Ideally, we are creating a modern and agile information system that supports and drives the changing competitive and/or global aspirations of the business.

What are the biggest customer concerns around application integrations?

Quite often the concerns are specific to the “how” of integrations—how customers access data and move it between Workday and their existing applications. The best part of my job is getting to look at the customer’s system as a whole and figure out how to move information securely between applications as data changes in real-time.

We’ve factored the need for interoperability into how we develop our products

We offer a toolset based on standard Web services which customers and partners can use to build and maintain their integrations, and we’ve grown that toolset over the years. We also offer Cloud Connect, a set of templates for integrations with other vendors’ applications that are commonly used across our customer base. We let customers know that our goal is to get them live on Workday as quickly as possible, and to ensure that integrations scale and perform over the long term.

What advice would you give a customer on how to prepare for integrations between Workday and other applications?

First, identify and catalog the critical integrations that need to be operational when you go live on Workday. Make sure you know what’s most important.

Second, find the people in your organization to lead the charge in building and supporting integrations before, during, and after you go live. Being in the trenches together provides the invaluable benefit of being able to transfer knowledge. Having cross-functional groups working with innovative and modern technologies will also open up new opportunities for your organization to continue to modernize and enrich your systems.

In the second part of this series, we’ll talk with Sonal about how to simplify integrations and the importance of open standards.