General ThroughtsWorkday'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 sessionNext 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 sessionsThe 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...