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Workday grows with business-budgeting software and video for learning

At its annual customer conference, Workday introduced details of tools for learning, planning, budgeting and forecasting, as well as an information system for students at universities.

CHICAGO -- Workday Inc. today released new software products, marking dramatic expansions of its cloud-based applications...

for finance and human resources.

The products, which include learning, new functions for a student information system in higher education, and budgeting, planning and forecasting software, were introduced at the company's annual user conference.

In an interview ahead of the conference, Mike Frandsen, executive vice president of products at Workday, based in Pleasanton, Calif., said it is an amazing amount of products that were built, and it's special that they were all offered to customers on the same day, Sept. 27.

"We are not buying companies, and then turning around and making those available," said Frandsen, who oversees product management, quality assurance and delivery. "We are taking great, new technology and making that part of our technical platform, and then building apps on top of that -- really powerful apps."

Products benefit from robust enterprise system

All the products use Workday's mobile platform, as well as the same reporting and analytics, security and other capabilities as the rest of human capital management (HCM) and financial management.

The heart of the budgeting software is a worksheet that provides all the functions and features of a spreadsheet, but it is wired into a robust enterprise system, Frandsen said.

In many cases, the business-budgeting software, called Workday Planning, would replace Microsoft Excel, which is still used by many companies. Unlike Excel, the budgeting, planning and forecasting software is real-time and collaborative, meaning budget planners would no longer need to email stand-alone Excel forms back and forth and manage and control different versions.

As planners compare budgets to actual spending and make changes or need information, they could share access to the central worksheet with an email or a notification, and multiple users could work and collaborate on the same document.

A key differentiator for Workday Planning is the worksheet capability, which is a result of Workday acquiring GridCraft last year. The technology is layered into Workday's platform and will be a core part for Workday Planning.  

Mobile important for business-budgeting software

One of the great benefits of Workday Planning is that it is mobile, he said, allowing people in the field who need to weigh in on a budget plan to do so over the mobile platform.

The business-budgeting software allows for continuous planning and budgeting on a monthly basis, or whatever schedule a user prefers. It is a huge step because it empowers businesses to be more proactive and to be more dynamic instead of just focusing on accounting, Frandsen said.

"I now have a platform where I can get all this information on budgets versus actuals and variances. I can send a note to someone with a link on their mobile device to the exact question I might have, like, 'Why are you over on your head count, and what are your plans in terms of how to adjust that?'"

The business-budgeting software also can tie into a company's HR data and model scenarios for equipment, space, compensation planning, what kind of facilities to build and where to staff people.

Mobile first for student information system

Workday is making available an end-to-end student information system for higher education.

New components for Workday Student include curriculum management, student records, academic advising, financial aid and student financials. Applications for student recruiting and admissions had become available in 2014 and 2015.

Liz Dietz, vice president of Workday's student product management and strategy, said a key differentiator of Workday Student is it is designed to be mobile-first.

"There is a huge shift in students' expectations," she said. "If you think about some of the legacy systems ... all of the systems that are currently on the market do not natively address mobile."

Dietz said unlike a typical student information system, Workday Student is unified. There is no separate system to manage student receivables, for example, meaning a bursar can quickly obtain insights into records on student fees -- frequently the largest revenue source.

Dietz said the software provides alerts and notifications to push and receive information from students, such as for financial aid or completing admissions' applications.

The software also seeks to help students illustrate their competencies beyond the classroom, she said. College transcripts can be modified to include volunteer activities or work experience and maybe help in getting a job.

Workday stresses video for learning

Another new product, Workday Learning, is also transformational in that it supports and manages video, leverages the vendor's existing HCM and financial management system data to target content to employees, and it enables employees to create and share videos and other content over their smartphones or any other device, said Leighanne Levensaler, senior vice president of products at Workday. 

The new learning software taps into everything Workday HCM already knows about employees, including their career interests, their location, job title, the skills they possess and need, and their team members, she said.

With that background and rich context, Workday Learning recommends videos, documents, PowerPoints, online courses and other content to people in much the same way Netflix, Hulu, YouTube or other media make recommendations to consumers at home, she said.

"We built a new kind of learning solution," Levensaler said. "We built it from the ground up. We did not acquire a learning management system. We built this capability native into our HCM suite."

Many early adopters, including Commerce Bank and TalkTalk, used Workday Learning over the summer, testing features and giving feedback to help refine the application. 

Learning a big market opportunity

Workday Learning is a huge market opportunity for the vendor, but it also helps mark a new era in empowering employees. With the new software, learning is democratized, not just whatever is offered by a company's training or development department, Levensaler said.

A hallmark of the design is peer-to-peer learning, she said. That means any employee can use lightweight tools on the system to create videos or other content and share it after it is cleared via the approval process put in place by an organization's administrators.

Other employees can rate content on a scale of one to five, and the more viral it gets, the more prominent it becomes as a recommendation for people with similar interests, or in similar positions or locations, she said.

Levensaler added that Workday Learning makes video simple by automatically converting it to work on any device, browser and connection.

"We took responsibility for handling that because we believe in video. It is such a powerful medium. Content is fairly ephemeral. You don't have a long shelf life for content these days ... Organizations are dynamic. They are moving at fast clip. They have new products, new services, new industries they are going into. They need to get people ramped up on a dime. Video is a great medium for that."

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