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HR and Finance- Usability, Mobility and Singularity

Exclusive interview with Workday Group Vice President DACH Christopher Knörr.
E3 Magazine
6 October 2023
This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

The HR and finance provider Workday achieves a high added value for users from its stringent and singular cloud architecture. There is no proliferation here. And what added value does Workday have for existing SAP customers?

The SAP community is irritated by the SAP cloud strategy, which cannot find a suitable path between hybrid, private and public. However, cloud-native providers such as Workday can generate significant added value for users from a consistent strategy with a singular architecture. The path to the Workday cloud is also open to existing SAP customers. E3 Magazine spoke with Christopher Knörr, Managing Director and Workday Group Vice President DACH, about opportunities and options for existing SAP customers.

E3: Dear Mr. Knörr, you yourself come from the SAP scene and especially in the German-speaking region Workday successfully addresses many SAP existing customers. What do SAP users like about Workday?

Christopher Knörr, Workday: From a user perspective, Workday stands out in terms of usability, solution consistency and mobility. The design and solutions are very intuitive and tailored to the user. Beyond that, it's also speed. Workday is very fast due to the underlying architecture: the solutions are extremely performant, agile and scalable.

E3: An example of this?

Knörr: For example, when you call up a report, with just a few clicks you can go into the details and pull up all the related data across application areas and perform actions - at record speed. This makes it fun for a user and drives adoption. Plus, with the Workday app, we provide fast, easy, mobile access to all features.

Christopher Knörr, Workday

Our solutions are born in the cloud. Unlike other vendors, our technology is both cloud only and cloud native. Workday provides a centralized cloud platform.

E3: And how do your customers see it?

Knörr: From an entrepreneur's point of view, they are the following: Workday stands for high quality. Implementations are expected to be successful, and they are delivered with high quality at Workday. The majority of all implementation projects are delivered as fixed-price, fixed-scope, and are "on time and on budget."

E3: How are you positioned thematically and strategically?

Knörr: People appreciate the clear strategy. Workday has an excellent command of HR and finance. The company has had a clear strategy for 18 years and delivers what it promises. Instead of strategy changes and product discontinuations, our customers get a reliable and forward-looking product strategy for HR and Finance. This transparency and clarity are a decision criterion for many of our customers in a very volatile economic environment and a guarantee of trust. 

E3: Workday can be called cloud native. SAP is trying to become cloud only. In your view, what differentiates Workday from SAP?

Knörr: Our solutions are born in the cloud. Unlike other vendors, our technology is both cloud only and cloud native. Workday provides a centralized cloud platform - that means one data source, one security model, one reporting and workflow engine, one unified user experience, one solution design, and one version on which all customers worldwide operate. Upgrades, security patches, and new features are thus delivered to each customer consistently and regularly. All information is available in the data core. In addition, what sets Workday apart is the high level of customer satisfaction and realized customer value. This is what fascinated me personally about Workday from the beginning.

E3: How close are you to user challenges?

Knörr: From prospects to long-term customers, our goal is to make Workday tangible, approachable, and tangible. Even in the initial meetings, we differentiate ourselves because each of our experts goes extremely in-depth with the inquiry and we take a lot of time to really understand the customer and their needs comprehensively. This detailed evaluation gives us the basis to address the individual situation. Because if we can't do something or something isn't planned at the moment, we always say so. Nothing is concealed. The feedback from customers is also like that: When I ask why did you choose Workday, there is always this honesty in the decision-making process that has impressed many.

E3: How can you be sure of success in the end?

Knörr: Another reason for the demonstrably high customer satisfaction of over 95 percent is our performance measurement. This means that after a certain period of time, we check whether the business return has also been realized in monetary terms. To do this, you need to know: We create an individual value case for the customer before every deal, where we show exactly what the investment is and what the business return will be in terms of processes, technology, productivity gains and efficiency improvements. And we always take a very conservative approach. But we always justify an investment very specifically with a personalized value case. And then we review our forecasts. We measure exactly whether and how we have delivered on our promises.

E3: What specific offerings is Workday approaching SAP legacy customers with?

Knörr: The focus is on modernizing HR, HCM, finance, and planning processes to a market-leading solution that puts the employee at the center and continuously adds value through innovation. As a modern HR and finance platform, Workday integrates seamlessly into existing system and process landscapes. Our unified platform and configuration frameworks allow customers to make changes themselves. Further maintenance and enhancement through configuration is thus the customer's responsibility. 

