Workday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and HR. Founded in 2005, the company has grown to approximately 3,500 employees, with no signs of slowing. For the past two and a half years, VP of Information Systems, Craig Butler (@craigbutlersf), has led the IS/IT team, with the focus of delivering uninterrupted productivity to Workday’s now global workforce. In this “IT Visionaries,” Butler shares his plans for the coming year, the big advantage only IT has, and why he’s dramatically changed how he hires for his department.

1. What are your big initiatives for 2015?

My number one goal is to support the speed at which the company is growing. From an IT perspective, that means supporting the onboarding of every single employee and contractor around the world and ensuring they have everything they need to be productive and hit the ground running. One of our large initiatives is to help increase collaboration and communication across the enterprise. When you’re growing so rapidly, it’s critical that you keep people connected and informed. In IT, we have an end-to-end view across the organization. We’re at our best when we can help connect the dots.

An example I use is the new hire process. Starting from the manager who decides they want to hire somebody, to their recruiting partner who helps find the talent, to HR making the offer, to our Workplace facilities team making sure they have a space, and IT to ensure they have the right tools; it takes a village. In IT, our end-to-end view enables us to partner effectively to make it a seamless experience for the new hire. It also helps, of course, to have the best HCM software.

2. Are there specific advantages to IT’s horizontal view?

The key advantage is in helping to connect multiple lines of business, which are moving at warp speed. I’m a big believer that this helps raise the value of IT as we look to empower our partners through technology-enabled solutions. We have an opportunity to see challenges they might not see. This is a shift from the old IT that waited and said: “Okay, business, what do you want us to do?” IT, now more than ever, has a chance to become an internal consulting group. We can now ask: “We see these challenges you’re having right now and we have a few potential solutions.”

3. How have you been empowering the business of late?

Considering the company is growing at such a rapid pace, you run into a situation where you might have multiple groups working on the same problem — but they’re not aware of it. While it’s always a challenge, our horizontal view has allowed us to take on some key initiatives. We have implemented a unified communication solution, blending chat, voice, and web-conferencing to ensure all employees, regardless of location, can stay connected. On top of that, we’ve also launched an employee collaboration portal, which is a new overlay on top of Salesforce, using Chatter primarily as the underlying technology. A partner, Simpplr, took our ideas, and built out from there on It’s mission critical that, despite the speed at which we’re all moving, the right and left hand know what each other’s doing.

4. How do you balance traditional IT duties with the need to also innovate?

While I am passionate about finding spots to innovate, I can’t afford to lose sight of my primary goal: to ensure each employee is working most efficiently. Every IT leader knows the struggle of wanting to provide business value while, at the same time, ensuring that the network is up, the conference room phones have a dial tone and email is flowing. Working at a highly innovative company with a strong entrepreneurial DNA can be challenging. Part of helping software developers be successful is staying out of their way and accepting the fact that they will always want to experiment with the latest technologies. The challenges are trying to find ways to support cutting edge development teams with the rest of the enterprise — without sacrificing security or speed. In my experience, the development teams are like the canaries in the enterprise coal mine when it comes to new tools and ways to work. My job is to keep a close eye on the way they innovate and then translate that into a solution that can work for everyone.

5. Why do you place so much emphasis on the employee experience?

The more successful we can make employees, the more successful they’re going to make our customers and partners. If you look at the feedback from our customers, I think it’s working. As we use our own software extensively, we’ve set a high bar for what we look for in other enterprise software solutions. A modern UI, right? A kind of UI that’s influenced by leading consumer software like Google or Facebook. My partners don’t want to come to IT for every change they need; they’re tech-savvy and need software that empowers them to be successful. This is a big shift. I don’t think enterprise software thought this way five years ago.

6. Tell us about the “pyramid approach” to your Salesforce implementation.

From the bottom up, we have our core, which is Salesforce’s Sales Cloud,Service Cloud, and Community Cloud. Those are accounts, opportunities, and all the things that run our business. Then there’s a layer above that, which I consider to be AppExchangeor third party. We use a lot of third parties, including 10 to 15 AppExchange apps. We like them because they plug in easily, can be configured, and work on top of the dataset we have from Salesforce. At the top of the pyramid, that’s the custom development and Building an intranet application is not going to be our core business, but having the power of Salesforce as a platform, and having somebody build and launch on top of that, is a big benefit.

7. Have you changed how you hire for IT?

I find myself hiring more and more people without traditional IT backgrounds. On our Salesforce team, we don’t call them business analysts, we call them product managers. If you look at the concept of what a product manager might do at a software company, they wear many hats: evangelist, project manager, requirements gatherer, and marketer. As you move to cloud solutions, you need a skill set of somebody who’s going to say: “What’s the best way to go about using this solution across many lines of business?” Some of the benefits of using Salesforce or Workday are the multiple releases a year that bring hundreds of new features. A product manager can evangelize those so you don’t turn around in a few years and have the business all using Salesforce or Workday, but not in a unified fashion.

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