Workday ready to take on 'usual suspects'

Zuko Mdwaba, South Africa country director, Workday.
Zuko Mdwaba, South Africa country director, Workday.

There is a bit of fatigue in South Africa around 'the usual [enterprise software] suspects'. As much as they are amazing, big companies, they have legacy to deal with," says Zuko Mdwaba, country director of Workday.

ITWeb caught up with Mdwaba at the company's annual community gathering, Workday Rising, in Vienna, last week

"We opened offices on 15 February 2018, but we already had presence in South Africa," says Mdwaba.

It already has over 250 customers: South African subsidiaries of global entities such as HP, VMware, Uniliver, Amazon, AON, Siemens and General Electric.

Born in the cloud

Headquartered in California, Workday develops software-as-a-service applications for human capital management, financials and analytics.

Its first South African client was Dimension Data, which has been using Workday's flagship human capital management software for just over three years, says Mdwaba.

But it's the new South African company wins that will help raise the profile of the company in the local market. Mdwaba says Absa is busy with a Workday implementation and will go live by the end of the year. Another deployment under way is at "one of the largest legal firms in SA".

Workday competes directly with much larger rivals, SAP and Oracle, in the business software and services realm. Its fiscal 2018 revenue was $2.1 billion, an increase of 36% from 2017.

Workday's biggest differentiator is that it was 'born in the cloud', says Mdwaba.

"The founders of Workday took inspiration from the consumer Internet companies and decided to go to the cloud at a time when a number of people were anti-cloud."

Another big differentiator, according to Mdwaba, is Workday's 'power of one' philosophy.

When co-founders Aneel Bhusri and Dave Duffield started Workday in 2005, following Oracle's hostile takeover of PeopleSoft, their ambition was to eliminate some of the major issues of legacy enterprise applications. One of the biggest comes from the need to support multiple software versions at any given time.

"With Workday, all of its 32 million users worldwide are on the same version, which is a huge advantage in terms of maintenance and innovation," says Mdwaba.

Workday invests more in research and development than it spends on sales and marketing, with 30% going to R&D. On the latest Forbes list of Most Innovative Companies, Workday is listed at number two, but Mdwaba highlights another fact: eight out of the top 10 companies on that list are Workday customers.

The company aims to achieve zero downtime when it comes to software updates. "The most recent upgrade, version 31 of Workday, was done in less than three hours. Zero downtime is a game-changer of its own."

Happy employees, happy customers

Mdwaba says Workday founders put customer satisfaction at the core of what the company does. "Happy employees make for happy customers," was the opening message from co-founder and CEO Aneel Bhusri at Workday Rising.

"It sounds pretty simple," says Mdwaba, "and this is what we aspire to do with our technology; to help improve employee engagement, which we believe leads to good customer service. We had the target of 95% customer satisfaction and we are currently sitting at 98% [according to the latest survey]."

For now, there is no mandate to win business in the rest of Africa. "We are going big in SA," says Mdwaba. "We are quite conservative; we do not want to bite off more than we can chew."

According to Mdwaba, the local office employees 11 people and has signed up PwC and Deloitte as implementation partners, with plans to announce one more by the end of the year.

"What we need to make clear is that we are more expensive than our competitors but we provide more value. We are helping organisations transform their business."

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