I had the opportunity to spend the day (plus some additional time) this week with a group of about 20 influencers (analysts, bloggers, press) at the Workday Technology Summit. It is not the first time a group of influencers have been brought together by a vendor for in-depth discussions. However, this was a little unique because it was relatively small group that largely knew one another and were avid participants in social media (specifically Twitter). The insights, not to mention the volume, from this online conversation was impressive (see #Workdaytech on Twitter).
The focus of the day was on Workday technology. There was a spirited discussion of the end-user benefits of SaaS (for more information, see here, here, here, and here). I actually have a little sympathy for Josh Greenbaum’s point of view (see the first link above) as I had posted a thought experiment of how a single tenant provider could offer similar benefits to customers. My conclusion though is that it is very hard for an existing vendor to move to a single tenant version of SaaS without great upset to its business model. Only three vendors that I am aware of, Ariba, Concur, and Ultimate Software, have made the transition from an exclusively on-premise, perpetual license model to a primarily externally hosted/subscription license model successfully. The reality is that every new vendor I have seen for the past 3-4 years has utilized a multi-tenant SaaS model. So, the argument is really can, and should, the providers of on-premise, perpetual license solutions move to a SaaS model? At the end of the day, I think you will see most offer both and some will try to transition as best they can to the newer model once it is well-established.
Workday shared a lot about its development model (its development lifecycle to deliver 3 releases per year), its technology (in memory database – with a DBMS for persistence only, model-driven, object-based, with embedded analytics), its scalability (horizontal and vertical as well as performance tuning), and its vision (administrative ERP, device-agnostic, faceted employee search, social capabilities). We covered a number of these things off in Workday 10 for Human Capital Management Emerging as a Global Alternative (subscription required).
Workday is growing at a rapid pace (bookings growth up 200% and average deal size greater than $1 million – for typically a three year or longer term). They are looking to double their headcount by the end of 2011. If our inquiries are any indication (and they often are), interest in Workday has dramatically increased thus far in 2010. It is hard for Workday not to be on the radar screen of various HCM competitors given its pedigree, but a totally different competitive posture is required when customer adoption starts to accelerate.
Have you had a chance to do a deep dive? What do you think? Is Workday ready to take on the ERP and Talent Management Suite providers?