What is the Workday Cloud Platform, what can be built on it and when is it available?

By By Scott Carey Nov 17th 2017

The SaaS vendor best known for HR and financials applications is opening up its platform for developers to design custom apps and extensions on top of Workday

In a blog post back in July Workday's CEO Aneel Bhusri wrote about "one of most important moves we've made since starting the company back in 2005".

What the CEO was announcing was something which he says customers had been asking him about since 2005, namely: "When will Workday open up its platform?" The answer, we now know, is 2018.

What is the Workday Cloud Platform?

With the Workday Cloud Platform the SaaS company is entering the Platform as a Service (PaaS) game. By giving developers open APIs to plug into the Workday applications (Human Capital Management (HCM), Financials, Planning) and underlying data models, they can start to build custom apps and extensions from Workday.

Speaking at Workday Rising in Barcelona this week, chief technology architect Jon Ruggiero said the goal is to provide customers with "the tools to design, build and manage business applications on the Workday cloud".

All apps built on the platform come secure with Workday configurable security, no toolchain dependencies and all data used belongs to the customer, with no data usage fees.

Once opened up, developers will be able to get their hands on a set of open REST APIs, documentation and reference apps, all through the new developer site cloud.workday.com. This community site will also come with a developer console to manage resources and apps, as well as an API explorer tool.

Developers will also be able to get their hands on advanced capabilities, as Workday is exposing its machine learning algorithms and statistical models, as well as conversation service APIs like Workday Talk and Workday Bot later down the line to build these chat interfaces within Workday.

While the new open Workday platform is only available to design partners for now, developers can sign up for the Cloud Platform Community Group, or wait for general availability some time during 2018.

Use cases

As the Cloud Platform isn't generally available until 2018 the current use cases are only examples being created by design partners, but they give you an idea of what can be built on top of the Workday platform.

Presented at Rising by VP of technology product management, Erin Yang, the four initial PaaS use cases are:

A 'talent mobility' app being created by a 48,000-employee company. This app intends to allow employees to visualise both existing global opportunities and filled field positions so they can network and ask questions about their career path and even apply for positions directly within Workday, increasing talent mobility across the organisation.
Next, a global airline has built an ID badging service to simplify the process of checks and paperwork involved with issuing new badges, intended to speed up approval rates and centralise reporting.
A 'full-suite' Workday customer has also been building an app where they can expose their supplier managed purchase requisition forms direct to the customer, allowing them to self-populate fields though the supplier portal, saving on tedious back and forth and spreadsheet use.
Lastly, this same customer has developed a 'safety services app' which incorporates data from an employee's travel requests and calendar to show if they are out of the office, making it easier to account for their absence in the case of an emergency. It also allows for mobile alerts to be pushed out, cutting down on phone calls and emails.

Workday fully expects its partner ecosystem to take up the baton in terms of building on the cloud platform. Barbry McGann, SVP product management at Workday told Computerworld UK: "Opening up the platform allows us to look at our core competencies and what partners can develop in terms of vertical-specific applications and unique extensions."

McGann admitted that an app marketplace, like the Salesforce AppExchange, is certainly a possibility down the line, where apps developed by partners could be packaged and shared amongst the wider Workday community.

Conclusion

This is a natural progression for the SaaS company to becoming a platform company, and although Workday has been accused of being slow to open up its platform, Bhusri has been adamant that the company would not take the leap until it was ready.

In his own words: "We had to ensure our technology core offered rock-solid reliability and scalability as well as the flexibility to continually evolve with a rapidly changing business landscape".

Only this week he added: "The move to cloud platform is different to anything we have done before and we are going to learn a lot over the next twelve months."

Now we will have to wait and see what the response of partners, independent software vendors (ISVs) and customers is like and what they decide to build in this new ecosystem.

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