Workday’s partner strategy historically leveraged two key global relationships and a small cohort of boutique partners. EY is the only Big Four firm that doesn’t have a Workday practice and Workday’s relationships with Deloitte and Accenture have been the primary drivers of global deals. PwC, KPMG, and, to an extent, IBM all have Workday capabilities and these tier one partnerships are supported by pure-play shops like Kainos and Invisors to sell and deliver Workday solutions.
Workday’s relationships with its partners have always been unique. From the outset, the company held a tight control over the work partners did to ensure that ‘brand ownership’ was retained. While this unusual approach created some challenges, it also gave birth to an ecosystem of like-minded partners that paved the way for future success.
“In the early days, Workday controlled the partner relationships pretty tightly,” said John Malikowski, global Workday leader at Deloitte. “That took some getting used to – Dave and Aneel were so protective of their product and brand that we all subcontracted to Workday to basically do delivery assurance on the other partners in the ecosystem. I would be reviewing Accenture’s projects, they would be reviewing PwC’s work, and although that created some challenges, it also created a community around Workday that was very different to anything I had seen before.
The partners have grown up with
everybody supporting each other and that’s created a really special feeling around Workday – John Malikowski Global Workday leader / Deloitte
“The partners have grown up with everybody supporting each other and that’s created a really special feeling around Workday. It was almost like a community of leaders came together and said, ‘we have to make Workday succeed’.”
Readers of our cover story interview with the Workday co-CEOs will not be surprised to learn that the company adopted a less than conventional approach to its partner relationships. Workday is a brand that has always defied an industry and set its own rules that are heavily influenced by the founding principles of the company. Despite the constraints of the partner relationships at the start, Malikowski told ERP Today that the longstanding relationships between the founders and the partner community meant there was an implied trust between all parties.
“The relationship with Deloitte actually goes back almost 30 years,” he said. “We made some early bets with Dave and Aneel back in the PeopleSoft days. We became accustomed to trusting them. We became accustomed to the relationship being very transparent and, most importantly, we were accustomed to the cultural fit between the two companies.
“After the takeover and the launch of Workday, they asked us if we were interested in helping to grow their new solution. We had a phenomenal track record together. And, frankly, we saw the playbook and said, ‘déjà vu – it’s very similar to what we’ve seen before. Let’s make this happen’.”
Another foundational principle in the relationships between Workday and its partners is that of co-innovation. “I like to say we’re the world’s greatest Workday innovation lab outside of Pleasanton because we’re constantly innovating on ourselves and bringing that out to clients,” said Gloria Samuels, senior managing director at Accenture and leader of the global Workday practice. “We went live with our own Workday project a couple of years ago. Accenture is their number one partner, depending on which metrics you use, so it’s a very close partnership built on co-innovation and shared principles.”
We’re the world’s greatest Workday innovation lab outside of Pleasanton because we’re constantly innovating on ourselves and bringing that out to clients – Gloria Samuels, senior managing director / Accenture
Kainos is another partner that has developed a strong business around Workday, underpinned by its own Workday implementation. Kainos is a pure-play Workday partner and is unique within the ecosystem as the only partner that is formally accredited as both a services and product partner, while also a Workday client itself.
Additionally, it’s the only accredited Workday Strategic Sourcing partner in the ecosystem, is a leading Workday Extend partner, and was awarded Workday’s Global Solution Provider of the Year for its Adaptive Planning team for the fifth consecutive year in 2022.
Padraig Callaghan, executive vice president, Americas, told ERP Today: “We’re a team of over 1,000 Workday experts with broad capabilities across all functional areas of the platform and innovation is in our DNA. In fact, the name Kainos translates from Greek as ‘new innovation’. Kainos has leaned into our engineering capabilities to develop a suite of award-winning solutions built exclusively for Workday.
“Our latest initiatives with Workday, delivering Workday-approved packaged solutions, is a strategic pillar for Kainos, too. Workday Extend offers the ultimate vehicle for innovation, and Kainos is proud to have developed the first Workday-approved applications, along with dozens of bespoke applications to meet specific customers’ unique business needs. The customer adoption and co-innovation with not just Workday, but with our clients, is an exciting opportunity.”
Our latest initiatives with Workday, delivering Workday-approved packaged solutions, is a strategic pillar for Kainos –
Padraig Callaghan, Executive vice president, Americas / Kainos
Invisors is another boutique partner that highlighted a long history of innovation with Workday. It is the only second-generation Workday deployment boutique serving the large enterprise market and started with a clean sheet of paper in 2016. The founding partners of Invisors have been in the Workday ecosystem since 2008 having previously led OmniPoint, one of the earliest Workday-focused deployment boutiques before its acquisition by Aon Hewitt in 2012 (today Alight Solutions). (In 2021, OmniPoint was subsequently acquired by Planet Technology).
The original OmniPoint leadership team stayed on, helping to grow that Workday practice into one of the largest globally. This continuous decade-long journey saw the Workday product broaden and deepen in functionality, the ecosystem of Workday customers scale, and the landscape of deployment partners change as once nimble boutiques were acquired by larger firms.
Travis Brody, partner at Invisors, told ERP Today: “Workday is the same exact product across all of its customers, but an organization’s processes, data and people are the three variables that make a project unique. Invisors keeps those unique needs and expectations at the heart of our project.
