At its annual "Workday Rising" customer conference, California-based enterprise cloud software provider Workday dropped a small bomb by announcing a new recruiting platform that won't debut until 2014.
It's hoping the blast will shake up the human resource management software market.
The company said it made the announcement so far ahead of release to convince customers to "turn off their other systems," co-CEO Aneel Bhusri (pictured, at right) said. He also admitted that the platform was the company's "worst-kept secret" and wouldn't be a "me-too product."
Architecture and UI design are scheduled to be addressed early 2013, with development to continue through the release of Workday 21 (initial release) and into Workday 22 (general availability).
The announcement was met with strong applause from an audience of hundreds of existing customers, potential new ones and employees.
That's not all: Bhusri also announced big data analytics capabilities, a new category of applications for the company that will be released in Spring 2013. This news was met with tepid applause, perhaps showing that the audience wasn't full of data scientists who knew the full implications of such tools.
"Data is just exploding in terms of growth rates," Bhusri said, citing the statistic that 90 percent of the world's data was created in the last two years.
The company's keynote presentation, and indeed the event itself, was laser-focused on the customer. The tone of the Workday executives that spoke -- which included co-CEO Dave Duffield (pictured, at top) and technology product management vice president Dan Beck -- was equal parts appreciative, easygoing and cunning.
Appreciative, thanks to a steady stream of "it's all because of you" statements to the growing company's customers. (Actual example: "We want to have the absolute happiest customers ever," Duffield said. Another: 192 of the 367 features in this year's release "came from you" -- the customers.)
Easygoing, thanks to the manner in which the executives presented. Nerves were not visible; polish was not artificial. ("No B.S.," they even said at one point.) It takes a certain level of comfort with oneself and one's products to ride a lawn mower on stage, as president and COO Mike Stankey did, or filming a video spoof, as Duffield did. (The audience roared in response to both.)
Cunning, because the company knows it's making the right bets and leaving larger rivals behind. (SAP and Oracle are "hamstrung" by "old thinking," they said, and "throwing in the towel" on their on-premise strategy.)
"We're going to innovate and continue to innovate," Duffield said. "Believe me, we're taking that seriously."
Through it all, Workday wanted you to know three things:
First, cloud computing is mainstream -- and on-premise software is on its way out. (Sorry, Oracle. Sorry, SAP.) The fact that everyone is using Workday 17 right now and that bug fixes apply to everyone "is just a magical thing," Duffield said with a hint of delight.
Second, mobile computing rules, and any company that ignores that fact has its head in the sand. It's looking for functional parity on all mobile platforms (whether natively, such as on Apple's iOS, or with HTML5), collaboration (via new workgroups) and social impact (thanks to the incorporation of Salesforce.com's Chatter in the Workday mobile client).
Lastly, Workday really wants your business. It needs it to be profitable. And it's willing to sign a deal with you right now, on stage, as it did with the City of Orlando during the presentation. (More than 200 prospects were in the audience; last year, the company convinced 46 of the 118 in attendance to sign up.)
"Eventually, Workday will be profitable," Duffield said. (For now, he added with a grin, bravo to its customers for negotiating well enough to prevent the company from reaching that elusive goal.)
How will it get there? To quote the legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky, by playing where the puck is going and not where it is. Ninety-two percent of CIOs say cloud is good for their business, Workday's executives said, and the cloud is replacing the spending on general IT. Add to that the fact that employees are embracing the "post-PC world" and it's just a matter of execution and preserving the trust Workday has built with its customer base.
"Think of Workday as your innovation partner for HR, finance and big data analytics," Bhusri said. "We listen to you, we take your feedback, we're building [our products] that way."