Even if you don't follow developments in HR technology, you should pay attention to what Workday is doing, for two reasons. First, Workday is no longer just an HR systems provider, having expanded its footprint into financial systems, operational support for service delivery, and business intelligence. Second, as a SaaS-only provider, Workday has been, in my opinion, a leader in best practices in deploying cloud enterprise systems.
In December, the company released Workday 21. In addition to the 246 new
features included in this version, it also features a major update to
its user interface, which Workday starting rolling out earlier
Enterprise User Experience Overdue for Refresh
The look and feel of enterprise software has not changed much since the days of client server, when graphical user interfaces took over from the old green screen mainframe-like experience. Workers use desktop computers to access a main menu, which displays a series of icons or links that point to various subsystems. Data entry screens cram as much information as possible so that users do not have to click through to multiple panels to complete a transaction. Because of the density of information, enterprise software came with extensive user manuals, online help, and training classes.
When vendors abandoned the client-server architecture for browser-based thin clients, they did not generally change this paradigm. They just changed the back-end. They did not significantly alter the fundamental user experience.
Now vendors face a serious problem when users demand mobile access. These user interfaces do not translate at all to a smart phone or tablet display. Mobile access, if provided at all, is a completely different user interface than that on the desktop. In fact, some vendors sell mobile access as an additional product, separate from the vendor's traditional desktop access.
Raising the Bar
Workday has always paid a lot of attention to its user interface. In fact, Workday has gone through something like five major updates in its UI: from HTML/AJAX to Adobe Flex, then adding native IOS and Android, and now to HTML5.
But apart from the technology change, Workday's new interface illustrates several best practices, some of which it derived from consumer Internet services, such as Google and Facebook.These are my take-ways:
- One interface for all platforms. The familiar "Workday Wheel" is now gone. Why? Because it did not translate well to smartphone or tablet access. The new homepage is a grid of icons that resize and scale according to the size of the screen.
- Easy movement between platforms. Most of us get interrupted in the middle of our work. The new UI allows users to start a process, such as a performance review, on one platform (e.g. a desktop) and then continue or complete it on another platform (e.g. a smartphone).
- Less is more. Workday has removed less-than-essential information from panels, such as the employee profile, organizing and relegating it into tabs or linked lists, so that panels focus the user's attention on what is most important. I especially like the drop-down navigation on the left side of the header bar, which looks quite a bit like Facebook's left side navigation.
- Inbox-driven workflow. No more jumping jumping back and forth to the Workday Wheel to complete tasks. A new unified in-box gives users a view of all notifications, with a preview pane and ability to take action right in the inbox.
- Intuitive use. Viewing the user interface in action, it becomes obvious that most users will not need a lot of training on "what key do I press?" As in the past, they will need training on Workday's functionality and how it applies to their jobs. But the new interface should greatly speed the time to productivity for most users.
These are just some of the points about the new UI. In addition, there
are many functionality enhancements, which I'm not covering here.
To see quick overview of the new UI, check out this video
by Workday's VP of User Experience, Joe Korngiebe (you can skip past Joe's opening remarks and start at the one minute mark, if you like).
To be fair, other enterprise vendors, such as Infor, Oracle, and SAP, are making great strides in the user interfaces as well. Workday's most recent release provides another example of how life is getting easier for enterprise software users.
Over at Diginomica, Dennis Howlett has his own take
on Workday's new UI.
Best Practices for SaaS Upgrades as Seen in Workday's Approach
Workday Pushing High-end SaaS for the Enterprise
Labels: cloud, HTML5, Infor, mobile, Oracle, SaaS, SAP, UI, UX, Workday