E3: How will the market develop in 2024 and what are Workday's plans for 2024?

Knörr: In general, we see very high demand for HR solutions in the DACH region, as digitization in HR is in full swing. This applies to medium-sized companies, which are faced with challenges such as the shortage of skilled workers. But we also see great potential in the large customer segment, where many companies have already embarked on the path to digitization. 

E3: What are the HR trend topics here?

Knörr: Topics such as learning, re-skilling and upskilling have become core issues for many HR departments and the demand for suitable solutions is growing all the time. Finding and attracting talent, but also retaining and developing it - this is where we can help our customers with solutions such as the Skills Cloud. Skills Cloud is a universal ontology of employee skills. It is integrated with the underlying framework of Workday Human Capital Management, or HCM, and uses machine learning and graph technology to not only manage this growing list of skills, but also to capture how closely skills are related to each other.

E3: And more concretely?

Knörr: Especially in industries such as pharmaceuticals, automotive or manufacturing, the qualification requirements for employees are changing: The pharmaceutical industry constantly needs qualified and certified employees. But the expansion of e-mobility also requires a reorientation towards a software company. The use of artificial intelligence and automation requires appropriately trained employees. 

E3: So what can the Workday solution bring to the user?

Knörr: HR solutions like Workday's help organizations answer the following questions in just a few clicks: What skills do my employees have? What skills will my business model need in the future? What kind of education and training is needed for these skills? And how can I provide personalized learning and training modules for employees?

E3: What is the next step after Workday software answers these questions?

Knörr: We are also seeing increasing demand for our finance solution from our existing customers who already have our HCM solution in place and who can better leverage the benefits of the unified platform. The CFO released an investment in Workday a few years ago. He's working with it himself and is now seeing the return on investment. And when he has a plan to restructure the CFO area, we are now increasingly at the table as Workday. 

E3: Do you also mean a necessary transformation process?

Knörr: Yes, many large companies started investing in digital transformation several years ago, and these companies are now analyzing very closely whether and what these investments have brought them, and whether there are other solutions for achieving their goals. And winning over these companies that have already made such investments is our very clear strategy for 2024, and this is where we as Workday will be able to score decisive points with our technological edge and also with the use of artificial intelligence. Because this is where there is enormous potential for efficiency and productivity.

E3: Do you want to do it alone?

Knörr: Intensive expansion of the Workday partner system is planned. The partner ecosystem has grown steadily over the years and will be expanded more intensively in the future. We already count Accenture, Alight, Collaborative Solutions, Deloitte, IBM, Kainos, Mercer, MHP, and PricewaterhouseCoopers among the partners in the DACH region who support Workday customers in their initial implementation, change management, and digital transformation.

E3: What is your job then?

Knörr: As a company, we always pay attention to high quality in the collaboration to ensure the "brand identity" and service promise that is transported to the customers. Through rigorous certification awarded by Workday to official partners, we have been able to create a network of like-minded partners that pave the way for future success. With their extensive expertise, investment in consulting teams, and industry specialization, our partners play a critical role in ensuring that we can continue to pride ourselves on high levels of customer satisfaction. 

E3: You're hosting your annual user conference in Barcelona in November, what can visitors expect from this event? Why should people go to Barcelona?

Knörr: At our annual event, Workday Rising Europe, taking place in Barcelona from November 14-16, we're providing glimpses into the future of work and how generative AI will shape tomorrow's HR. But this is not just a trends forum, we want to give customers and interested parties the opportunity to get an honest insight into Workday, exchange ideas with our global and regional management, but also make personal contacts within the community.

E3: What is the goal of the Workday event in Barcelona?

Knörr: The event happens once a year, where prospects and customers can learn about the latest innovations, talk to Workday developers, and interact directly with each other as customers. And at our customer events, for example, we also do closed sessions where really customers only talk to customers, Workday is not there. We don't just talk about transparency, we live transparency.

E3: And how do you profit from the event?

Knörr: The event gives Workday the opportunity to get feedback directly from the customer community: What do customers need, what don't we have yet? And then an adjustment of the roadmap is possible relatively quickly. For example, the request from the community for a data center in Germany - so we were able to announce an alliance with AWS shortly after Workday Rising -Europe. Since then, DACH customers can use our AWS data centers in Frankfurt.

E3: Thank you for the interview and see you in Barcelona.

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