Workday and Adaptive Insights: Summary Notes from Rising 18

Earlier this month, I traveled west to the City of Lights (Las Vegas) to attend Workday Rising 2018. No doubt, we all missed CEO Aneel Bhusri’s charismatic presence. But the show went on without a hitch for the 10,000+ who attended. This blog post summarizes some of the broader key themes, but primarily focuses on the key takeaways relative to the acquisition and integration of Adaptive Insights.

Key Growth Themes

It is very clear that Workday is pumping on all cylinders right now – with multiple growth levers driving ever higher performance across all segments of Workday’s main marketing mantra of “Plan, Execute and Analyze.” On the Execute front, this includes continuing to grow its core HCM and Financial Management solutions domestically, as well as a major push to expand its international presence. With 95% retention rates, its 2,300+ customer base is fueling the expansion of a broad cross-sell strategy, with a major emphasis to further round out the “Planning” and “Analytics” segments (focused on below). Rounding out its announcements, Workday introduced what could be a significant initiative it is calling the “Skills Cloud”, as well as further investments its data-as-a-service and benchmarking offerings, its emerging set of Cloud Platform services (both native and on AWS) and future products – all of which will be additive like Lego blocks stacked on top of each other.

Throughout the event, company leaders emphasized the emergence of Workday as the “Predictive Machine.” As we have seen with other significant cloud apps players (see Salesforce 18: And the Beat Goes On), Workday is now several years into its journey to add a machine learning (ML) fabric into the core of its solutions / platform to bring a new level of intelligence and predictive power for its users.

Workday’s Leighanne Levensaler shared in her opening keynote remarks that Workday is “taking a very pragmatic approach to making predictions” – at the same time that developing predictive models in HR and Finance are “more difficult than we initially thought.” This has driven a new hiring profile for the firm that emphasizes next-gen skills, and a better pairing of its growing army of data scientists with subject-matter (business) experts to make sure that they are targeting and solving the right problems. The net of it is that the new ML / predictive layer is clearly becoming table stakes for virtually all major Cloud apps players going forward – which will no doubt only increase customer value and customer stickiness.

Adaptive Insights

With its recent $1.55B acquisition only months behind it (see Workday And Adaptive Insights: A Strong Pairing), it wasn’t surprising that Workday’s plans for Adaptive Insights were front and center at the event.

First, and foremost, it was clear from the get-go that Workday wanted to calm any fears that Adaptive Insight’s existing customers may have – as it repeatedly emphasized that the product line would not be re-platformed, and Adaptive Insights would be managed as a totally separate business unit that leverages a common Workday back-office. The Adaptive Insights product and marketing teams stay intact, which will operate under the Adaptive Insights brand.

The BU is getting beefed up immediately, as the entire Workday Planning team heads over there. Best of breed capabilities and next-gen technology initiatives will be shared (both directions). It is clear that Adaptive Insights will remain a very viable, strong and independent offering for its 4,000+ customers which should help minimize deflections from its large customer base (including NetSuite customers).

As noted, Workday has multiple routes to market with Adaptive. Cross-selling Workday’s HCM and Financial Management solutions into Adaptive Insights upper-mid and large enterprise customer base should yield some quick and sustainable wins. In fact, almost half within Workday’s upper-mid and large-enterprise target zone (1,900 of 4,000) – and only 326 have Workday. While Workday’s direct sales force will focus on these larger accounts, Adaptive Insights highly tuned digital and inside sales driven go-to-market model will continue to target small-to-medium accounts.

No doubt, Workday will begin to aggressively market the Adaptive Insights Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) solution to its installed base of 2,300 upper-mid and large enterprise customers. While we anticipate high long-term penetration rates, at issue, however, is how rapidly customers will adopt – as several that we talked to indicated that they will move forward, but only after a wait of at least a year (until Workday fully works out its integration plans).

