Workday’s Services Partner Ecosystem: How We’re Different

At Workday we talk a lot about how our architecture and cloud applications were designed to avoid a lot of the problems of legacy ERP software. Yet another big differentiator I think is important to communicate is how the Workday partner ecosystem also was designed to be better for our customers.

What’s different about our approach struck me when I attended my first Workday Altitude, our annual partner conference. The first day I sat at a table for lunch and several other people joined me, including two consultants from competing firms. It turns out they knew each other—they had done their initial Workday training and certification together and had worked together on a customer deployment (which I found interesting, because it’s rare for competitors to work together for the same client in the legacy software world).

When the conversation turned to their current clients, things got particularly interesting. The consultants did not start off by asking each other which products their customers were using or what versions. They just talked about the business challenges they were facing and shared suggestions with each other about how to deal with them.

It was a very different dialogue than I had seen with most other software ecosystems. It was another manifestation of the power of one—because we have a single version of Workday and all of our consultants are trained on the same methodology and tools, we can more easily work together for the benefit of our customers. It would be hard to imagine the same conversation happening between partner consultants of one of our legacy competitors.

My experience at Workday Altitude was the first glimpse of what I have come to learn about our partner ecosystem since joining Workday two years ago, and how unique it is from the legacy partner ecosystems. There’s a lot more to this differentiation.

A Modern Partner Ecosystem

In the traditional business software world, vendors often talk about how many partners or consultants they have in their ecosystems as a measure of success. However, numbers do not tell the full story (or even the right story).

While smart customers look beyond the numbers to understand the principles that drive an ecosystem, that has not changed practices in the legacy ERP world—it still is the “wild, wild, West” where anyone who reads a book about a product and can spell the vendor’s name can hang out a shingle as a consultant. The designation of “certified” consultant in that world doesn’t necessarily carry more credibility, since that often just requires paying any fees and successfully completing the initial training.

At Workday we think differently about certification. We do not allow certification of individual consultants—you must be an employee of a partner company to become a Workday certified consultant. This allows us to maintain quality. Since we provide software as a service, we know exactly who the partner and consultants are for every one of our Workday customer deployments.

Having Skin in the Game

Also different is our approach to customer engagement—it’s very important to us to have “skin in the game.” We achieve this with a service we call Delivery Assurance: If it is a partner-led project, we work with the partner and the customer to review project plans, configurations, and integrations to make sure we all have a clear expectation of what the customer wants to accomplish so that what’s delivered will meet expectations. It also gives us a view into how partner-led deployments are progressing. Our view is that if a software vendor is not engaged in the deployment, it can’t understand and proactively help customers when challenges arise. Delivery Assurance also provides us feedback into our training and certification program to help us continuously improve.

Some software vendors do not have deployment partners and do all of that work themselves. They do know what is happening on their deployments so can better control quality, but the software vendor as implementer may not always be the best choice for customers. Customers can have very different needs based on scope of the solution, the complexity of their organizations, and the business outcomes they are trying to achieve. It is difficult for a vendor’s consultants to be all things to all people. We have selected partners that represent a wide range of expertise and services to give customers choice while putting the right governance in place to drive quality. We think this gives customers the best of both worlds.

We built our ecosystem the way it is because we knew it would be the best way to help our customers be successful. Our focus is and always will be on what is best for our customers.

Read part two of my blog post tomorrow, where I’ll dive deeper into how Workday defines certification for consultants.