Workday's international innovation in Dublin - Philips expands its workplace adoption

Sarah Aryanpur Profile picture for user saryanpur February 27, 2024
Summary:
How Workday works with customers to drive product innovation.

dublin

Yesterday Workday’s CEO Carl Eschenbach cited the potential for growth to come from the firm’s international operation: 

Today, international represents over half of our addressable opportunity yet is 1/4 of our revenues. We're working to change that, and we're seeing early signs of progress. In EMEA, our leadership additions continue to drive improved and more consistent results. I spent a couple of weeks visiting our teams in Europe this past quarter, and I have to tell you, I am fired up by the momentum we're building.

Workday’s Innovation and Customer Experience EMEA headquarter has been based in Dublin since 2008. It grew out of its buyout of a small Irish software company, Cape Clear, which had 21 employees, into Workday’s leading research center for product development outside of the US. The company spent over $2.3 billion on R&D last year, with its Ireland HQ having the largest non-US spend.

Graham Abell, VP of Software Engineering  and Site Lead at Workday Ireland, says: 

We now have over 2000 employees in Dublin, from 70 different nationalities. Nearly 80% of our employees work on product innovation in R&D, and collaborate in close partnerships with our customers both in EMEA, and at a global level.

The firm is currently building a new HQ, expected to open in 2026, next to its University partner Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) to cope with the growth in its EMEA business.  Victoria MacKechnie, Director of Corporate Affairs and Operations explains the partnership with TU Dublin:

Our relationship with the University is incredibly important. Around 25% of our employees are now being recruited through TU Dublin. Together we can focus on the intersection between people and technology, and innovate in the business design, security and Machine Learning (ML) spaces.

AI angle

Jim Stratton, Workday Chief Technology Officer, points out that the firm has been using ML and AI for the last ten years, and this has changed the dialog and strategy of development. But now everyone gets AI, he argues:

There is no doubt that the increasing use of AI is affecting innovation. It changes work, and how it is done in the enterprise. It allows things to be embedded quickly into the platform and the impact can take advantage of this. We and our customers are making the most of what we now use.”

Workday talks about customer partnerships a lot, and  believes that working on product development and innovation away from customers is not very useful. As a results,  it works very closely with them, using their experiences, problems and processes to feed into its platform and application development teams in Dublin. Stratton argues:

Innovation powers Workday, and our customers join in this as our partners. Payroll, finance and recruitment are all in a production fever to improve functionality. Understanding how our customers use our products is crucial to innovation.

At the heart of Workday’s Innovation setup is its Customer Experience Laboratory. More than 80 researchers work in cross-functional teams using detailed qualitative and quantitative data gleaned from customer research done in its laboratories. The results of this high level observational research are then used in product development across Workday’s suite products. 

Caroline O’Reilly, General Manager Analytics at Workday explains: 

Product development looks at the unique needs of our customers, and we co-develop our trials of new technologies in partnership with our customers. Three quarters of our customers are early adopters and of course we want them to be with us the whole way through.

One such customer is global healthcare giant Philips, which has just announced that it will be using Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) and Adaptive Planning in a system that will incorporate its people, processes and systems across the world. 

Philips first started using  Workday HCM in 2012, and will now use it for core systems across 77 countries and for over 71,000 employees. Adding Workday Adaptive Planning means it will be able to tightly integrate its HR and Finance, and work out exactly all headcount costs and see the financial implications of changes to workforce management. 

The relationship between the two companies appears to be a good fit, according to Efthymios Zindros, Global Director of HRIS at Philips: 

We saw, with the evolution of Workday, there was a very clear drive towards always being on the same line of code and on the latest technological innovation, and that was no longer the customer's obligation. We’ve benefited greatly because we were able to begin adopting all of the components that were already available with each release, which created a lot of agility in deploying the latest technologies when we wanted to, but also in adjusting our technology stack whenever we had an urgent business need. 

Workday’s customer partnership approach works well for Philips according to Zindros: 

My focus as an HR architect has been on bridging the gap between IT and HR, turning functional into technical and vice versa. I aim to understand the company needs and how things might function for the end user from start to finish.

He adds: 

One extremely crucial factor lies in answering the question: Do you have a single source of truth? Deploying Workday and ensuring a real time view of HR operations has helped Philips decision makers to make timely, data driven choices.

Evolving relationships with customers like Philips are key to the work carried out by the Dublin based operation. Abell says customer engagement with the Innovation Team is critical to product development and future platform developments:

For example, work done in the customer experience laboratories means we can leverage a huge amount of information about the way customers use our products, and that gives us a really high level of understanding. We can then feed this data back across all the disciplines in R&D. It also gives our software development teams a contextual landscape, like where there are regional or localisation differences, and allows them to really understand customer needs and map them into the development process.

My take

Most companies talk about being in partnership with their customers, but Workday’s Innovation centre in Dublin really seems to be fully invested in the customer partnership approach to product development. With AI taking a bigger role in innovation, and provoking some trust challenges for customers’ businesses, this approach to innovating with its customers should pay off for Workday in the future.

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