Taking the stage at Workday Rising Europe on Wednesday morning in Milan, Workday Co-Founder and CEO Aneel Bhusri discussed the enormous impact the changing world is having on our customers. 

“There is so much change across our personal and professional lives,” Bhusri said, “and Workday is working hard to support you in this changing world.”

Workday Co-President Chano Fernandez joined Bhusri on stage, sharing a number of statistics about Workday Rising in Milan and Workday’s presence in Europe:

  • More than 3,000 attendees at Workday Rising in Milan.
  • More than 2,000 employees in Europe (more than 11,400 worldwide).
  • A Workday donation of €100,000 to Generation Italy, an organization that helps Italy’s youth build their professional careers.

Bhusri also touched on the recent announcement about Workday’s intent to buy Scout, a leading cloud-based platform for strategic sourcing and supplier engagement. Scout is a Workday software partner and a Workday Ventures portfolio company. “We are very excited about Scout,” said Bhusri. 

Workday Co-President Chano Fernandez and Co-Founder and CEO Aneel Bhusri.

Here are some of the news highlights and product announcements from the keynote:

Constantly Refreshing, Reinventing, and Investing

“There is not one line of code from Workday’s initial inception,” said Leighanne Levensaler, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of corporate strategy. Workday continues to change and innovate right along with its customers. This continual reinvention is so important, she said, “because as we help you leave legacy systems, we have to ensure we don’t become the next version of one!”

In that vein, Workday has been embracing machine learning in recent years. “There is no doubt that it has the potential to be as disruptive as the move to the cloud itself.” At Workday, she explained, we’re approaching machine learning in the customer-driven, pragmatic way we approach any innovation:

  • We’re looking to address real business needs. 
  • We’re determining whether machine learning is the right technology to solve a given problem.
  • We’re putting people at the heart of machine learning innovation because we believe it is not going to replace people. The power of machine lies in making people more powerful.  

Lastly, she elaborated on the acquisition of Scout. With it, she said, “we are expanding the depth and breadth of our procurement suite. By bringing Scout together with Workday, we’ll give our customers a best-in-class, comprehensive source-to-pay solution, improving operational efficiency, driving down costs, and enhancing supplier collaboration and engagement.”

Workday CMO and Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy Leighanne Levensaler.

Workday People Experience

This is a personalized, more intelligent employee experience aimed at improving efficiency, knowledge sharing, and collaboration.

The Workday People Experience “weaves together Workday and non-Workday applications into a single user experience,” said Ali Fuller, senior director, people experience. “Your people no longer need to know where to go to find things—it’s all in Workday. And it’s accessible wherever they want it—meeting them where they are, in tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack.” 

She added that Workday People Experience leverages machine learning, natural language processing, rich media, and enterprise search. 

Journal Insights and Workday Accounting Center

“Powered by machine learning, Journal Insights will surface exceptions as they occur,” said Barbara Larson, general manager of Workday Financial Management. “No more playing detective, sorting through mountains of data during the high-pressure month-end close.”

Workday Accounting Center, she noted, is powered by machine learning. “Accounting Center takes your high-volume data from your operational systems like insurance claims or bank loans. We run through those our accounting rules engine and transform those business events into journals, the debits and credits for those transactions, one accounting rules engine to drive all your accounting.”

Skills Insights and Talent Marketplace

“Historically, getting accurate skill information about your workforce was difficult at best. But with skills insights, all you have to do is enable skills cloud in Workday,” said David Somers, general manager, Workday talent optimization. “This solution leverages machine learning to mine Workday’s rich data sets, things like performance reviews, feedback, and job history to create a snapshot of your organization’s key skill strengths and gaps.”

“And once you’ve unlocked all that data, how do you use it to ensure your workers can engage and grow?” Somers asked. “Workday Talent Marketplace was built just for that. Imagine a solution where your workers get visibility into opportunities that match their unique skills, job history, and even their interests, and not through complex searches or manually checking in but, instead, automatically via Workday.”

Discovery Board and Workday People Analytics

“To make better decisions in this changing world, we all need access to the right data at the right time,” said Pete Schlampp, senior vice president and general manager, Workday analytics and reporting. “We’re making it available to all Workday customers using the data sources and the security that you’re accustomed to. It’s called Discovery Boards. And it enables business users to ask questions using simple selections and get answers at the speed of thought.”

“And this year, we’re delivering a new product called Workday People Analytics,” Schlampp added. “It uses augmented analytics to continually analyze your organization. It looks for patterns across millions of data points generated by your business and finds trends and anomalies. When it finds an important trend, it ranks it, and then using graph processing, it determines what’s driving the change, and then it presents it to you in natural language that anyone can understand.”

