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Workday's Best Fit and Alternatives

Workday Sweet Spot

Though initially targeting companies with 1000-5000 workers, Workday's focus is not so restrictive and its client list extends from mid-size companies with 200+ employees to global corporations with 200,000 or more staff. While the company does not profess to target any particular industry, the majority of customers seem to come from the verticals of Financial Services, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Professional Services and Technology. The company is also assertively moving into higher education and the public sector.

Marquee customers include Facebook,, Kimberly Clark, Flextronics (with 200,000 employees, possibly the largest single deployment of a cloud-based, global HR system of record), Chiquita, Thomson Reuters and Time Warner.

When you are evaluating HCM and payroll software, shortlist Workday if:

  • You are a large multinational company and you are looking for a viable SaaS or cloud payroll software alternative to your ERP-based HRMS.
  • You use for CRM and seek an integrated HCM or payroll software solution.
  • You are an enterprise looking to implement an ERP system (including payroll) but don’t require broad ERP applications such as manufacturing or supply chain management.
  • You are a midsize organization that needs payroll, Human Resources and some specific additional non-HCM capabilities such as financials and spend management.
  • You are a global company that is comfortable with the adoption of new cloud technologies, and see the flexibility and features such as on-the-fly re-organization capabilities as serious needs rather than just added benefits.

Alternative Solutions

HCM and Payroll software buyers may wish to consider alternative solutions if:

  • You are fixed on the ownership and/or control benefits of on-premise software deployment.
  • System flexibility and end-user leverage are not priorities.
  • Your HCM or payroll software selection is heavily influenced by talent management software capabilities.
  • You have a mostly contingent workforce and your priority is contract management/compliance.
  • You are looking far beyond payroll and desire a broad fully-integrated ERP software suite with a single-vendor relationship.

Workday Competitors

In Workday’s marketplace, the major ERP software competitors are the big 3 of SAP, Oracle (mainly Fusion and PeopleSoft) and Infor (particularly Lawson). However, within the more specialized payroll and HCM arenas, Workday’s solution is pitched against all of the larger HRIS/HRMS solutions including Ceridian and Ultimate Software and even SAP’s SuccessFactors. Additionally, given Workday’s stated strategy of pursuing clients in the higher education and public sector verticals, it faces competition from the well-established Agresso from Unit4.

Concluding Remarks

Although still a comparatively young company, (Facebook has been around longer!) Workday has brought to market a collection of software solutions that feature both flexibility and innovation. The underlying architecture, software flexibility and enterprise feature sets of these HCM applications have led to the company to successfully competing at the highest levels of the HCM, HR, payroll and ERP software markets. Gartner has observed "[Workday's technology] enables [the company] to develop quickly, while maintaining high quality, and provides significant reuse within the application (for example, faceted search, mobile, integration tools and embedded analytics)." Many industry pundits and commentators agree that it is Workday’s technology that sets them apart and clearly differentiates them from both on-premises options and competing SaaS solutions.

The company's biggest challenge thus far and for the future may not be technology-based at all. Rather it is to convince prospective clients of the feasibility of ripping and replacing their existing legacy software in order to join Workday at the cutting edge. Countless companies continue to use outdated business software and so long as it does not actually fail them, they are often reluctant to change. By raising awareness of how its architecture can contribute to business agility, how embedded analytics will increase organizational knowledge, and how SaaS is rapidly becoming an industry best practice, Workday may well rise to the top.

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