September 10, 2013, 7:03 AM — Workday has unveiled a new software module for its cloud-based HCM (human capital management) application that allows customers to analyze data from both Workday and third-party sources.
Dubbed Big Data Analytics, the product is now generally available after being announced at last year's Workday Rising conference. It incorporates technology from Datameer, which places a business-user-friendly interface on top of the Hadoop framework for large-scale data processing, as well as homegrown tooling for data integration and other areas, said Dan Beck, vice president of technology product management for Workday.
While the Workday application has already provided built-in analytics, with the new product "what we're really doing is opening up our cloud to non-Workday data sets," Beck said. "People can bring in whatever data they want and join it with Workday to answer their business questions."
Previously, "customers were asking us to bring in non-Workday data sets but we just weren't ready," Beck added.
Ease of use is a big focus of Big Data Analytics, with Workday aiming to make it "approachable to mere mortals."
To help customers get started, the analytics module will ship with five prebuilt templates covering common scenarios for analyzing human resources and financial data, such as global payroll spending or headcount analysis. A number of partners, including IBM, have also built analytic templates for the product and Workday hopes that going forward, partners will deliver the bulk of new ones, he said.
By adding data from non-Workday systems, new analyses are possible. For example, a company could take a closer look at its attrition rates by bringing in data from a learning management system, comparing top employees who leave the company with the classes they've taken.
Data integration is a key component, and pain point for enterprises interested in BI (business intelligence). Datameer's tools provide a host of prebuilt connectors to common sources, from structured repositories such as the Oracle database as well as unstructured text from the likes of Twitter, Facebook and email.
In some cases, business users should be able to work with the Big Data module without help from IT, such as by uploading a CSV file containing non-Workday data, according to Beck. "IT will be involved with more programmatic extracts from source systems," such as via Web service, he said.
However, Workday expects customers will need "very light" ongoing involvement from IT overall, according to Beck.
Also, any reports, dashboards and other visualizations created with the Big Data module can take advantage of Workday's forms for deployment to mobile devices.