Role-Based Dashboards and Workday Success Plans

“We know in some cases you’re so busy that bringing all this innovation into your organization isn’t always easy. But it’s so important,” said Emily McEvilly, vice president of Workday global services. “To further invest in your success, we’ll be delivering over a dozen role-based dashboards in the next few months. These will be dashboards for roles such as HR partner, accountant, projects manager, and many more.”

She also announced Workday Success Plans. “You will get feature adoption planning, a detailed roadmap, and personalized application guidance from Workday experts. You’ll get access to new webinars and training, help with managing the change, and the ability to participate in small customer forums that we’re calling crews, where you can collaborate, foster peer-to-peer learning, and expand your network.”

Workday Credentials and WayTo by Workday

“We’re using new technologies like blockchain to bring credentials into the digital era,” said James Cross, vice president, strategy. “We’re doing this through a brand-new platform, Workday Credentials. As a Workday customer, you can use this platform to issue credentials to your people. These can represent employment history, skills cloud skills, learning, compliance training, and much more.”

“We’re also super excited to introduce a brand-new mobile app for individuals. This new app is called WayTo by Workday. WayTo lets you capture your credentials in a secure place that you control. WayTo follows you throughout your career. You can take it with you from Workday tenant to Workday tenant. You can use it to apply for jobs, to capture your learning, to prove your employment, and so much more.”

Navigating Culture in a Changing World

Organizations tend to measure everything relating to value, but they don’t measure values. Futurist Anne Lise Kjaer explained to an audience at Wednesday’s Executive Programme at Workday Rising in Milan why that imbalance must change. As an author and futurist, Kjaer researches and strategizes about developments and trends in areas ranging from disruptive technologies and social sciences, to the environment and transportation.

Futurist Anne Lise Kjaer presented at Wednesday’s Executive Programme at Workday Rising in Milan.

Being successful in the future, Kjaer said, “will depend on how well we channel our creative energy. But how do we reach beyond what we know today to cultivate new thinking? How can we turn this thinking into actionable ideas?”

In the past, businesses were mostly focused on “P” for profit. “But in the 21st century, we need multidimensional thinking to offer a much wider definition of progress.” Kjaer has a model for this, which she calls the 4P Innovation Model. Here’s how she defines the 4Ps:

  • People. Cultivating diversity of thinking and ideas, along with an openness to age, gender, and ethnicity. This increasingly drives performance, including agility and resilience.
  • Planet. Fostering a combination of collaborative communities and emotional intelligence. As an example, Kjaer cites IKEA’s SPACE 10 innovation lab, which gives total freedom to a global network of contributors to explore themes such as future food security, urbanization, and wellness.
  • Purpose. Caring organizations balance value (business) with values (betterness).
  • Profit. Inclusive organizations foster new alliances and a circular economy to boost performance and positive change.

“Once we balance people and planet with a purposeful ethos to match, we cultivate an inclusive culture, and that leads to sustainable performance,” said Kjaer.

She ended her talk with this inspiring wish: “In my dream scenario of tomorrow, leaders will say: ‘I do not just want to be the best in the world. I also want to be the best for the world.’”

The New Currency of Skills 

As leaders navigate the changing world of work, it’s clear that skills—from cataloging the skills in your organization and identifying skills gaps, through to upskilling and reskilling people—will continue to be a key focus area.

Mandy Jeffery, vice president, people, Workday, led an interactive discussion at the Executive Programme, where attendees shared their experiences as they seek to ensure their companies and their people are ready for the future.

Participants offered a number of suggestions on ways to creatively upskill the organization. One IT executive shared how offering nanodegrees within their engineering team is helping transform the skillset of engineers to AI and machine learning specialists. Another spoke of a program available to employees and the general public, where 30,000 scholarships allow people to pursue nanodegrees in areas including AI, data analytics, and cloud technology on an online learning platform. A UK-based retailer discussed a rapidly expanding apprenticeship program specifically targeting areas where gaps exist in the organization.

Underscoring the pace of change, a customer executive cited a study by Harvard Medical School that predicts the “half-life” of medical knowledge—that is, the amount of time that passes before the value of the knowledge drops by half—will decrease from 18 to 24 months in 2016 to 73 days in 2020. She then shared how this has informed the way in which we need to think about skills and knowledge, with value of the ability to absorb change and knowledge coupled with “a passion to learn.” As she put it, “It’s got to be a balanced conversation about specific digital and technical skills and how to create that muscle that allows people to be compelled to learn on an almost constant basis.”

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