Workday cloud HR tools no longer a ‘toy’, claims AstraZeneca CIO

Workday has shed its reputation as a 'toy' technology among senior executives following after a series of large scale deployments, AstraZeneca's CIO has claimed.

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Workday has shed its reputation as a 'toy' technology among senior executives after a series of large enterprise deployments, AstraZeneca's CIO has claimed.

The pharmaceutical giant's IT chief, Dave Smoley, is currently leading a project to deploy Workday to 66,000 staff across 130 countries and in 12 languages.

It is the second Workday implementation he has overseen, having been an early adopter of the technology in 2008 at manufacturing and distribution firm Flextronics for its 200,000-strong workforce.

According to Smoley, the HR software market has “changed dramatically” in the six years since his first deployment, and he believes Workday's software-as-a-service (Saas) tools have now overtaken 'legacy' vendors such as SAP and Oracle in the eyes of C-level execs.

“When we picked Workday it was viewed by many CIOs and CFOs as a ‘toy’ - not a legitimate company, not a legitimate technology,” he said at Workday’s first European customer conference in London on Tuesday.

“Over the past few years Workday has built this track record of successful implementations. The landscape is different now because it has become the dominant player in that industry, and I think it has the legacy guys back on their heels.”

AstraZeneca began implementing the Workday technology at the end of 2013, following Smoley's move to the firm earlier that year. He expects the system will go live in June 2015 as part of a 'big bang' deployment, having begun global design and the localisation phases.

Prior to the Workday project, the company had previously trialled an SAP system as part of its HR transformation plans. However the deployment did not achieve the results expected.

“We had planned initially to go very fast into HR self-service and we stood up an SAP platform in an outsourced environment, said Smoley. "[However] self-service in that toolset didn’t work, and there were also issues with the quality of the data,” 

He added: “The reason we chose Workday is due to its flexibility and lower cost, and because of the continued innovation that comes with a Saas tool.”

However cloud computing advocate Smoley warned that businesses considering a Saas model for HR must be prepared for the shift from deploying a fully customisable on-premise tool to a configurable system that is standardised for all users.

"It is really a whole different world. Because it is a Saas product you have to be organised and staffed to anticipate new releases and capability, and to provide input into what you would like to see from Workday. You are then prepared as you have to test it and decide within a window what you are going to deploy and what you will not," he said.

"You have to have a different skillset and mentality and a different organisational structure to be sure that you are taking full advantage of that."

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