“We encourage an ‘all-in’ culture among our team that fosters enjoyment, pride in our work and caring about our clients. We believe that the continuity of our team members on a client’s project is critical to building on mutual knowledge that is accumulated throughout the deployment for efficient progress. Our approach aims to reduce project complexity, deployment costs, and post-go-live challenges by focusing on the simplification and standardization of configuration where possible. When necessary, our architects draw on a broad understanding of Workday’s features and toolset, taking into consideration Workday’s future roadmap, to find creative solutions to complex needs but always with attention and guidance regarding downstream impact.”
We encourage an ‘all-in’ culture among our team that fosters enjoyment, pride in our work and caring about our clients – Travis Brody, Partner / Invisors
In addition to reseller and delivery partners, the Workday ecosystem also comprises specialists that augment the solution with specific tax, planning, payroll and automation amongst many other specialist disciplines.
One such partner is Vertex Inc, a tax technology and compliance organization that started its partnership with Workday just a few years ago. “Our co-innovation journey with Workday started in early 2021 during the planning for our full financial and human capital implementation of Workday at Vertex,” said Ben Askin, CIO at Vertex. “We have worked regularly with Workday product management and strategy, building our strong partnership.
“Vertex is an integral partner in Workday’s innovative Industry Accelerator program where Vertex is proud to be the tax solution of choice for three of the four industries that make up the program. Our combined engineering teams have been outstanding at co-developing the connectors that support seamless integration between Workday and Vertex.”
The ecosystem also includes companies like CloudRock which occupies a unique position as a customer-side advisory partner and plays a key role in ensuring Workday projects are kept on track and delivered successfully. “The Workday ecosystem is thriving with lots of tier one and tier two partners working to deliver innovation for customers,” said Minos Ataliotis, CEO at CloudRock Partners. “Our position is somewhat unique as we are often the bridge between the customer and the delivery partner and that position doesn’t come without its challenges. We supported Sky with their Workday implementation and faced-off with Accenture to deliver an excellent outcome for the customer. We also interfaced with Workday Services on the Stagecoach PLC project, again delivering a first-class solution.
“I see lots of innovation happening in the ecosystem and there will be more to come as the new leadership and go-to-market strategy gets rolled out. At CloudRock we are excited to support both Workday, its customers and partners through that next phase.”
The Workday ecosystem is thriving with
lots of tier one and tier two partners
working to deliver innovation for
customers – Minos Ataliotis, CEO /
New leadership, new partner strategy
Workday’s new co-CEO (soon to be sole CEO) has plans to revamp the partner ecosystem so that it is more dynamic and diverse. In our cover story interview, he told ERP Today that Workday would continue to leverage its ecosystem to do more than just deliver projects.
“We’re going to work with them to build business plans so they can help us drive net new business, not just to do implementations, but help us drive new business into the base as well as net new customers overall,” said Carl Eschenbach, co-CEO at Workday. “Our partner ecosystem will be critical to our next phase of growth. We expect our partners will play an even more important role in FY 2024 as we look for them to drive an increased number of new opportunities, while we strategically shift more customer deployments to our ecosystem.”
And Callaghan from Kainos was quick to point out that the changes would bring broad benefits for the entire ecosystem. “It’s an exciting time to be part of the Workday ecosystem and we’re delighted to be part of Workday’s continued evolution,” he said. “The new co-CEO brings a lot of experience and energy – and we’re really looking forward to the new initiatives and focus on growing markets, both net-new clients, and within our customer base. We’re also encouraged to see even stronger engagement as a result of Workday’s focus on the partner support organization, now led by Matt Brandt.
“We feel Kainos is well placed to embrace the strategies that Workday is leading. Our team has built up a tremendous amount of experience selling and supporting Workday clients over years – and now we’re being given a broader platform to show how we can add value by playing a stronger role in collaboration with Workday. What really excites us as well is the opportunity to leverage our experience and expertise across broader skill sets – with continuing innovation through Workday Extend and the adoption of AI and machine learning. We have a strong reputation and a clear passion for finding solutions to complex problems for our clients.”
Askin concurred and said that Workday’s partner transformation will enable Workday to reach its growth goals by leveraging the partner ecosystem to support Workday’s scale, solutions, reach and growth. “Vertex’s and Workday’s approach to innovation is centered around our mutual core values which are customer satisfaction, integrity and innovation,” he said. “Vertex’s tax compliance solution solves Workday customers’ complex tax compliance needs in conjunction with Workday’s best-in-class financial management system across industry. Together we will elevate the customer experience through proactive digital and scaled customer engagements and reduce risk with Vertex’s industry leading indirect tax technology.”
Vertex’s and Workday’s approach to innovation is centered around our mutual core values which are customer satisfaction, integrity and innovation – Ben Askin, CIO / Vertex
Malikowski summarized the conversation on the Workday ecosystem and the anticipated changes for partners by telling us that the combination of 18 years of trust, coupled with strong demand for products that meet current customer needs, all adds up to a bright future for Workday, its partners and its customers. “As paradigms have shifted over the last few years it has forced enterprises to rethink about their people, their HR data and how they manage all of that in a boundaryless environment,” he said. “Workday’s primary job is to make work better for people and there is a much higher importance placed on this today. The idea of who does the work and where that work is done is changing and Workday is very well positioned to capitalize on that. Deloitte is looking forward to playing an important role in the next chapter, just like we have done for the last 30 years.”