Workday CIO on tackling SaaS debt and sprawl

Configure your software, don’t customize it — but make sure you have the skills available to do it well: That’s the advice of Workday CIO Diana McKenzie

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Being the CIO of a cloud ERP provider is a unique balancing act. As the first customer of your company’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, you must help drive the company’s flagship forward, but you also must support the technical needs of the organization as a whole.

That’s where Workday CIO Diana McKenzie found herself when joining the company nearly three years ago, after the better part of three decades running IT functions in the life sciences industry. The core of Workday was running on its own software, which performs essential financial, HR and planning functions, but elsewhere issues were coming to the fore.

“There was an incredible focus when I showed up on the core functions, because it is where our product fits, and there had been a good two-plus year effort to build up our internal capability so that we were the best and first customer of our product,” McKenzie says. “We pushed the product pretty hard internally.”

Around that Workday core, though, there was little integration with departments each using their own software-as-a-service platforms. Add in the technical debt of being an early adopter of SaaS platforms and the sprawl of tools that can result from a tech-savvy, fast growing culture, and you can see the tangled web of cloud solutions McKenzie found herself in.

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