The Dynamic Trio: Reimagining the Learning, Planning, and Student Experience

Leighanne Levensaler discusses three new products announced at Workday Rising: Workday Learning, Workday Planning, and Workday Student, all of which reimagine processes that were fundamentally broken.

Last summer I couldn’t help but notice that superhero movies were everywhere. I think these stories are so attractive because they hit on an all-too-common feeling of unease: Something is wrong, and wouldn’t it be great if someone, or something, could make it right? Then it occurred to me: When it comes to the technology that powers large organizations, superheroes have been few and far between.

That’s why I’m so excited to introduce Workday Learning, Workday Planning, and Workday Student. Each of these products reimagines processes that were fundamentally broken, and rights the wrongs that too many people have had to endure for too long.

Clunky, outdated systems that were disconnected from how organizations want and need to operate created redundancies, inefficiencies, and confusion. They disengaged users and misaligned organizations instead of driving productivity and fostering potential. These systems were begging to be reinvented to mirror the way we actually want to work, so with all three products we’re focusing on how our customers want to:

  • Democratize information to boost engagement across the organization
  • Empower people to grow their skills—this fuels both individual progress and business success
  • Eliminate confusion and complexity so everyone can meaningfully contribute

Simultaneously delivering these products underscores the continued dividends of our early technology decisions. Most importantly, we made the decision to create one unified system built from the ground up—instead of bolting together an ugly mish-mash of systems that can barely talk to each other and move much slower than the pace of innovation. Frankenstein wasn’t a superhero, after all.

Before and After

You’ve probably interacted with learning, planning, and student products sometime in your life. Let’s examine what the experience used to look like, and what it can look like now.

Learning is one of the most enriching activities in the human experience, and most people look back fondly on a more carefree time when their main job was to soak up knowledge. But, how much do you like your LMS? You may not know the acronym (it stands for “Learning Management System,” a name that basically takes the joy out of learning), but chances are you’ve used one. It’s the system usually built for HR compliance reasons like completing your company’s code of conduct training. Necessary training—but usually the experience is cumbersome, slow, and the content is not representative of the skills and development opportunities we truly desire today.

With Workday Learning, we are breaking down the barriers between personal and professional learning and making it more natural for employees—with user-generated content, video, and a system that “learns the learner” and recommends courses. Workday Learning is the first training and development application to bring a consumer-like learning experience into the workplace. And, because all finance and HR data lives in the same Workday system, companies can specify that certain events—promotions, change of location, flagging sales numbers—trigger content designed to help an employee grow and thrive.

We’ve stuck to our core values here as we introduce not one, but three new products that completely redefine existing categories.

Planning usually happens in spreadsheets, and is often plagued by outdated data and confusion. Are you looking at the most recent version? Is there a string of reviewers’ initials at the end of the version you’re looking at that would take a cryptologist to decode? And, even if you are looking at the most recent spreadsheet, the numbers there most likely reflect a snapshot of the past. Spreadsheets, the time-tested tool for headcount plans, budget forecasts, and other forward-looking activities, just aren’t made for the scope, scale, and globally-connected nature of workforce and financial planning for today’s organizations.

This is why with Workday Planning we’re introducing Worksheets, the first native spreadsheet experience built for collaboration in the enterprise. Engineered for the continuous nature of planning, Workday Planning is the Holy Grail for CFOs as the first system to bring together workforce, financial planning, and transactions all in one place. By using real-time finance and HR data—and an audit trail throughout—outdated spreadsheets are, well, outdated relics of the past.

Student information systems usually force administrators to compile the information students have filled out on clunky green-screen interfaces—and sometimes paper-based forms—required to enroll in college, build and manage their schedules, or check-in on financial aid balances. For too many students, managing their academic career is full of annoyances, #2 pencils, long lines, and endless conversations that are far removed from the end goal of gaining the skills needed to graduate and land a good job.

Workday Student is the first truly modern student information system built fully in the cloud—with many features that simply weren’t around 20 to 30 years ago when existing systems were built. It sets a new bar for student information systems by putting everything faculty, administrators, and students need into one place—creating a mobile, social, and connected experience for everyone involved. More than 40 institutions partnered with us on helping design Workday Student to help bridge the gap from education to occupation. For example, the registrar’s office can extend the college transcript to include experience beyond traditional coursework, allowing students to include projects, multimedia, and other items that showcase the full depth of a college career.

Values Made Real

As you can see, at Workday we are at a point where our technology platform foundation is rock solid and our pace of innovation is in constant go-mode, which means we’re able to deliver features and functionality at lightning speed. Looking to the future, all of our products—not just these new ones—are being designed to include content creation and data storytelling; deeper analytics with contextual intelligence to give each user what they need when they need it, and collaborative capabilities so that large projects can benefit from many points of view instead of being slowed down.

I really believe that each of these products does this independently as well as together in one system. Too often we think of the knowledge economy as being out in the marketplace, whereas really, bringing the knowledge economy into your own organization is where real-time information, engaging content, and timely analytics will open up new ways of working, new revenue opportunities, and potentially, even new business models.

In addition, for us here at Workday, the delivery of these products will help enlarge the divide between us and competitors, and is a milestone on our path to profitability and goal of being a $3 billion company.

Another, final lesson that superheros offer: They are completely defined by their values. We’ve stuck to our core values here as we introduce not one, but three new products that completely redefine existing categories. Sometimes, wrongs are righted, and we can play our part in making the world of work a better place.


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