The hardest and costliest part of working with software as a service is often the integration required to plug into on-premise applications and third-party services. Workday, the SaaS-based ERP system provider, announced on Monday that it's tackling the problem with a new cloud-based integration platform.
The Workday Integration Cloud Platform combines the vendor's existing Enterprise Interface Builder (EIB) with a new Workday Studio development environment. EIB is where programmers and non-programmers can create interfaces to get data into and out of Workday and its HR, human capital management, talent management, payroll, spend, financial management and administrative applications.
Workday Studio is a download from the vendor that's designed to run in Eclipse-based development environments. From there, corporate developers and partners can create integrations ranging from simple, one-way connectors to complex, two-way systems. The integrations are then uploaded to Workday's cloud, where they can be scheduled and run.
As you'd expect there's a new Web-based ecosystem where partners, customers and the vendor itself will offer pre-built integrations. The list starts with the vendor's own Workday Integration Cloud Connect program, which already offers a deep list of connectors from Workday Payroll to payroll and tax processors; from Workday HCM to benefits, recruiting, and time-and-attendance systems; from Workday Spend Management to electronic payment systems and corporate card transaction processors; and from Workday Financials to CRM, electronic payment and credit card processing systems.
Partner integrations are available for popular third-party applications including Ceridian, Kronos, NETtime Solutions, Saleforce.com, Taleo and Xactly. Costs vary for these connectors, and the ecosystem is a potential revenue source for partners and enterprising customers.
Workday's Business Process Framework can be used to add review steps to integration processes. If HR data is being batched for transmission to a payroll processor, for example, a workflow step can be introduced whereby a payroll administrator could review date ranges, employee counts and totals. The step shows up as a task in the administrator's inbox, and once approved, the data is delivered to the payroll processor via Web services.
SaaS vendors often partner with independent integration companies such as Informatica, but there are always risks in relying exclusively on third parties. Integration vendors Cast Iron and Boomi, for example, were acquired over the last year by IBM and Dell, respectively.
Of course IBM and Dell have said it's business as usual where Cast Iron and Boomi integration partnerships are concerned. But knowing the importance of application integration, Workday decided to gain control over its own destiny two years ago by buying long-time OEM partner Cape Clear, a company that specialized in services-oriented application integration.
Workday execs say there's a place for (and customers are free to use) third-party integration options (particularly batch-oriented ETL). But the payoff in Workday's attention to the integration challenge is a rich and growing set of pre-built connectivity choices -- and they all belong to the Workday ecosystem.