Workday CTO Joe Korngiebel Describes the New Era of Enterprise Software

We're very clearly living in a Big Data world -- 90% of all the world's data was created in just the past two years, and businesses are bombarded with new information streams every single minute.

But if they're not careful, this constant deluge can drown them. Our workdays aren't getting any longer, so it's essential that companies have the ability to separate the signal from the noise. Today's workplace isn't just about access to information. More than ever, companies need relevant and insightful context to help them guide actionable business decisions.

This is where human resources provider Workday (NASDAQ: WDAY) comes in. Workday's cloud-based products are life preservers that keep companies from drowning in their own information. They heavily utilize design thinking to put people at the center of enterprise software, which is more intuitive and ultimately more valuable.

Workday is also different in their willingness to collaborate with others. Having recently teamed up with Facebook and Slack, they're constantly looking to improve the experience for users in the places where they're already comfortable and spending their time.

Disruption pioneer Clayton Christensen famously told us that companies who want to succeed should focus on their customers' jobs to be done. Workday is listening, and their recent performance has truly been exceptional.

In this interview, Workday's Chief Technology Officer Joe Korngiebel explains how his company is using design thinking and collaboration to make their customers more productive.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Simon Erickson: Hi everyone. Motley Fool Explorer Simon Erickson here at the Collision Conference in New Orleans. I'm joined by the Chief Technology Officer at Workday, Joe Korngiebel. Joe, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.

Joe Korngiebel: My pleasure to be here.

Erickson: You know, as you pointed out in your keynote earlier today, 90% of the world's data has come out in the last two years. We're in a Big Data society right now, but Workday has a 98% customer satisfaction score. This is clearly important to you guys to put people in the center of enterprise software, which is a differentiating factor. How does that mantra come into play as you're developing cloud-based tools?

Korngiebel: Yeah, our customers are everything to us. When we keep our customers' thoughts in the forefront of everything we do. We treat them as design partners. We develop our software in collaboration with our customers. And that keeps people at the center of the enterprise for us. It keeps us thinking about employees, managers, executives, and how they can do the best work.

We opened up our platform for them to do more. We feel like, if we make our software more personal, more contextual to what they're doing, get increasingly clever and smarter with all the technology that's around today, we win with our customers.

And so we do that in a personal way by allowing them to configure their applications to meet their needs. They can brand the software to be exactly what they need it to look like for their employees. So it's an extension of their culture, extension of their business. We drive that personalization through everything we do.

We also then look to try to make it increasingly clever so that they constantly are surprised by little things: forms automatically filling in for them. Little things like knowing how to navigate because they do that in their consumer world, and it's easy to navigate, easy to use. That equals a win for us at Workday.

Erickson: And how do you use design thinking? Because you're talking to people at all levels of the organization, right? When you're developing these products, how do you kind of go about the steps of coming up with something new that's useful.

Korngiebel: Design is fundamental to us. We say technology without design is useless. If people can't use the incredible technology that's at their fingertips now, it's useless. So we sit with customers and do incredible design thinking exercises. All the way from, "Hey, what would you not do with this software?" And then, "What would you do with this software?" Marry those together with prototypes. Do rapid prototyping to say, "Hey, okay, now we've come away with an example that I think will work for you." And then, we take all of that and give it back to the customers in some ways.

We just announced which is a way for us to take our platform and give it to our customers and the community so that they can experiment on these design thinking exercises we have. On the right things to do, on the wrong things to do, to make a meaningful experience for your users. And continue to iterate and change. By giving those tools to the customers, they can make it their own. And they can make software that really works for their entire population, up and down the organization.

Erickson: So user experience, very important for Workday. Maybe 20 years ago, if we were talking about enterprise software, we might be talking more about proprietary software. You guys think very opposite from that, where it's more of an open, collaborative environment. We know that you're already working with Facebook. Just announced a partnership that you have with Slack. How does this new way of thinking driving the future of the workplace? And also how has Workday been a part of that?

Korngiebel: We think we have a foundational user experience within our products. It's available on mobile, it's available on the web. Again, foundational to what we do. But we're not naive. In this day and age, new collaborative tools are coming up all over the place to make your business more productive. Whether it's Slack, whether it's Facebook, Google, Microsoft, there's incredible tools that we call your natural workspace, where you're naturally working. We want to make sure Workday's there for you.

Much like your consumer world, Netflix. Netflix is everywhere, right? Netflix is on the web. It's on my smart TV no matter what brand I buy. It's on my phone. It's everywhere. That experience comes to me.

And we really feel like your business office should do the same. Whatever tools customers are using, whether that's Slack, Facebook. Name that tool, and we'll provide a great user experience for our users. The content will already be on it.

Erickson: Context. Context is very important. And you wanna go to those natural workplaces where people are already using the apps.

Korngiebel: That's correct.

If you have the context around the greatest next hire for your business. How you're gonna reorganize to meet a really important project you're trying to staff, when you have the context of the business data behind you to make those decisions no matter where you are, you win.

Erickson: So Joe, let me use this open partnership example to ask an open-ended question for you as well. Where do you see Workday going? How is this influencing the future of the workplace? You talked about kind of collaboration. You talked about people being at the center of this. What's the goals that you guys have for the workplace, five, 10 years out from here?

Korngiebel: We really feel like we're in a new generation of enterprise software. Software that knows you like never before. And it can provide recommendations, predictions with the algorithms and what we're doing around AI and machine learning. To be able to provide people with more context than ever around their business. And if we do that in an intuitive way, with design at the front of what we're doing, the sky's the limit on how we can improve business. We can run businesses more efficiently than ever before. If your business is running smooth, because your users know where their people are, know how to empower their people to be the best versions of themselves, we feel like that's the future that we can always provide great context to and make it increasingly a better workday.

Erickson: Joe Korngiebel, Chief Technology Officer of Workday. Ticker is "WDAY".

Joe, thanks for the time this afternoon.

Korngiebel: Thank you very much.

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Simon Erickson owns shares of Facebook and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Facebook, Netflix, and Workday. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.