Workday makes its big analytics bet, launches Prism Analytics, data-as-a-service, benchmarking

Workday has integrated the technology behind Platfora and is betting that the ability to analyze new data sources will complement its people and financial information.

Workday is all-in on analytics as it launches Prism Analytics, a data-as-a-service effort and aims to use its platform to become the front-end to other enterprise systems.

At Workday Rising, the company fleshed out Prism Analytics, which is based on the acquisition of Platfora. Workday spent much of the last year integrating Platfora onto one code base instead of bolting systems together in a what would be another addition to a cloud menu.

When Prism is coupled with Workday's move to open its cloud platform to developers, it's clear that the company is looking to gain more enterprise data under management. "Prism will work with Workday and non-Workday data sets," said Dan Beck, senior vice president, technical platform. "Workday will also bring in other operational data."

Visualization tools were added in Workday 29 and the Workday 30 Spring release will have more tools that utilize in-memory and benchmarking.

These efforts will combine with a data-as-a-service play that will utilize Workday's HR and financial customer base data--anonymized--for benchmarking information.

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While Workday's efforts should fare well, it's worth noting that most cloud vendors are offering analytics and connections to datasets across an enterprise. Salesforce has its Wave Analytics coupled with Einstein. Oracle, Microsoft and SAP also have analytics efforts. And then there are pure plays such as Tableau, SAS and Qlik. What's unclear is what analytics platform can really win when most cloud vendors have their own spin.

For instance, Salesforce comes at analytics from a customer relationship view. Workday comes at analytics with an human capital lens. Oracle and SAP are about the transactional data. IBM comes at it from various perspectives too. How many analytics tools does a company need?

Here's a look at Gartner's business intelligence and analytics platform Magic Quadrant. Platfora was in a previous version, but removed when Workday bought the company.

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Workday's analytics makes sense in that it will start focused on its own customers. Beck said Prism and Workday's benchmarking service will likely be add-ons for customers that are already in with human capital and financial software.

"We will put this all together in one system to plan, process and analyze and then extend the cloud platform," said Beck.

Putting it all together

Workday acquired Platfora in June 2016, outlined integration plans at Workday Rising that September and this year is delivering at its powwow.

Pete Schlampp, vice president of Workday Analytics via the Platfora purchase, said the integration on the back end went well since both companies were built on Hadoop and Spark and big data approaches.

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The rest of Platfora's technology adopted everything from Workday's security approach to data schema to design language. Platfora's key engines--data prep, integration, analytics and visualization--were rebuilt from scratch.

"Beginning in 2016, the companies started talking about what Workday customers were doing and how they wanted to analyze data about their people and financials in context of third party data. But data was in silos across the premises," said Schlampp.

These customer needs weren't that surprising. A hospitality company may have data in a point of sale system that it needs to connect to people and financials in a Workday system. "Prism is designed to connect and synchronize in the Workday cloud and keep it secure," said Schlampp. "This is not Platfora reskinned. Workday talks about the power of one and not single products."

Workday will build out the Prism partnership and integration roster.

Will Prism Analytics be the forerunner to HCM and financials in some deals? Schlampp said the core focus is existing Workday customers that see analytics as a differentiator. "Analytics is more important for customers. Customers don't make analytics decisions. They make better business decisions. The vision is to make better people and financial decisions," said Schlampp.

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