Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Apologies for the radio silence

It's been a busy few weeks here in the UK, and I'm currently working and traveling a lot for our project.

In addition, I haven't been overly pleased with the solutions I've been designing in Workday for our business requirements, so I have not felt compelled to list them out here.  As a little bit of background on that point...

We're heavily in the throes of gathering business requirements for our European countries.  My more HR-oriented colleagues do a great job of gathering the HR folks in the countries and they outline our new global Workday processes and inquire about the local processes that HR do in comparison to our scoped out list of global Workday processes, as well as gathering their field level requirements for those processes.  Then, for anything that does not fit into the global model or is not readily available through existing configuration, e.g. new event reasons, it gets forwarded over to me to provide some solution options and a recommendation.  I look at things holistically, so keeping things in mind like:

  • Ease of use for the person doing data entry.  Will they enter it all on one page or have to go to multiple pages?  Are the labels good, or are we heavily mis-using a page (doing it Saas style, as I'm now calling it), so they'll need to ignore the labels and fill in the data entry boxes. 
  • Can we interface any of the data in?
  • Is this data going somewhere, such as a payroll system?
  • How do all the pieces fit together in the process?  Can we get all of the data in a certain step or is this going to be a back and forth to collect data?
  • Ease of reporting on the data
  • Making is easy for the integration guys, for current as well as future interfaces
  • Etc.
As I've been based in Europe for 10+ years, I often know the business needs/use better than my US-based HR colleagues, so some of the things they just throw over the fence to me to define requirements and solutions.  For other stuff, they're doing a great job of gathering data definition, especially where the business does not use PeopleSoft now to meet a need and the central team thinks that we should start to accumulate this data in Workday.

I was talking to a colleague of mine, he's a general all-arounder, understanding technology plus the business use of systems, although his area of expertise is recruiting systems.  He's been assigned a task to investigate a certain area of data that overlaps between the recruitment system and Workday core HR data, and to get a team together to figure out what data should be captured in the business processes.

I gave him a debrief today of the Workday functionality.  It's a common European set of data, but WD is very light on the ground in this area, as it's not data that is used in the US.  I was giving him an overview of:

  1. Here are the business requirements that I have heard from the core HR calls in Europe.
  2. Here is the data we currently store in our European PeopleSoft instance for this topic.
  3. Here is the Workday functionality in this area.

So now we're counting on him and his team to define the business requirements, and I'll then solution them.

He was asking me questions to confirm that he understood the WD functionality and was a little surprised that the functionality was so light in this area.  In particular, it's basically a page with some dates and free form fields.

For anyone who has worked in an HRIS operational capacity, free form fields are the devil's handiwork:

  1. They're a hassle for the data entry people who can't just do a few characters of predictive text/choose a dropdown value.
  2. They're a hassle for the team responsible for auditing data, as they're always chasing up and having to get corrections to misspellings, etc.
  3. They're a hassle for downstream systems, due to a lack of consistency.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Implementing Workday: size does matter!

Last week at the Workday Rising conference, one of the most interesting things for me was to hear from other customers:  what functionality they are using, what is their support model, and what is their roll out schedule.  It seems that WD marketing and sales has done a good job of spreading the idea that the software can be rolled out perfectly on a very fast timeline.  Our own CIO was on a call explaining the new 'we're going cloud for all applications' strategy and made the statement:  those business processes, the ones that are taking you 6 months now to design, those will take 6 hours in the new world!  Actually, I'm discovering over time, that's not really the case.

There was an interesting presentation by a small WD customer, 500 employees, industry = wealth management.  They had rolled out HCM plus Financials in 12 weeks, then brought in expense management quickly, and are further augmenting their HCM use.  I compare it to a session on the same day by a large pharmaceutical company of 130k employees who explained their global roll out strategy.  They started with Asia and were going West to Europe and Latin America and finally finishing up with the US.  It was an interesting concept to me, as the bulk of the companies and people that I know start with the US and head East to Europe.

This pharma explained that they were on SAP and their US office was happy with it, so they were going to get the rest of the world on board first, although they did have to do some workarounds, such as putting in some shell records for US managers of employees in the non-US regions, in order to be able to approve goals etc.

They started WD implementation in 2012 have launched Asia countries (including payroll interfaces for some) and are working their way around the globe.

They also made the statement that they were two weeks from launching SAP in the UK and pulled the plug on the project, which sounds quite similar to us, except we were 1 year into a PSoft upgrade.

I mentioned last year, on our US implementation, that the project launch encountered a delay, so that the US launch was in December instead of October.  We're now going through re-sizing efforts on the Wave 2 Europe launch.  Rather than launching Europe for Jan 2015, we're now splitting the group up, with some countries to keep January but others to delay.

This certainly isn't to blame WD as a software application (which is being done internally in my organization as people seemed to think this was a 'magic' software that would fix all of our HR process issues) and they're now seeing the same issues on a new software platform.

