On January 23rd Workday officially unveiled its Update 21 to the public in various webcasts, the details of the release can be found in the press release here. The new user interface was certainly the highlight of the release - but there was more - and Workday always packages its view on the release highlights on a website that can be found here.
A new user experience
With Update 21 Workday (finally) gets away with its decision to run its user interface on top of Adobe flex - a decision that in hindsight (that is always 20:20) - wasn't the best. It is never easy for enterprise software vendors to change user interfaces - first and foremost for their customer's users that need to learn a new user interface - but it is also a lot of work for the vendor. Even when you build on a declarative architecture as Workday says they do, it means testing and validating all the screens - not to mention the time to design and improve existing screen layouts. There are simply only so few hours and days between releases in the SaaS world - so moving the whole user experience is a huge task that the Workday team deserves kudos for.
Workday also seems to have gotten away with one of the major challenges of the previous user interface, mainly around piling up pop ups over each other. No enterprise application can probably exist without pop ups, but the current Workday user interface implementation of rolling the pop up over the existing user interface canvas is certainly an elegant approach to the usability challenge. Familiarity with consumer applications on smartphones and users mastering these user interface concepts, should certainly help.
|The new Workday start screen - from here|
Workday 21 is also the farewell to a marquee Workday user interface control - the wheel - that may have overstayed its welcome - sometimes its amazing how long certain interface elements can hang around. Workday has replaced the wheel with a pure list of icons - a user interface paradigm that scales much better to a dynamically growing enterprise application.
Moreover, Workday has implemented a new and more powerful search capability - which will certainly benefit line managers and HR professionals. It will require some getting used to though - as it breaks the habits of searching hierarchically through the data model - something not desirable - but users have been trained to do this for decades. It will be very interesting to hear user feedback on this new capability.
|The New Employee Profile - from here|
Lastly Workday also showed some improvements to smartphone and tablet user interfaces - not that intrusive and advanced as the browser interfaces - but continued progress. Not surprisingly the user experience between browser and mobile / tablet differ - and Workday said that in 2014 that will be something to harmonize. That harmonization will certainly by important for the upcoming recruiting functionality - that was designed along the mobile first credo - but users will certainly use both the browser and their mobile device. And Workday already opened more of the same challenge with Update 21 - enabling managers to hop back and forth between browser and mobile device during the performance management process. The more seamless and smooth Workday can make the user transition between the platforms - the more a win for their users.
And some more functionality
HCM Functional Richness continuous to trend down
- Outlook Integration
- Chatter Integration
HTML5 Support for non IOS devices
- New modules
- Global Support
Big Data Analytics
New User Interface for browser
- Talent Reviews
- Career Interests
- Cornerstone Integration
Performance Management Enhancements
Android Native Support & iOS Mobile Enhancements
User Experience - Configurable Grids for Compensation
Performance Management across browser and mobile
- Payroll for Canada
- Payroll Connector
More custom fields
- Notbooks for iPad
Legislative support - Report for ACA / RUP
Higher Education Functionality
207 Features / 80 Brainstorm Items
246 Features / 67 Brainstorm Items
And no mention of...
Again one hour is not a lot of time - but showing consistency (e.g. iPad functionality and new grid control) or progression on new platform capabilities (BigData Analytics) - would be a welcome content direction for future updates.
The customer perspective
It was good to hear, that Workday is working with customers and listening to their findings and needs - it will be very interesting to hear from the trenches and some real live experiences in the coming weeks. Let's hope for the industry, Workday customers and Workday itself that this will be a smooth transition, as UI improvements are key for the overall success of the SaaS market.
At the same time HCM automation needs and desires of customers are rising and the competition is not standing still. HCM customers want to have more and more automation from a vendor, delivered as an integrated system that addresses HR Core, Payroll, Talent Management - and to various depths Workforce Management. Globalization forces are hitting enterprises fast these days and global support not only for localization but local compliance including payroll become quickly table stakes. Workday will have to chart its plan to functional completion and more global compliance coverage soon, better sooner than later.
- Six Things to Watch About Workday - Holger Mueller
- Five Years in the Cloud with Workday - R "Ray" Wang