Road Report: Workday AI and ML Innovation Summit 2023
March 29th, 2023
In early March, I attended Workday’s annual Innovation Summit, rebranded to be the AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning) Innovation Summit, at Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, CA (Twitter hashtag: #WDAYSUMMIT). Between the event and Workday’s recent announcements of FY23 results and executive changes, here is the TL;DR of this event:
- Delivering strong growth: At last year’s summit, Workday stated they would attain 20% YOY growth until they hit $10 billion in revenue. True to its word, Workday hit total 2023 revenue of $6.22 billion, representing 21% YOY growth, with subscription revenues up 22.5%. As part of this, Workday surpassed the 10,000-customer mark and added new HCM customers such as Allstate, Mercedes Benz, and Cracker Barrel. Workday also focused more on the retail industry (and thus frontline workers), with more than 50% of retail organizations in the Fortune 500 selecting Workday.
- Doubling down on AI and ML: Beginning in 2014, Workday began investing in its AI and ML capabilities, and those investments are increasingly coming to fruition. Throughout the last few years, Workday has woven those capabilities throughout its platform, so AI and ML are used naturally throughout its applications (as opposed to being layered on top). This shows up notably in Workday’s Skills Cloud, as well as many of its other solutions, such as Recruiting, Workforce Optimization and Scheduling, VNDLY, and other applications. This focus on innovation will undoubtedly continue, as Sayan Chakraborty, who is an expert in AI and also leads the Product and Technology Organization, was recently announced as co-president.
- Changing leadership and evolving approaches: An unspoken theme of the Summit was the changing leadership and approach at Workday. Right before Christmas 2022, Workday announced the appointment of Carl Eschenbach to Co-CEO. Eschenbach, a 5-year member of Workday’s Board, was a partner at VC-firm Sequoia Capital and an operator at VMWare. Workday has also brought on other external executives in the last ~6 months, such as Angelique de Vries as President of EMEA (from Salesforce) and Rani Johnson as CIO (from Cloud Software Group). Executive changes always make you ask, “why?”. Our hypothesis is that these changes reflect a belief that Workday’s leadership and approach need to change to achieve its audacious growth goals.
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