Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TrustRadius Member Soundoff: Workday

Curated by Alan Cooke, Research Director, TrustRadius

Workday is viewed as a disruptor in the Human Resources Information System (HRIS) market and more recently the broader ERP market, which has been dominated by Oracle and SAP. In fact, as many as half of Workday’s customers are former users of Oracle’s and SAP’s HR applications.

Workday’s primary appeal is that it offers functionality rivaling that of Oracle and SAP, delivered through a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. This allows the company to release frequent updates, continuously improve the user experience, and offer customers a lower total cost of ownership than legacy solutions.

Workday is clearly onto something, but what does the TrustRadius member community think of the product? In this article, we summarize five member reviews to date. We want to emphasize that this is early anecdotal feedback and not yet statistically significant. It should also be noted that the contributors to date are primarily mid-sized organizations with less than 5000 employees, and Workday's primary focus has been with very large enterprises. We did however feel that there were insights interesting enough to share and to invite others to participate.

Community ratings summary for Workday.

Product Usability: Great For Users, Mixed for Admins

Our members universally agree that Workday’s ease of use--at least for end users--is one of its strongest attributes. As an IT Director at a 51-200 employee global nonprofit organization explains, “Our short list was HR Source, UltiPro, and Workday. We picked Workday as their interface is head and shoulders above the other two.”

An HR Systems Analyst at a global software company with more than 10,000 employees raves, “It is very intuitive to end-users and easy to navigate. There are multiple ways to navigate for anything you try and do. Information is very clear and presented in logical format. I like the way they group information, especially worker history data.”

Adria Escalante, a Business Analyst at a 501-1000 employee software company, elaborates:

[The] user interface is exceptionally good. Very user-friendly--easy to find data. UI features lots of cool things like org charts based on pictures with strong visual presentation. It’s a very dynamic interactive experience--appeals to a younger audience. Don’t have to keep opening new screens: application flows to proper next spot. Look and design is very Facebook-like, very "social media." You know what to do instinctively.

All of this is important because, as some members express, the product’s ease of use both removes an organizational barrier to adoption and reduces the need for documentation and training.

However, while Workday seems to excel on the usability front for everyday tasks, comments were mixed regarding system administration and reporting set-up. Sylvia Hernandez, a Senior Technical Program Manager at a 1001-5000 employee software company, indicates:

System management is incredibly difficult. The software is based upon Business Objects which is well organized and quick, but not something I or I believe most people are familiar with. It is not your typical relational database. You cannot see data in the background and need to know where to go to find it. It is hence difficult to create reports and to enact integrations to other systems. It presents a lot of challenges.

Escalante’s organization also struggles with the reporting functionality, in particular, describing it as “overly complex and cumbersome.” She says, “Everyone wants to use it, but it’s too hard to figure out without substantive training.”

Hernandez also notes functional and usability challenges with security administration and the mass import tool.

Performance and Reliability: No Complaints

No members expressed serious concerns about Workday’s performance or reliability. Hernandez (Senior Technical Program Manager at a 1001-5000 person software company) says, “It’s quick and stable. We have had no issues. The system is responsive and there is nothing that times out.”

The HR Systems Analyst at the 10,000+ employee global software company mentions, “It has only gone down a couple of times and both times we were called 5-10 minutes beforehand that they needed to bring system down, and I understand why.” He did experience some latency issues with v. 17, though the product is now on v. 19 and these may have been resolved.

Customer Service and Support: Strong When Provided by Workday, a Challenge With The Reseller

Based upon early reviews, experience with Workday’s service and support seems to hinge on whether the support is being provided by Workday directly or by its reseller Virtual One Source. According to our members, organizations with fewer than 1,000 seats must work with the reseller and, though our sample size is limited (three members at two unique organizations reporting this issue), the quality of reseller support is a serious issue.

