January 23, 2014, 10:02 AM — Workday is launching a reworked user interface for its cloud-based HCM (human capital management) and financial software that it believes will appeal to employees of all ages, from millennials to workers who remember the days of green-screen terminals.
The interface has been in the works for about a year and is based on HTML5 rather than Flash, as it was in the past, said Joe Korngiebel, vice president of user experience.
Many of Workday's peers in the enterprise software industry, such as Infor, SAP and Oracle, are also rushing to rework their software to meet today's end-user demands for consumer-application-like experiences. Workday's edge lies in its technology, extensive work with its own customers on how the applications should look and behave, and "our slant on that overused word, simplicity," Korngiebel said.
Some 30 Workday customers from a variety of industries were involved in the design process. Workday's design teams are also "recruited from a generation that grew up with social media," he said.
There are stark differences between the new and old user interfaces' homepage, with the updated version's featuring much larger, more colorful icons for various Workday processes and modules.
Drop-down menus ease navigation and keep the homepage from being too cluttered. A worker's email inbox and activity streams are accessed through buttons in the upper right corner.
Customers will have a few months to turn on the new UI and get used to it, said Mike Frandsen, vice president of products. "We want to give them a long runway." That said, Workday isn't expecting customers will need much training. "What we want to do is make an app that doesn't require documentation or a user guide," he said. We don't have to teach them a new way of navigating."
The new UI is part of Workday's twenty-first product release, the first to take advantage of its shift over to a continuous development programming model, Frandsen said. Initially, Workday pushed out three major releases per year using a "fast waterfall" development methodology consisting of one month of design, two months of programming and one month of testing.
It later shifted to a more iterative agile process, but over the past six months transitioned to continuous development and continuous distribution of a single code line. Instead of having an old code line and a new one, Workday is upgrading the existing one in place, Frandsen said.
Workday has developed a "system of toggles" that allows customers to add new features at a comfortable pace. "We need to be mindful of customers who are already in production [on a given release] and want to be left alone," he said.