Workday CEO on Oracle, Dropbox, and the CIO role at Structure 2013

Workday CEO on Oracle, Dropbox, and the CIO role at Structure 2013

Summary: Workday's chief offers suggestions for the best approach for dumping legacy systems for the cloud.

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Considering that his company arguably became the poster child of successful enterprise software IPOs in 2012, Workday co-founder and co-CEO Aneel Bhusri would be a good person to turn to for tips about solving enterprise tech problems.

The Pleasanton, Calif.-based company made a splash on the New York Stock Exchange when it went public last October.

During a fireside chat at GigaOm Structure 2013 on Wednesday afternoon, Bhusri commented that the stock has done "quite well" since then, and Workday raised an additional $600 million just last week.

Overall, the employee base is up to 2,100 and the subscription base (Workday's bread and butter) grew by 80 percent last quarter.

See also: AMD exec at Structure 2013: The one-size-fits-all hardware era is over

Looking forward, Bhusri outlined that there are two big leaps that Workday needs to make: Extend its leadership from HR to financial services and also from North America to overseas markets.

"Almost any problem you're going to face in the enterprise cloud, someone in the consumer cloud has already faced it," Bhusri remarked.

Bhusri described that Workday started with a "traditional enterprise architecture." Yet after a few major outages, company leaders looked at all of the components of the enterprise Software-as-a-Service platform (i.e. data, user interface, mobile) to reevaluate.

With a nod to the consumerization of IT, Bhusri suggested buddying up with consumer tech leaders for best practices and advice, noting that he is good friends with leaders at LinkedIn as an example.

"Almost any problem you're going to face in the enterprise cloud, someone in the consumer cloud has already faced it," Bhusri remarked.

But once everything was good to go, a big challenge for the enterprise software provider has been convincing business to give up on legacy systems.

Based on Bhusri's comments, there are two key lessons: befriend the CIO and timing is everything.

"There are applications and companies that try to avoid the CIO. You have to embrace the CIO," Bhusri asserted. "We know we're going to get HR and finance excited. It's about getting the CIO on our side."

In the early days, Bhusri admitted that "we might have avoided" the CIO because the cloud wasn't as disruptive yet. But today, he continued, more than half of CIOs embrace the cloud.

To convince CIOs to switch from legacy systems to Software-as-a-Service platforms, Bhusri suggested waiting until customers are faced with an upgrade.

"There are applications and companies that try to avoid the CIO. You have to embrace the CIO," Bhusri asserted. "We know we're going to get HR and finance excited. It's about getting the CIO on our side."

At Workday, Bhusri described that his company targets CIOs by touting a consumer-grade experience with a new business model that is "about half the cost of legacy systems."

As those legacy systems are finding themselves on the way out, that is shifting the power dynamic in the industry too.

"If you look at the past as any indicator, big companies are built around core systems of record," Bhusri said, noting that the industry leader there used to be Siebel. Now, he argued, it's Salesforce.com. In human resources and finance, Bhusri said it "used to be" Oracle and PeopleSoft.

Bhusri boasted now its Workday.

With file sharing and collaboration, Bhursri said he could "see why Dropbox is doing so well," but he questioned how long will it be before those kinds of services are just built into larger platforms. Even for an enterprise-grade version, such as Box, Bhusri admitted it is hard to see how that would fit longer term.

"Customers want a unified experience," Bhusri continued, noting that with Workday and Salesforce, businesses can accomplish the transactions and crunch analytics at once.

To add collaboration services, Bhursi posited that the question will be to deliver it through a partnership, build it in-house, or make an acquisition.

Bhursi concluded that the segment that hasn't been touched yet concerns industry-specific applications, such as healthcare. Bhusri predicted the next wave of innovation will be there.

Topics: Cloud, Data Centers, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Enterprise 2.0

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