What's the news: Workday did a soft launch of its new PaaS capabilities at its partners conference earlier in the year. The announcement was short of details, as Workday likely did not want to steal any thunder from its major yearly event, Workday Rising, to be held later this fall (see the blog here).


Why it matters: Workday has long held the record of most closed major SaaS property in the market. The moniker was something along the lines that “SaaS knows no customization”. A valid point, but only to the degree that enterprises must be able to run their business. At the moment enterprises can’t run their business anymore the pressure on vendors grows very quickly to provide better extension, customization and sometimes even stand-alone software building options. With Workday now offering the beginnings of a PaaS strategy, enterprises will gain more flexibility to make sure their Workday system fits with the specific, sometimes even unique needs. Moreover, hence it was announced at the partner conference, partners can undertake more extensions, potentially even build their own assets that can / could be re-used over their client’s boundaries.

MyPOV – Workday has been the longest hold out in regards of PaaS of all major SaaS players. May it be for the lack of customer pressure, may it be for the extensive customization past of Peoplesoft, Workday executives only saw the need for PaaS enough to make it a product offering in … 2017. Any industry observer may remember 2014, when Oracle made it the ‘fall of PaaS’, and I asked CEO Bhusri back ten if Workday had any plans…. And the answer was no plans, and then – if ever – only for a PaaS with a little ‘p’. I interpreted the little ‘p’ PaaS as a PaaS platform with the focus on integration and extension – versus the capital ‘P’ PaaS that allows to build stand-alone applications. Probably a valid separation and good for Workday to tackle the first two use case for an enterprise vendor’s past first.

Overall this was a key move by Workday, as we currently see enterprises operate in the era of business process uncertainty: Previously well-established best practices are being challenged by new technology capabilities, that empower the competition for the new best practices of the 21st century. But that’s a time for experimentation, that is challenge for all SaaS vendors – who prefer to build the same software for 1000s of customers. But when the best practices is not clearly defined, PaaS is the life insurance both for a vendor and an enterprise: When the solution does not fully fit, or is even missing, then the vendor’s PaaS is a welcome alternative for both sides to get what they want: The enterprise the fitting and needed software, the vendor the license and usage of the rest of its SaaS software.

CxO Advice – This is good news for CHROs, who previously may have had a challenging time to convince their CTO and CIO colleagues that they could use Workday for Finance, HCM etc. – no matter what the future holds. Now the ‘PaaS safety blanket’ gives the needed flexibility and peace of mind to CxOs when it comes to extending Workday, and potentially building individual pieces of automation. As with all new offerings, Constellation recommends to wait for the announcement dust to settle, understand the first capabilities of the product, see which enterprises are adopting it, learn from experiences, ask for the roadmap and then chart your enterprise course – where uptake and usage may be at a certain point. As with all enterprise software based PaaS vendors, considerations also need to be take in regards of an overall PaaS strategy for the enterprise and how many different PaaS an enterprise is willing (and required) to use.