As Escalante (HR Business Analyst at a 501-1000 person software company) explains, “The level of service provided by [our reseller] is poor. Turnaround time is terrible. People on tier one support don’t have enough knowledge. They spend a lot of time asking questions that they should know the answers to.”

In contrast, our members report generally positive experiences working with Workday directly. “The Workday support group is extremely helpful. In fact, I think I owe them some cupcakes,” says the HR Systems Analyst at the 10,000+ employee global software company.

One area where Workday could improve, Escalante suggests, is better communication with customers prior to releasing product updates:

Workday provides a quarterly update but does a poor job of letting us know what has changed. They tell us at a high level, but we still have to audit everything (e.g. data security) and we don’t understand the impact of updates until after we have completed a detailed audit. … This process alone takes two weeks every quarter.

This applies to updates to the user interface, as well. “We have to figure out how to do things in the new interface and then modify all our internal documentation,” says Escalante.

The IT Director at the 51-200 employee nonprofit organization suggests that Workday could also improve its documentation overall. “One of the challenges is finding stuff,” he remarks. “There’s no manual. Even if you know what to do, you don’t know how to get there. We find ourselves having to call to get navigation assistance.”

Training: Room for Improvement

Our members identified two key issues with Workday’s training. The first was cost. Escalante feels that “Workday was not very upfront about cost of [in-person] training. It is quite expensive (had to travel to either Chicago or California, on top of training cost) and we could only afford to send one person (me) to get basic training.”

Workday offers online training options, too, but those can also be expensive. “A [virtual] reporting writing class is $600 per person,” says Hernandez (Senior Technical Program Manager at a 1001-5000 employee software company).

The second issue was course structure. The training scenarios are “not very real,” says Escalante (HR Business Analyst at a 501-1000 employee software company). “Training doesn’t follow a logical path A to B. It starts in the middle. When you try to do it afterwards at your desk, [it’s] difficult.” And while the basics were well covered, “a solid week of more rigorous, systematic training would have been better.”

Implementation: A Challenge When Working with The Reseller

Hernandez (Senior Technical Program Manager at a 1001-5000 employee software company), who used the reseller to implement Workday (when the company was <1000 employees), says that “The project team was bad. I would give them a 2/10 or 3/10. It was a terrible experience. They were knowledgeable but didn’t lead us through the implementation. We had a lot of surprises.”

Escalante (HR Business Analyst at a 501-1000 employee software company) experienced several communications breakdowns with the reseller. “We did not get much information from the implementation team, on why things were being done the way they were, and we felt a bit out of the loop. Their process was very complex and communication with us was poor,” she says.

But Escalante suggests that some of the responsibility may rest with Workday, which, she says, has “virtually no best practice documentation or admin user documentation.” As a result, her reseller may have been in the dark about the implementation process as much as some customers.

The IT Director at the 51-200 employee nonprofit organization echoes this sentiment. He says that the reseller had “no expertise and their level of technical expertise was poor.” When he went to training, he was surprised to find his reseller’s team was attending, too. He postulates that Workday’s frequent release cycle might make it hard for resellers to keep up with product changes.

Hernandez adds that there are several out-of-the-box integration templates for products like Cornerstone, Success Factors/Plateau, and WageWorks. “They are still not easy to configure, but the bulk of the work is done,” she says.

Product Configurability: Good for Large Accounts, Would Benefit from Templates for Mid-sized Orgs

Workday’s high degree of configurability works for large accounts but causes challenges for mid-size orgs without templatization. The IT Director at the 51-200 employee nonprofit organization points out that the large degree of configurability Workday offers “can be an Achilles heel. It is almost too configurable/flexible.” As he explains,

[That level of configurability is] helpful if you are a large company and can dedicate the resources. However, some areas are too technical for an HR person to understand. If your goal is to not have to build up IT you will find that even a small company has to provide technical support from IT.