It's currently my thinking that especially where you have a large and decentralized environment and you are injecting any sort of standardization or HR Transformation as a part of the mix, implementing WD is the same as implementing a traditional ERP...it's a multi-year effort due to all of the change management and factors outside of the software.  When you're a small company with Excel-based processes or on one Finance, one Expense system, you're able to make that 12 week implementation schedule as you can more readily fit the mold of standardize, change, launch.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Pleasantly surprised

A while back, I mentioned looking at address data.  While we mapped from PeopleSoft to Workday and made decisions to combine fields where we had to, we had a country where WD made the field required, while we would call it optional.  I spoke with our data entry expert in country to confirm it is not used and to confirm that it's not existing in local payroll.  I checked online as well and everything that I found aligned with this data being optional.

I put in a Brainstorm making this request to convert it to optional.  Three weeks later it had hardly any votes, but someone from WD responded to it and asked for the legal source, as their sources said that it was required.  I missed getting a notification at this point that someone had responded, so I did not respond.  However, the same WD employee then responded a few days after, that indeed it should be an optional data element based on new research, and that it was targeted for WD 21 to be updated.

On one hand, I have no idea how they can get to WD21 with no one else noticing this, except that we are not a pharmaceutical company, so maybe our global footprint differs from other big customers.

We had already programmed our conversion logic to stick 'unknown' in the field (no field validation), which was going to look ugly from a self-service standpoint.  Happy to be able to lose that logic and instead leave the field blank.

As a PSoft customer, our management made a strategic decision not to apply patches.  We don't run payroll out of PSoft in Europe, so we can do that.  Occasionally, when something is noticed by the users and it is deemed critical, we will extract that bit of code out of a project, and our developers will manually apply just that bit.  As you can imagine, whenever we would log a case with PSoft customer support, it would be instantly closed as you are not on the latest code line.

I realize this is a quick little fix by WD for something that should not have been wrong in the first place, but quite pleased at how this one has turned out.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A customer perspective on Workday Rising Europe 2014 - day 2

My company graciously paid for me to attend the Workday Rising Conference in London this week.  I mentioned day 1 yesterday, here are my thoughts on day 2.

Best Practices in Configurable Security and Global Data Privacy

It was an early start for me as I'm in the suburbs on the opposite side of London.  Pleased to say I was on the 7.20 train to arrive at 8.40, in time to grab a coffee, mini bagel with salmon and fruit from the breakfast set up in the vendor hall.  It was supposed to be a 9 AM start with 120 people in a full session.  As mentioned by the presenters and others, the customer appreciation party went long into the night, so they finally started at 9.08 with around 80 people.

Two WD pieces/presenters:  Data Privacy & the Security Toolset

1. Data Privacy - it was a good overview by Barbara, and I'd previously seen most of the material online.  Data Privacy can be a passionate subject, but WD's stance is clear--they are the processor and *you* the customer are responsible to ensure that you're not storing data on employees that you shouldn't/aren't allowed by your Data Privacy legislation, Works Councils, etc.  (Although WD does have some functionality in place here, to control some of these things systematically.)

No qualms there, it's standard in the SaaS world.  While it was a good overview on Data Privacy and Works Councils and where WD is with their various certifications, etc. most of the participants in the room were Europe-based and well versed in the area, so would have appreciated a little more depth here.  This presentation would be very good as an introduction to an American or Asian audience, however.

2. The Security Toolset - Kathy H from Workday did an outstanding job of presenting the topic.  It was an overview but as well she went in-depth and highlighted upcoming functionality.  As pieces of it are being worked on by *her* personally, it was straight from the horse's mouth.  Most interesting, this was so different from a sales presentation--when people asked her if WD could do X, she was quite honest in acknowledging where WD could not meet business requirements and where things were in the pipeline.  As a customer, I need exactly that sort of input to be able to plan workarounds, rather than unclear or unconfirmed answers.

Kudos to both American presenters for having more of a European presentation style--organized and serious, rather than the WD presenters' comedy routine of yesterday's joint HCM/Finance session.  Noticed that the audience was fully engaged in this session 9 AM session.

Maximising Your Investment in Absence Management

This was also a great presentation to attend.  There were maybe 20-25 people in attendance, and Brian K from WD is an expert in Absence Management functionality, to a similar depth as Kathy was to security.  He gave some advance previews of upcoming functionality.  As well, there was clear honesty in answering customer questions, and solid knowledge.  As well, he had a nice slide of the main brainstorms outstanding for Absence Mgt, which really laid bare the flaws/opportunities for WD.  As many of the customers were actually using the product already, it required detailed knowledge to field their questions.

The 2nd part of this presentation was done by a customer, Medtronic, who is using the functionality in multiple countries.  It was really great to get this customer perspective, and as well they provided tips and lessons learned from their implementation.  Most interesting, they had presented a case study of how they tackled some difficult requirements from France (via WD Studio).

Final Thoughts

There was then a break and then a 'Closing and Goodbye' session.  I must admit, I popped into the vendor hall to pick up some goodies and then cleared out before that session.  Overall, I could not imagine learning anything new, and also, it would run until 12.45 and after my early start, I didn't want to wait that long for lunch.  (Sorry WD!)

