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Workday's UX and Skills Updates, Oracle Doubles Down on Employee Experience, More News

September 16, 2022 Digital Workplace
Siobhan Fagan
By Siobhan Fagan

Workday customers gathered in Orlando, Fla. earlier this week as the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company held its first in-person Workday Rising event since 2019. At the conference, the company announced a comprehensive overhaul of its technology portfolio, aimed at giving users a better experience and at adapting its apps to the new workplace models created by the pandemic.

It would be hard to list every announcement, but a few stand out in the digital workplace context, including new low-code/no-code app building capabilities in Workday Extend and a new interface that will make navigating across Workday’s tools easier.

Workday's Chief Design Officer Jeff Gelfuso explained in a blog post that the upgrades follow hundreds of interactions with Workday customers to discover their needs. Two main themes emerged in response to the observational studies, in-depth interviews, design reviews, iterative testing and experimentation, according to Gelfuso. Enterprise leaders are looking to:  

  1. Simplify the digital experience: This involves making common Workday tasks easy to accomplish through a single click of a button for frontline workers who primarily operate on mobile devices.
  2. Improve the human aspect of that experience: Workday should become the trusted assistant of every employee, whether frontline worker, manager or power user.

He pointed to the redesigned homepage as an example of how this works in practice. "The new Workday homepage is a great example of how we are creating a more personal and relevant experience for our users," he wrote. "This new experience surfaces an employee’s most commonly used tasks, plus other relevant content like announcements, important dates, and actions to be taken — all in one place."

Part of simplifying the user experience involves allowing customers to adapt and refine Workday for their own specific uses cases. Three new tools support in this area: 

  • App Builder: A better and more cohesive build process using a new web-based Integrated Developer Environment (IDE).
  • Low-code/no-code visual capability: Introduces a drag-and-drop interface to make it even easier for citizen developers to create apps without knowledge of code. This will be added to the App Builder.
  • Workday Graph API: Available for Workday Extend customers, it aims to streamline the API experience for developers to navigate and discover all Workday APIs.

The updates fall under Workday’s wider strategy to improve its experience, a strategy which it updated last year to include three principal themes:

  • Workday Engage: Aims to make work easier by developing frictionless experiences.
  • Workday Everywhere: Enables users to access Workday apps and tools everywhere and from other workspaces, including Microsoft Teams.
  • Workday Empower: Drives hyper-personalization by the use of machine learning and workplace insights.

Workday Introduces Skills Data Interoperability

Remaining briefly with Workday, the other major announcement out of the event was the launch of a new skills technology built on the company's Skills Cloud. Specifically, the update makes skills data interoperable, allowing companies to bring skills data in and out of Workday to inform learning and development strategy and better identify where gaps exist.

The technology aggregates both internal and external skills data to make a single source of truth within a company. The data from the third-party systems comes in through the Skills Cloud, at which point it is normalized against the skills ontology. 

David Somers, general group manager, office of the CHRO product at Workday, expressed the company's hopes for the technology in a post. "Our hope is that through the skills interoperability capabilities in Skills Could, companies are able to be more agile in their talent strategies, and as a result, strengthen their foundation as a skills-based organization."

As well as the technology, the company announced the creation of the Skills Software Alliance. The inaugural partners, Aon, Degreed and SkyHive, will operate within Workday's skills ontology, matching skills and training from their systems to Workday's.    

First launched in 2018, Skills Cloud is built into the company's flagship HCM platform, designed to use machine learning and graph technology to map the skills available in a company at any given time and how they relate to each other. The company claims the use of skills in the solution have grown from 25 million instances to over 5 billion today.  

Oracle Upgrades HR Offering For Better Employee Oversights

Workday isn't the only company focused on human resources technology this week. At the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas, Oracle announced a number of updates to its Oracle Fusion Cloud Human Capital Management (HCM) geared at improving employee experience.

The Austin, Texas-based company explained at the conference that the upgrades are a direct response to the pandemic and rising employee expectations in organizations.

The new additions provide a portal for the development and enablement of team skills along with performance assessment capabilities. An employee listening offering, designed to help managers engage better with their teams rounded out the announcements. Specifically, the products are:

  • Team Skills Center: This AI-driven skills engine, added to Oracle Dynamic Skills, aims to keep organizations' skillset up to date. It provides a centralized location to review, assign and manage skills development across teams.
  • All-in-One Evaluations: This capability found in Oracle Performance Management gives managers a single, bird's-eye view of the whole team and allows them evaluate individuals and teams against set criteria.
  • Oracle Touchpoints: An employee listening solution in the recently released Oracle ME employee experience platform. With it, managers can capture and act on employee sentiment.

