Workday CEO: The future is about data, insights and predictions

Aneel Bhusri​ is co-founder, co-CEO and chairman at Workday​. Bhusri spoke with Ray Wang and Vala Afshar about the latest innovation in HR, finance and planning enterprise cloud applications.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer

Aneel Bhusri is co-founder, co-CEO and chairman at WorkdayWorkday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance, HR, and planning. Bhusri has been a leader, product visionary, and innovator in the enterprise software industry for more than 20 years. 

Before co-founding Workday in 2005, Bhusri held a number of leadership positions at PeopleSoft, including vice chairman of the board and senior vice president responsible for product strategy, business development and marketing. In addition to his role at Workday, Bhusri is an advisory partner at Greylock, a leading venture capital firm that he has been associated with since 1999. Bhusri is a member of the Board of Trustees at Stanford University. He also serves on the board of directors of the Workday Foundation, and of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Bhusri previously served on the board of directors of several other companies, including Intel, Pure Storage and Okta. 


Aneel Bhusri is co-founder, co-CEO and chairman at Workday

To learn more about the latest innovation and business trends in human capital management and financial planning, Ray Wang, CEO and founder of a Silicon Valley-based advisory firm Constellation Research, and I invited Aneel Bhusri to our weekly show DisrupTV. Here are the key takeaways from our conversation with Mr. Bhusri.

The future is about data, insights and predictions 

We began our conversation with Bhusri about business adoption of cloud application. Cloud computing is a long-term business solution and architecture. Bhusri said we will continue to build on the cloud architecture which began with process automation and configuration models versus customization. Today it is about data and moving forward will be about prediction. He also talked about partnership with cloud providers that can scale capabilities like Google and Amazon. The focus for the next decade will be on capturing insights from data and composite applications. 

Employee engagement rose to the top priority for business leaders 

Workday solutions enable their clients to plan, execute and analyze. During the pandemic, on the HR side, employee engagement rose to the top priority for business leaders. Workday focuses on the success of their employees and customers during the pandemic. Bhusri was nervous about the economy, but fortunately for Workday, it had a great year. Workday served many of the companies in the frontline of the pandemic. Workday also served all of the major pharmaceutical companies during the pandemic. Bhusri is very grateful and proud to serve customers who championed our recovery during the pandemic. 

CHROs are now front office business contributors 

The pandemic was a 10 year accelerant for cultural and digital transformation. Bhusri spoke about telemedicine and distance learning accelerated by the pandemic. Cloud adoption also received a boost due to the changing needs of customers. On-premise technologies were negatively impacted by the pandemic. Bhusri reiterated that employee engagement rose to the top of every CEO's list. Because employee engagement is a top priority, chief human resource officers (CHROs) have shifted from back office to front office business contributors. 

Kindness and empathy matters more than ever 

Bhusri shared very kind words about Dave Duffield, Workday co-founder, and his valuable mentorship and lessons learned about the importance of being kind, humble and generous. Bhusri also talked about collaborating with Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff and lessons learned about creating a company culture focused on stakeholder success. Bhusri credits his understanding of stakeholder versus shareholder success mentality based on conversations with Benioff. He also spoke about conversations with Benioff about the 1% pledge model which impacted his giving mindset and approach. Bhusri believes that companies must follow their core values and be willing to speak about basic human values and human rights, like racial injustice and inequality and immigration issues. 

Businesses must better understand the value of data 

Bhusri is excited about the future of analytics and predictions in business. Access to data is key to ensure the full value of business predictions. Industry solutions also play a key role in the future. Many sectors continue to have on-premise legacy solutions. Bhusri believes there is great opportunity for startups and entrepreneurs to focus on modernization of these systems. Bhusri also believes that companies must continue to show their clients about how to use their data to improve decision velocity and execution excellence. 

Machine learning will play a big role in human capital management and financial planning 

Workday solutions can help career path professionals based on ML models. ML models are also used to audit predictions using financial data and provide predictions and exception based, optimizing employee workloads and reducing costs. Workday is leveraging ML models to shift from predictions to prescriptive use of analytics. Machines (algorithms) and humans can co-exist to accelerate co-creation of value. The Workday ML strategy is analyze massive amounts of data and then provide moments that matter with highly intelligent and sophisticated predictions. The ML models are providing augmented intelligence to the human workforce. Bhusri also talked about blockchain and credentials as an important future capability, with digital identities. For example, Workday can provide a vaccine passport based on its blockchain technology, instead of having people carry paper proof of vaccinations. 

Aneel Bhusri is a visionary and a technology pioneer. I highly encourage you to watch the entire interview with him. We followed up our conversation regarding employee experience and its impact on business growth with Tiffani Bova, chief growth evangelist at Salesforce and the author of the Wall Street Journal bestselling book GROWTH IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices that Will Make or Break Your Business. Bova has been named to the latest Thinkers50's list of the world's top management thinkers. She is the host of What's Next! with Tiffani Bova, an iTunes' all-time business and management bestseller and a top sales podcast. Bova provided brilliant insights regarding her latest research on employee and customer experience which I plan to cover in a near future article. 

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