After Walmart, Workday signs its retail arch-rival Amazon

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright February 7, 2017
Workday has revealed online retailer Amazon is rolling out HCM and Payroll to 300,000 employees, 3 weeks after retail arch-rival Walmart became a customer

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(Source: Amazon)
Just three weeks after revealing that it has signed bricks-and-mortar retail giant Walmart as a customer, Workday today reveals that online retail giant Amazon is also a customer.

The cloud applications vendor has been keeping its Amazon deal a secret since signing the contract for Workday HCM and Payroll last October. The news is becoming public now that deployment to the retailer's 300,000 global staff is under way.

Describing Workday as "an innovative, customer-focused HCM system," Amazon's vice president, HR, Beth Galetti says in a press statement today that the cloud HCM platform "will support Amazon as we continue to hire employees around the world." Workday has confirmed that the global deployment is intended for use by all of Amazon’s employees.

Amazon adds to the roll-call of top Internet brands that have signed with Workday. The official list includes LinkedIn, Netflix, Salesforce and Yahoo!, while others such as eBay, Facebook, Google and Twitter are said to be customers but have not officially disclosed that they are. Workday consulted with its consumer Internet customers during the redesign of its user interface for HTML 5 four years ago.

The deal was signed a month before Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri appeared on the keynote stage at AWS Re:Invent, the conference of Amazon's cloud infrastructure arm, to announce that Workday plans to host some of its software operations on AWS.

In addition to the core HCM application, Amazon will also take on Workday Payroll, which uses Workday's own cloud-native payroll engine in the US, Canada, UK and France, while relying on partners such as ADP to deliver payroll in other countries.

Amazon last month announced plans to recruit a further 100,000 US employees in the next 18 months, increasing its global headcount by a third. In contrast to the Internet retailer's explosive growth, Walmart revealed the same week that it will close 269 stores, reducing its headcount by 16,000.

My take

Would Walmart have signed with Workday if it had known its digital nemesis Amazon was also a customer? There was a time when Walmart preferred to build all its own applications to maintain a unique competitive edge. Today, the need to move fast trumps any advantage that custom back-office software brings.

It's quite a coup for Workday to sign both these giants of retail within months of each other. But it's hard to imagine there won't be some griping behind the scenes at Walmart now that people there are learning they'll be running exactly the same HCM software as their arch-rival.

There are differences between the two implementations that reflect the different circumstances of the two retailers. For Amazon, the imperative is to manage its rocketing growth. Rolling out a cloud-based system of record for HR and payroll simply makes that a whole lot easier to manage than doing it in-house (even if in-house in Amazon's own case is its AWS infrastructure-as-a-service cloud platform).

Walmart on the other hand has to manage a more complex redeployment of talent, with thousands of positions disappearing as some stores close down, even while other new roles need to be filled. This requires much greater emphasis on workforce analytics, which may explain why Walmart has signed up for the new Workday Planning tool alongside the core Workday HCM, Recruiting and Learning products.

It's not known whether Amazon will also make use of these ancillary tools — nor do we know at present how many of Walmart's 2 million employees are set to use the Workday applications in the current roll-out. The retail industry being what it is, there won't be much detail coming out of either company about how exactly they're using Workday.

Meanwhile Workday itself, which has now passed the 1,000 customer mark, must be feeling pretty pleased with its newfound standing as the HCM system of choice for these two iconic retail giants.

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