The bottom line, according to a statement from Oracle, is that employees aren't just looking for a paycheck anymore, a sentiment that's grown clearer during the tumult of the last two and a half years. Employees are also looking for a healthy work-life-balance as well as career and growth opportunities.

The new additions to HCM aim to provide insights into these issues, to pinpoint where teams are lacking skills, what opportunities workplaces can offer and, ultimately, how to avoid employee burn-out.

The best models for implementing a positive employee experience starts at the top with full buy-in from C-level executives, said Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst, Constellation Research in an Oracle release. Active participation by managers at all levels of the organization, armed with insights into the needs and sentiments of their teams, is the next element. These updates in Oracle Cloud HCM are all about supply managers with those kinds of insights.

Productivity Rumors About Zoom

The rumor mill is starting early in anticipation of Zoom’s annual conference in November. Over the past week alone rumors started circulating that Zoom was developing an email service and calendar. Zoom itself announced it is rebranding its Chat app to Zoom Team Chat, while the company's CMO published a blog post outlining the way Zoom has been evolving and where it is going.

Taken together, it looks like a blueprint for the evolution of a video calling and conferencing app into something bigger. In fact, Zoom looks as if it's preparing to maneuver into the lucrative, and highly competitive, productivity suite space.

There isn’t much that's concrete yet, but it is worth taking note as any major announcements are likely to be made at Zoomtopia.

What we do know is the chat app name change. In the post about Zoom's evolution, Janine Pelosi, chief marketing officer with the San Francisco-based company touched on the thinking behind the rebrand: "Conversations begin during video calls and in the meeting chat box, but those conversations turn into something more in our persistent chat product .... Modern chat technology helps dispersed teams consolidate workflows and gain efficiencies, and enables people to work better together. With one-touch access to video meetings, phone, whiteboarding, and more, Zoom Team Chat brings people together in modern ways. We feel Zoom Team Chat better reflects that value.”

Zoom will now let you share in-meeting chats in Zoom Team Chat, and also schedule meetings in chats or channels. This feature should be available by the end of the month.

In light of next steps for Zoom, Pelosi noted the changing modern workplace, where remote and hybrid work are now just work. "Communication happens across more channels and collaboration across oceans. And there’s no playbook for organizations to adapt," she wrote. “We strive to continuously enable meaningful team collaboration in support of these evolving work streams through technology. We’re excited to share this moment in Zoom’s evolution with you. However, evolution is gradual and perpetual, and there is even more to come."

Back to the rumors about what might just be coming in November. The email service and calendar rumors have been circulating for two years now. But according to reports in The Information, the two apps are already known internally as Zmail and Zcal and may be one of the big announcements of the November conference. 

What else could be on the way?

Zoom wouldn't be the first software company who evolved in this way. Look to Box as a precedent, which started as a simple file sharing tool and is now to all intents and purposes an enterprise content management system. Dropbox is heading in the same direction, albeit not as quickly. Hyland is another example of an evolving firm, especially since its acquisition by Thoma Bravo. Perhaps in November we'll have a clearer picture of what form Zoom will take next.

Canva Upgrades for Visual Productivity

Finally this week, Sydney-based Canva also looks to be prepping for a move into the productivity space, albeit productivity that remains firmly focused on "a visual-first world."

Canva announced a number of new products and features at its Canva Create event including Canva Websites, Canva Whiteboards and Data Visualization, and Canva Docs, all of which indicate this pivot. Given that most enterprise have a rich visual palette of marketing and workplace tools, the move makes sense.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Canva co-founder and COO Cliff Obrecht denied it was going head to head against competitors such as Google. “We’re not trying to compete head-to-head with Google Docs. Our products are inherently visual, so we take a visual lens on, what does a visual document look like? How do you turn that boring document that’s all text based into something engaging?”

However, if the documents are visual, then it could well compete and even surpass Google Docs, but that is a discussion for another day.

What is clear is that with these new updates Canva evolves beyond visual manipulation. Among the most notable of the new offerings is:

  • Canva Docs: Canva Docs combines the existing visual creation and management tools with text editing and formatting options, as well as collaboration features, including whiteboarding and presentation features. The beta version is expected later this year.
  • Canva Websites: Turn documents, presentations and even PDFs into simple, responsive websites. Once the website has been built, users can share content as a secure customized link to clients.
  • Canva Video Tools: Canva Video community has created over one billion videos so far, according to the company. In order to exploit that better, it unveiled a suite of new features to simplify the video creation and editing process. A one-click background removal tool sweetens the offering.

The company revealed a number of other items on top of the above, including the official release of Canva Whiteboards and its plans to launch its API in beta. Taken together, this is much more than a collection of platform releases: it takes its visual productivity tools and raises them to an entirely new level.


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