Workday takes on SAP and Oracle with payroll plans for UK, France

With its sights set firmly on European expansion, cloud ERP firm Workday has flagged up its strategic intentions with two new payroll initiatives.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor on

Enterprise cloud apps company Workday has set out its plans for UK and French payroll systems as part of a drive to secure more European subscriptions.

Europe constitutes Workday's fastest-growing market, growing from virtually nothing about two years ago to provide more than 10 percent of the company's business today, according to chairman, co-founder and co-CEO Aneel Bhusri.

"Workday is really serious about Europe and at the highest level we're in a little bit of a race with SAP and Oracle. We believe we have a four- or five-year head-start with the products, as the world moves from on-premise to the cloud," Bhusri said.

"They've obviously got bigger sales and services organisations in Europe — that's really the race. I'm pretty optimistic at this point but these are two formidable competitors," he said.

"Since the day we started the company, we set out to replace PeopleSoft, SAP and Oracle and if you look at our customer base, in almost all cases, they are replacements for one of those three systems."

Bhusri said the company's success in North America results largely from a focus on multinationals. Workday's strategy in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries is built on the same approach.

"We do very well with multinationals that are managing people across multiple geographies. The system is built to provide a single global view of all your employees, of all your talents and all your costs but also it supports all the local legislation as well," he said.

According to Bhusri, Workday has already chalked up some notable successes in Europe, securing contracts with UK-based multinationals such as insurer Aviva, retail group Primark, foreign-exchange company Travelex, and business services firm Rentokil Initial — as well as electronics giant Philips in the Netherlands. Workday has about 450 major customers worldwide.

He said the decision to work on payroll systems, which should be available by 2015 in the UK and 2016 in France, is based on their strategic importance.

"That just opens up more of the market for us. Some of the large companies would like to run not just human resources but payroll in a unified way and without the payroll offerings they would probably wait a little longer to become a customer," Bhusri said.

He added that the UK and French payroll systems represented major commitments and that he expected Workday to do better than the 2015 and 2016 dates for UK and French payroll.

"Those are conservative dates but what we're putting out there now is a way for customers and potential customers to plan around those availability dates," he said.

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