Workday gains traction in South Africa 

An illuminating rendition of Workday's success story by chief technology officer Dave Sohigian at the HR Indaba.

When Workday was in the process of launching a cloud-based system for HR, finance and planning in 2005, many dismissed it as a pie-in-the sky plan. Potential investors, financiers and clients had written-off Workday’s ambition as they were nervous about an HR system that was underpinned by technology. 

“They all said a cloud-based enterprise software was cute but they wouldn’t put their HR data there. They were concerned by security, governance and where the data was stored,” said Dave Sohigian, the chief technology officer of Workday for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 
Dave was delivering a presentation at the second day of the HR Indaba on October 4, 2018 about how HR can form the basis of digital transformation. 

In 2005, there was dearth of enterprise software that were underpinned by innovation and technology in their core function.  “The market was not exciting. The available software was old, inflexible and hard to use,” he told the audience. 

In the process of launching Workday, Dave said the founders, Aneel Bhusri and David Duffield, looked to consumer internet companies like Google and Netflix for inspiration.  “These companies had already built a reputation for ease of usage, data storage and innovation. We built Workday on these foundations.” 

And 13 years later, Workday has offices around the globe including South Africa, which was opened in February 2018. 
Asked by an audience member whether there has been resistance to Workday’s software in South Africa, Dave disagreed saying that the company has already bagged three major clients. 

Among the clients are commercial bank Absa and IT firm Dimension Data. 

Dave said Workday’s drawcard is that its function is based on one single data system. Instead of having different systems for HR functions like capturing leave, time sheets, payroll or employee performance, Workday consolidates these functions into one system. 

“Our system offers easy use, integration, better compliance and systems of record. You can run a report, do an analytic report all from the same source of data. The offer is more than that of a core HCM system,” said Dave. 

In an age where people are concerned about data protection especially for cloud-based systems, Dave said Workday’s system is complaint with legislations such as the Protection of Personal Information Act and the recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation. 
“We are a data processer and we don't have access to that data. We provide a service and don't sell technology,” he said.  
At a time when Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in vogue, Dave believes that it’s a hyped up fad. “AI is almost at the peak of a hype cycle as you can tell by the way it has been used. The fascination with AI is about data.”