Workday EMEA President Angelique de Vries on its quest for growth in Europe

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright July 11, 2023
Workday is looking to increase its market share outside of the US. We spoke to EMEA President Angelique de Vries-Schipperijn about the state of play in Europe.

Angelique de Vries Workday at Elevate London 2023

A 28-year veteran in business applications, with roles at Salesforce and a 24-year tenure at SAP, Angelique de Vries-Schipperijn joined Workday as President of EMEA in October last year. She has taken up the role at a time when Workday is putting a strong focus on its performance in both Europe and Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ). Co-CEO Carl Eschenbach, who took up his role in December, is conscious of the company's opportunity outside of the US, which still accounts for three-quarters of its revenues but only represents half of its total addressable global market. Speaking at the Bank of America 2023 Global Technology Conference last month, he said:

You guys know the size and scope of the company, but we only get 25% of our business outside the US — not even North America, outside the US. So I just think there’s tremendous upside as we think about the business in Europe and across APJ.

We spoke to de Vries-Schipperijn last week, shortly after Workday completed a series of 15 Elevate conferences held across Europe for customers, prospects and partners. Eschenbach joined the tour for a two-week period, speaking at events in Munich and Paris and meeting customers and employees. The EMEA region employs almost 4,000 people out of the 18,000 total global workforce at Workday, almost half of whom work in product development roles in its EMEA headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Product managers there play an important role in ensuring regional customer feedback is heard and acted on. She explains:

They are the head connector between let's say, the field organizations and the development organizations, to constantly bring forward what are the development needs from an international perspective. So we have that tight working relationship.

One example is the recent partnership announced with Workday consulting partner Alight to provide an integrated HCM and payroll solution for customers across Benelux, Germany, Italy, the Nordics, Spain, and Switzerland. This builds on Alight's 2019 acquisition of payroll provider NGA HR and aims to provide a simpler, more unified payroll offering. Local variations in payroll in Europe mean that many organizations prefer to implement HCM and payroll as a single project, rather than treating them separately. She adds:

[It was] one of the topics coming back from EMEA to say, 'Hey, we need to have a partnership with all our countries with a partner who is supporting those local payrolls.'

It's good to hear Eschenbach talking about EMEA and the international opportunity when speaking to investment analysts, she adds. That underlines the company's commitment, she believes:

We are being recognized and our customers definitely have a big voice within Workday of the journey ahead of us, and we will continue to work on that, absolutely.

Adapting to technology change

The continued growth potential in finance and HCM was one of the reasons de Vries-Schipperijn was attracted to join Workday. Its strong values were also a key factor — "I'm a people person, so I strongly believe that values matter." The third factor was its cloud-native platform, which she believes is particularly important at a time of rapid technology change. She explains:

With the fast changes and the innovations from a technology perspective, I think that it matters a lot to be cloud-native — to be able to adopt the fast pace. We see that now with ChatGPT, and ML and AI. I think there is a difference when you are born in the cloud, to be able to adopt those innovations so that you can bring them to your customers faster.

The rise of AI is of course a big talking point with customers. Eschenbach in his keynote at the Elevate event in Munich, Germany, likened the current moment to the advent of the iPhone, signaling a significant shift in how we all use technology. That has people wondering what the impact will be. She comments:

A lot of companies are asking — prospects and customers — about what is the view on Al and ML? Now we've got ChatGPT accelerating this conversation.

Inevitably, questions of ethics and privacy loom large for European businesses too, with the EU already moving ahead on AI regulation and Workday has been contributing its expertise on ethical AI to EU working groups. She comments:

If we look at some of the key pillars of AI, ML, or large language models with generative AI, then it's about data, it's the platform, but also the trust.

Helping customers navigate the continuing evolution of technology and its impact on their businesses is becoming an increasingly important part of the relationship. One of the big themes coming through from customers is a focus on business value and maintaining that emphasis throughout the product lifecycle. She comments:

It's not only about the implementations and go-live, but also it's a constant journey. I think this is where being cloud-native is such a key differentiator, where companies can and should leverage continuous upgrades, and ... the latest functionality ...

Business is changing, technology is changing. So that constant adoption and adaptation to the business case is an important element, I would say. And this comes back to constant learning, constant innovation.

As well as the core Workday applications, customers are also able to innovate and adapt by adding new applications that leverage the data within the core platform using Workday Extend. She cites two examples developed in collaboration with partners, one a range of tools for tracking carbon insights and sustainability KPIs developed by consultancy PwC, to a digitalized Workers' Council developed by solutions partner Kainos for the German arm of KION Group.

My take

Europe often presents a challenge to US-based technology companies because of the need to adapt to a range of different regulations, customs and cultures. If it's going to achieve its ambition of faster growth outside of the US, Workday needs to listen carefully to its customers elsewhere and work with them to ensure its products cater to their needs.

[An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that Alight's payroll offering is linked to ADP].

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