He goes on to say:

As a small business, you need recommendations for process. Endless configuration choices put a lot of burden on the people who know the system. You need more of an out of the box configuration. A more turnkey approach would have been helpful for our size of company.

Understandably, the ease of configuration depends somewhat on how technical a user is.  Less technical users, or smaller companies that are required to work with a reseller, face greater challenges. As Escalante says, “Not having a direct relationship with the vendor is problematic. ... Any time we want to make changes to the user interface, we have to go through the consultant, which is expensive.”

Even so, the HR Systems Analyst at the 10,000+ employee global software company expresses that, “It is very configurable by a non-technical user. You can configure to fit business needs without being dependent on IT.“

Not all organizations will need, or find value in, extensive configurability. The IT Director at the 51-200 person nonprofit organization says that, “For the most part, were able to meet our business requirements without customization. We were just coming from Excel and homegrown.”

Staffing: An Overlooked Issue

Workday’s ease of use and Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model may lead an organization to believe it can reduce its staffing needs. This isn’t necessarily the case. The HR Systems Analyst at the 10,000+ employee global software company explains:

When I talk to others about deploying Workday, in most cases, they assume they will reduce headcount for systems administration. In fact you will need to increase. Each area requires expertise knowledge. Since everything is changing so fast, you need people who are focused in each area. However, you need a different (lower) level of expertise so that's less pricey.

Hernandez (Senior Technical Program Manager at a 1001-5000 person software company) concurs, saying “I would rate the same system today 5/10, now knowing the expense and the amount of time required. I would warn my stakeholders more about that. We don’t have the [number of] people we need.”

The IT Director at the 51-200 employee nonprofit organization points to the complexity of product customizations and the testing it requires as a driver of staffing:

It's important to note that while you have sandbox and production instances, as a small company, I don’t have a QA department, so to regression test everything becomes problematic. It forces me to be very diligent on customizations and integrations. I really can’t customize too much. I cannot afford to go through all the regression testing. I went to SaaS to not have to build up [an] IT group, but Workday’s model means I cannot customize anything. It’s one of the issues that’s ‘undersold’.

Business Benefits

  • The key business benefits TrustRadius members report from using Workday include:
    • Access to a central, up-to-date repository of all HR-related data. 
    • “Managers have better information--actionable, real-time data at their fingertips. They don’t have to ask people for information.” 
    • “The biggest benefit is being able to track the state of the company as far as people--to know how many employees we have, who is where and being able to enable employees to self-manage benefits and contact information, HSA/FSA contributions. It puts a lot more ownership in employees to manage the data.” 
    • “Managers and employees have access to up to the minute data on team compensation and org charts.” 
    • “This has saved a lot of re-work.” 
  • Workflow management and functional integration. 
    • “We are looking to expand usage to enable managers to do workflows, e.g. transfer employees to other departments once approved by HR; to allow managers to submit spot bonuses. This all removes administration tasks from HR.” 
    • “No more emailing documents to payroll.” 
  • Audit trails. 
    • “This is great from a SOX point of view.” 
  • The ability to track and report on key organizational metrics. 
    • “We can now provide metrics like ‘Time to Fill Position,’ which we could never do before.

Summary and Recommendations for Buyers

  • While our current data set is limited, we felt there were some important themes worth sharing. We will update our findings in the future when we have a larger data set. 
  • Workday is a great product that delivers tangible business benefits with a rich feature set, outstanding end-user usability, and terrific performance and reliability. Despite the issues mentioned in this article, Workday scored a highly commendable 8.6 out of 10 in likelihood to recommend and a 9.4 in likelihood to renew.
  • Members cite challenges working with the reseller. Make sure to discuss any concerns with them up-front.
  • Have realistic assumptions about staffing. Don’t assume that implementing Workday will allow you to reduce headcount. Indeed, to get the most out of the software, you may need to increase it.

We welcome your feedback and thoughts on this article. What has been your experience with Workday? Please leave a comment below, or better still complete your own review here.

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