Since I started Otter Advisory late last year, I’ve worked with a variety of HRTECH vendors, and I have been transparent about whom I’m working with. I outline things here. The main exceptions have been with M&A work, and with one start-up that was in stealth mode. The good news is that I can now mention the stealth company too. Utmost launched yesterday. It is fun to work with them as they shape the vision of the company and the product.

I think I’ve learned more from Annrai than he has learnt from me. A couple of things stood out for me working with him and the team over the year.

Defining and understanding the customer problem: Before they wrote code, this team asked a lot of questions. They are laser focused on finding the customers and the exact person in the customer whose problem they look to solve, and really really listening to them.

Focus: They really know how to say ‘no’, and ‘not yet’.

Management: Annrai delegates brilliantly. It is a fast paced start up, yet he takes vacation. Hire the right people, empower and trust them to do what you hired them to do sounds easy, but it is hard in practice.

Thorny problem: They are attacking a big problem that has been poorly solved to date, the contingent or extended workforce in the enterprise context. Dennis Howlett provides a solid write up here.

Build upon what you know: Given the deep Workday heritage of the team, and Workday’s strong showing in HCM, it makes perfect sense for Utmost to build their initial offering closely integrated with Workday. I see it as a test case for the nascent Workday platform ecosystem. Balancing alignment and autonomy.

That dovetails nicely into next week, I’m off to Orlando for a couple of days. I’m heading to Workday rising. After years of going to SAP events in the Orlando conference centre, this will probably feel a little strange. Thanks to the Workday AR team for inviting me.

Besides the HCM product stuff, I’m especially interested how Workday is enabling a product ecosystem, and how they work with startups, in terms of technology, ecosystem and their corporate VC efforts. If you are a niche vendor / start up, and you would like to chat, please get in touch.

Josh Greenbaum wrote recently about heterogeneity (hard word to spell) and this resonated with me.

The real world inhabited by your customers is a complex, heterogeneous, multi-vendor world, and the more you help your customers succeed by embracing that reality the better for everyone.

Josh Greenbaum

In this context, I’m keen to understand more about how global Workday customers organizations are solving for payroll. On integration theme, how best to be connecting Workday to SAP payroll is a regular question in my inbox. (More to come on options there in a different post, assuming this writing mojo return continues). Connecting payrolls and HR remains a thorny thing, but I see some interesting innovators. I did some work early this year with an investor in Immedis, whose global payroll service impresses me.

I’m looking for real evidence of production ready AI/ML, built with law and ethics in mind. Workday has laid out a clear roadmap in briefings, so I’m keen to see how customers are using it. Most vendors have a good AI/MI/Big Data talk track, but the differentiation will be in whether it works in the real world.

I’m also looking forward to catching up with the analyst gang, and the product teams. The world of HRTECH is small, so I do expect to see many familiar faces.