Constellation Insights

Workday Rising day one recap: Some 8,500 attendees converged on Chicago's McCormick Place convention center for Workday Rising 2017 this week, a number that reflects the cloud HCM vendor's steady march toward $2 billion in annual revenue. The event showcased Workday's status as a well-established, fast-growing yet mature cloud vendor focused on customer loyalty and acquisition as well as technology innovations. Here are some of the highlights.

Taking on ADP, Cornerstone with Workday Benchmarking: Workday is delivering on an announcement made at last year's Rising conference with Workday Data-as-a-Service. The initial product is Workday Benchmarking, which uses customer-authorized, anonymized data to generate industry-specific performance metrics.

Workday is going up against the likes of payroll giant ADP and Cornerstone OnDemand with its benchmarking service. It claims advantages such as unification with its application suite, pricing (benchmarking is included with Workday customers' subscriptions), and greater flexibility.

Available benchmarks include workforce composition, turnover and career retention, leadership and manager effectiveness and financial management.

POV: Workday may characterize the benchmarking service as free, but customers are providing something of great value with their employee data—albeit with controls in place to preserve privacy. Workday has more than 1,800 customers and among them some of the world's largest companies. While it's new to the benchmarking business, the potential obviously exists for it to build an impressive corpus of anonymized data that can generate trusted results. Overall, it's a good move by Workday, notes Constellation VP and principal analyst Holger Mueller: "Enterprises need benchmarking to replace gut feel with data and see where they really are."

Peering into Prism Analytics: In July 2016, Workday acquired big data platform startup Platfora. It used Platfora's assets to build out a new service called Workday Prism Analytics, which can crunch both Workday and third-party data for analysis and insights.

Workday had offered a Hadoop-based analytics service since 2013, but it lacked the ability to slice and dice third-party data to an appreciable degree. Prism Analytics remedies this and was designed in conjunction with Workday customers such as Hitachi and Thomson Reuters. It's also integrated with Workday's financial, HCM, planning and benchmarking apps. Here are a couple of the potential use cases for Prism, as described by Workday:

· Financial Forecasting – To align sales strategies with financial forecasting, a general manager of an insurance company could access reports that merge financial data in Workday with sales pipeline data, enabling her to understand current growth rates and how the opportunity backlog might impact future revenue.

· Revenue – When reporting on performance, a financial planning analyst at a retailer can drill into reports that combine finance data from Workday with data from a point-of-sale system to quickly analyze profitability by store, region, or product line.

POV: Workday's announcement says Prism is in limited availability now, but general availability isn't expected until the second half of next year. Customers are running Prism live and in production today, VP of product and engineering Pete Schlampp said during a keynote talk. Future versions of Prism will include self-service analytics capabilites for business users.

By Workday's own admission, the first iteration of Prism won't be fully baked until a minimum of two years after the Platfora acquisition. Constellation will make inquiries during Rising as to why this is the case, but without context the timeline seems a bit prolonged. One thing is for certain: Workday has a long track record of delivering user-friendly software and there's no reason to believe anything will be different with Prism. Another year or so of co-innovation with customers before the GA release should also help.

Workday Cloud Platform: The day one Rising keynote closed out with a brief presentation on Workday's PaaS (platform as a service) offering, which underwent a soft launch with partners earlier this year. Workday's PaaS, for now at least, is closely coupled to its core application and processes, rather than being a general-purpose app-dev platform.

Workday has always offered strong configuration capabilities, but the PaaS—which the company resisted moving toward for years after competitors already had—provides the ability to create entirely new applications with the Workday design sensibility and security model that can leverage core application data.

Constellation expects Rising to serve as an educational opportunity for Workday customers and partners on its PaaS strategy. Go here for Constellation VP and principal analyst Holger Mueller's deeper take on Workday PaaS.