Workday update pushes it deeper into Oracle, SAP's turf

Improvements to the SaaS (software as a service) vendor's financials package could land it deals with large enterprises

Workday is rolling out version 16 of its cloud-based ERP (enterprise resource planning) software to customers this week, an update that includes upgrades to the financials component that could help it steal away deals with large enterprises from the likes of Oracle and SAP.

The company has already gained notice for large contracts it has landed for its HCM (human capital management) module with companies like Flextronics and Kimberly-Clark.

Workday 16's financials adds new capabilities that help companies manage their relationships and contracts with suppliers, said CTO Stan Swete. It also features improved asset management functions, allowing assets to be managed "throughout their entire physical and accounting lifecycles," Workday said. All events associated with a particular asset are now logged and tracked in the system.

Also Thursday, Workday is announcing that CEC Entertainment, which runs the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant chain, is migrating to its financials, payroll and HCM software. The pact with the 17,000-employee company is the type that should help jumpstart Workday's broader ambitions for its financials package, according to Swete.

In fact, Workday is "very close" to having a financials feature set that can replace global installations of SAP or Oracle, he said. But it is best to consider this as a set of steps, Swete said.

First, Workday is "stepping up to companies of significant size that are public," he said. Then there are larger companies that are U.S.-based but have some multinational presence, he said.

In the third category lies "non-US-based multinationals," Swete added. "Those first two types of customers are our targets for this year."

Workday's payroll component is ready to handle the needs of very large companies as well, according to Swete. The system ran a payroll for 100,000 employees, based on a model data set, in less than three hours, he said. That result "meets the processing window expectations" of enterprises, he said.

Other updates in Workday 16 include new "touch-optimized" HTML5 mobile applications as well as updates to the vendor's native iPhone and iPad clients.

The HCM module is also being upgraded. One aspect is an improved employee "onboarding" feature set that automates paperwork associated with newly hired workers. In addition, Workday has improved some tools in the application that managers use to conduct employee compensation reviews.

While citing no fear of competition, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison discussed Workday at some length during his company's recent earnings conference call, criticizing it for its underlying database design, which doesn't use a relational database like Oracle's, at least in the traditional sense.

Instead, Workday runs applications transactions in-memory and uses MySQL, which is also owned by Oracle, as a persistent data store. Workday has been open about its architecture for the past six years, said Swete, who declined to comment further on Ellison's remarks.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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