I'm glad I had a chance to go, it's nice to see WD building up a base over here in Europe, such as putting a training centre in Amsterdam.  As always, it's great to be able to connect with other customers, in particular ones of a similar size, to trade ideas.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A customer perspective on Workday Rising Europe 2014 - day 1

General Throughts

Workday's first customer conference in Europe, Workday Rising, started today in London.  Officially it started last night with the welcome reception, but the kick-off and first sessions were today.  Supposedly 600 people were there, and it felt like it.

Kudos to WD for allowing anyone to watch the keynote online live, and recorded (only through Friday morning).  I will leave you to make your own thoughts on that one.

Everyone had a colour-coded lanyard, that helped in case you were looking to talk to someone.  Blue = existing customer (me), orange = potential customer/considering workday, green = consultant/vendor, grey = workday emp.  After the keynote there was a coffee break, so helpful to get to meet other customers and to catch up with people I've met through the years.

HCM/Finance combined session

Next was an overall combined HCM/Finance session, to show customers who used WD for both sides.  Sidenote:  As we're in the coffee break and the overall session was about to start, orange t-shirted people (WD emps?  KPMG?  outsourced logistics?) came through and instructed us to move to the next room.  It was more of an order than an offer.  Once in the next room, they used hazard tape to block off the last rows of seats, forcing people into queues to pack in the first rows.  At this point, my European colleague says, 'what is this, kindergarten?'  I managed to ease us around one of the matrons by saying that I might need to leave to take a phone call and managed to get us at the back of the room, thereby avoiding the sardined front section.  It worked out better for us as well as we were conveniently in front of a screen so could see the WD pages that they were demo'ing.

It was a joint session with HCM and Finance, done by WD emps and supplemented by customer stories.  the HCM leader was an American living in Paris and she insisted on kissing each speaker twice as she gave them control.  Odd.  I can only assume she was trying to be more European, but in London we don't go around kissing colleagues in the office.  When I've been in conferences or business meetings in the past in France, the kissing was mainly a greeting thing, not done while in presentation mode, but however...

There was another WD woman, something with HCM strategy and she spoke terribly fast, so a bit difficult for non-native speakers to follow.  It was nice to see her demo some of the newer recruitment functionality upcoming.

They went with the 'theme' of 'be a hero to your business,' complete with cartoons and continued references.  I can only assume that was a marketing take over from the US conference as that one wasn't really understood, appreciated or geared toward European work styles.

One of the male WD speakers made a reference to some functionality, and it would make him a hero 'equivalent to half of a Churchill'.  I think he expected laughs there, but the American humour really fell short.

One of the female WD speakers had a slide with Twinkies on it and at least asked if the crowd knew what they were.  As there was a large American contigent there, I'd guess maybe 25% of attendees raised their hands.  (They're not a European product, although especially in the UK we get a lot of US TV shows, so UK people know more American cultural references than on the continent.)  She explained that she was asking as she did this presentation in Copenhagen and not one soul knew what a Twinkie was.  The whole purpose though, was to explain how WD helped Little Debbie with the acquisition of Twinkie.

Thompson Reuters had an engaging speaker, explaining why they chose WD and what they were doing with it and what they were planning to do next.  Another company, icm, gave a presentation, another great speaker, but completely not relevant for us as they have an employee population of 500 and were able to standardize onto one set of systems for Financials.  As we are 320 times their size, we have a diverse Finance and Expense system landscape and have no plans to implement Workday for either.

Lunch was one of those typical conference affairs of help yourself and then stand around at bar tables or balance your plate on your lap where you could find a seat on some of the benches.

Afternoon sessions

The afternoon was smaller sessions, you chose your sessions when you registered for the conference.  Then, the door monitor would scan your badge to see if you were allowed in.  I was a bit disappointed to miss out on the 'support' session, but went dutifully to my 2nd choice 'global' session with J&J.  (I registered over a month ago, so no idea when you would have had to register to get first choices.  They had maybe 60 people in a session.)  It was sort of disruptive, they would allow people to wait outside, then at 5 minutes past the start time, they would start to let them in, one at a time, then do a seat count, let in another, etc. until full.  People would then have to climb over 5 people to get to a spare seat, so distracting to everyone.

It was interesting to see how J&J was implementing (a waved approach) and as well the audience questions were quite telling, as people who were live were asking how they had handled x, y, and z.

I next went to 'automated testing', another 2nd choice.  It was informative to hear from the WD QA lead, about the testing that WD does, and how they do it.  Diageo was the customer who presented their perspective of how they test and what they're planning going forward--it seemed a very honest overview from their speaker.  Around 30 minutes was also devoted to Kainos, who explained their Smart testing product.  We don't own it and maybe we should, but I felt too much like a captive audience there.

Later sessions were of a similar ilk.  There is a 'customer appreciation party' planned for later tonight.

In the meantime, I leave you with a few photos from directly outside the venue, where Oracle and SAP are making their presence felt.  If I was WD, I'd be pleased as punch, as these large players are obviously taking them very seriously, and these cobbled together adverts seemed lacking in substance.  Who would pay 900+ GBP for conference entry and then turn around their IT strategy based on a placard on a bicycle? 

Looking forward to tomorrow's sessions...