Developing Apps for Kainos and its Customers in Workday Extend

With Workday Extend, digital transformation expert Kainos creates apps that run seamlessly inside the cloud-based enterprise management platform. Here’s how and why they use it.

As a provider of digital technology solutions that handle everything from software development to machine learning, Kainos has become adept at spotting opportunities to create new apps to solve business challenges. Often those applications need to work seamlessly with the enterprise management platform, sharing data, configuration and functionality.  This often ends up adding complexity to an organisation.

That’s where Workday Extend comes in. Workday Extend enables organisations to build apps that run inside the Workday platform. We recently spoke with Matt McManus, group head of finance at Kainos, and Damien Taylor, chief technology officer of the Workday practice at Kainos, about how they’re using Workday Extend to create apps for Kainos and its customers, and where they can take it in the future.

What are the benefits of using Extend to build apps that run inside the Workday platform?

Taylor: With Workday Extend, an app looks and feels like Workday. So it’s very easy to get all the users aware of it and using it, without the need for training. And an Extend app is up-to-date with the platform and fully aware of everything inside it. For instance, when an employee changes positions or leaves the organisation, an Extend app knows about it. I don’t think you can overestimate the power of that when it comes to avoiding the work involved in building integrations or moving data.

McManus: The power of having the app inside Workday is not only the user experience but also the fact that it’s hosted by Workday. So it’s a much quicker implementation than a third-party tool. With Extend, you don’t have to buy or licence a separate tool and then go through compliance and security checks, and so on.

Taylor: The thing that keeps me awake at night most is data security and data privacy. We have now helped over 60 customers on their Extend journey. Customers expect their data to be secure.  With Workday Extend, Workday looks after the security from a physical perspective but also allows customers to leverage existing security configuration in Workday, making life much easier for customers and partners. We just have to build the functionality.  A great example of this is the Employee Document Management app that Kainos built to help customers better manage all HR related documents. Customers can have rich employee documents inside Workday and utilise existing core Workday configuration to ensure that document permissions are aligned with the rest of Workday.

“The power of having the app inside Workday is not only the user experience but also the fact that it’s hosted by Workday. So it’s a much quicker implementation than a third-party tool”.

Matt McManus Kainos

Let’s look at one example: the Extend app for travel management that Kainos recently built. What does that app allow you to do?

Taylor: With the travel management app, our staff members can go into Workday and submit travel requests, and then our travel team books the appropriate travel for them. And we can now report on travel habits against projects, financial spend, HR data, and attrition. A big bonus of Extend is reporting—the ability to report on all the data inside one platform is incredible.

McManus: From a finance point of view, we can see that travel requests are created and then assigned to a project. We can recognise revenue, assign the calls to the right call centres, and in some cases bill to customers. That all happens in the background while the employee has a single user experience. And that’s incredibly powerful.

Taylor: The other day I was speaking with a colleague who said, “We’re using Workday’s travel booking functionality.” And I said, “Oh, that’s the app we built.” For me, that was a testament to the value of Extend apps. Your staff thinks it’s core Workday because it behaves and looks like core Workday

How did Kainos use Extend to help address pandemic-related challenges?

Taylor: To help our staff return to the office, we built an Extend app with health questionnaires and health attestations. And we built a seat-booking functionality, so that employees could see when their team members were coming into the office and then book seats in the same area or a nearby area. The app also had full contact-tracing functionality, so if someone did get Covid, we could trace their proximity to their colleagues.

How does your development team collaborate with the rest of the organisation to build apps in Extend?

Taylor: Every app in Extend has a business owner who wants that app, so we have to work with them to understand their core requirements. The most important thing we do internally and for our customers when building apps is collaborate with the end users. There’s no point in building an app that meets the needs of the business owner but doesn’t accommodate the actual user’s needs. So we bring in end users to make sure the app does what they need it to do. We build user prototypes and let the end users play with them a bit. And at the end of the project, we bring back the business owners and end users to test the app and make sure it works as expected.

What advice can you offer organisations interested in Extend?

Taylor: Start simple—learn to walk first. Have multiple use cases, prioritise them based on simplicity and value, and then pick the simplest one that delivers value.

Pick an app that makes sense in the Workday platform. Is it going to use Workday data and push data into Workday? Is it an app related to people processes or financial processes? If so, it’s probably a good contender. But there’s no point building something with Extend that doesn’t belong in Workday.

Use the code samples on Workday’s developer site, then build out from there. Stay within Workday’s user experience patterns as best you can, because you don’t want your app to jar with the Workday platform. Obviously, do the Workday training.

Also, surround yourself with the right people. You need technical people to do this, whether they’re software engineers or integration consultants. Treat this like a development project; this isn’t an integration. And bring in the key stakeholders: the business users and the end users as early in the process as possible.

McManus: And when you develop an app, remember you’ll also need to maintain it.

Taylor: And make sure you take advantage of things like Devcon, the annual developer conference that Workday hosts. It’s a great opportunity to rub shoulders with other experts and learn what everyone else is doing with Extend and, of course, participate in the 24 hour hackathon to try out the latest Extend technology. That also helps us ideate and anticipate our customers needs.

"We have a list of things we’d like to build with Extend. We use Workday Adaptive Planning, so we are planning to build an application that will enable us to plan and forecast further into the future."

Damien Taylor Kainos

What’s on your wish list of Extend apps?

Taylor: We have a list of things we’d like to build with Extend. We use Workday Adaptive Planning, so we are planning to build an application that will enable us to plan and forecast further into the future.

We now use Workday Compensation for employee bonuses, but throughout the year, employees don’t know how we’re tracking bonuses or how much bonus they’re likely to get. And at the end of the year, someone has to figure out bonus percentages. We want to create an Extend app so that employees can see how their bonuses are tracking over the year, and then at the end of the year the bonuses automatically go to payroll.

The app I would personally love is one that facilitates peer feedback. It would collect structured but anonymous feedback from an employee’s peers, so the employee can hear directly what their peers think instead of getting that primarily from the manager.

I’d also love to have an app in Workday so that whenever I have a staffing event, like a new hire or a job change, I can see on one page all the different hardware, software tools, and security access that employee needs.

McManus: Damien, if you build that, I will buy it!

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