Adaptive Insights Integration Plans

Source: Workday Presentations, Rising 18

In a small group meeting with the Adaptive Insights CMO, Connie DeWitt emphasized that they have already begun work on a unified UI, and within 12-18 months, will have deployed a unified data model and security model that is consistent with the “Power of 1.” Just to be clear, the two offerings already had some level of data integration.

As the chart illustrates, in Workday 32 (due out in Spring 2019), the company will provide meta data integration that understands the Power of 1, and provides drill through to the data. In Workday 33 (due out next fall), it will provide drill through to objects, as well as Workday Prism Analytics data sharing and a unified look and feel.

I reached out to Ms. DeWitt after the conference to see if she could provide even greater clarity in regards to the integration plans. She emphasized that the goal is for “Workday customers [to be able to] seamlessly share data across Workday applications including Adaptive Insights, have a single security model, and a common user experience. We will not be doing this by re-writing or re-platforming Adaptive Insights, but rather by creating the right software services connections between Adaptive Insights and Workday.”

She went on to explain: “Fortunately Workday and Adaptive Insights share similar cloud-first in-memory architectures that make this transformation easier. We currently have data integration with Workday using a professional services-led approach. As we realize our Power of One roadmap, this will become a product-led unification that is seamless for Workday customers and will not disrupt our non-Workday customers in any way.”

It was clear from the various presentations and off-line discussions that technologies will be leveraged between the development teams, and where applicable they will bring together various capabilities such as their two report writers, leveraging the best of both worlds. Look for significant cross-“pollenization” of its machine learning investments, with PRISM Analytics heavily leveraged going forward.

Workday Planning and Financial Management

Adaptive Insights is now the de facto Planning engine for the company. In fact, Workday quickly launched an Adaptive Insights version of Workday Planning (to complement what it already does around Finance) as a firm declaration of its emerging strategy going forward, although it will keep the existing Workday Planning customer whole by continue to support the product for some time to come. We would anticipate a continued aggressive expansion of Adaptive Insights land-and-expand push into other functional markets (e.g., Sales, Marketing), as it positions itself as the primary competitor to Anaplan – in what otherwise is a highly competitive market (including SAP, Oracle, IBM et al).

In regards to Workday’s Financial Management suite, we gathered that it now has more than 500 customers, 60 of which are public companies that are live on the solution. Workday is likewise embedding machine learning capabilities directly into the product. They already offer solutions around expense reporting, account reconciliation and anomaly detection (in regards to payments), with plans to roll out many more in the coming months.

Lots of talk about moving toward “continuous accounting” or “continuous close” – with the advent of the Workday Accounting Center (to launch in 2020), with its ability to bring non-Workday operational data in through as journal entries, and the ability to trace all the way back to source transactions even if not originally on Workday. We just hope that there is some meat behind the slides in these regards.

Other odds and ends:

  • They made a big deal about the launch of Workday Assistant, but I didn’t see a lot different than what Salesforce is doing with Einstein.
  • Launched “Stories” which looked interesting.
  • Last year launched Worksheets – this year adding “Live Sheets” which provides a potentially powerful real-time presentation tool.

Wrap

While Workday is still very much focused on its core “Execute” offerings in the HCM and Financial Management segments – it is clear that it has expanded its vision significantly into “Plan” and “Analysis.” This provides a much bigger set of add-on opportunities into the base, but also brings with it the many sales challenges associated with a “big-bag”.

With “game-on” in the competitive race to add value from emerging ML fabrics across the broad Cloud apps pantheon, we hope that Workday stays focused on providing very specific / narrow predictive solutions across its primary functional targets, rather than general purpose capabilities.

Longer-term, we would not be surprised by additional strategic acquisitions that help accelerate market growth (especially around Supply Chain) – assuming they can find opportunities with the right cultural and architectural fit. But most we see a period of consolidation over the next 12-24 month (other than tuck-in technology acquisitions), as Workday works hard to make the most of its new go-to-market weapon to expand and grow the company.

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