Workday CEO says he considered buying UK cloud firm Anaplan, before building a rival product

The CEO of US cloud-computing giant Workday says that the company considered a bid for the UK SaaS firm Anaplan two years ago, before deciding to build a competing product of its own instead.

Speaking at Workday's Rising event in Barcelona this week, CEO Aneel Bhusri told Computerworld UK during a media Q&A session that Anaplan was once considered as an M&A target. "There were four or five of those players [which we considered]," he said, "I believe they were actively shopping themselves over the past couple of months but we weren’t part of that process because we had already made that decision to build it ourselves."

York-based SaaS company Anaplan was valued at over $1 billion earlier this year, making it one of the UK's few homegrown tech unicorn companies.

Both companies have built finance software products based upon cloud calculations engines. Where Anaplan has traditionally focused on financial planning and forecasting, Workday has popular applications for HR and finance. The benefit of these in-memory processing engines running in the cloud is that concurrent users can collaborate on documents, workflows and spreadsheet in real time.

Now, with the release of Workday Planning, and specifically its Worksheets functionality, Workday is going after Anaplan's core market of enterprise level financial planning, budgeting and forecasting, taking what have traditionally been Excel driven business processes into the cloud.

Worksheets will be available to early adopters in the upcoming version 28 of Workday, and will be available generally in version 29 at some point late next year.

Despite once appearing to be good friends, and Workday actually investing in Anaplan back in May 2014, the bullish CEO Bhusri said: “Candidly, they [Anaplan] have never been a great partner and we ended up getting into the space because we could not make a partnership with them and others work.”

Bhusri also said he isn’t worried about competing with Anaplan: “I’m not sure I would consider them a competitor, we are selling planning as part of a broader suite. If you an Oracle or SAP shop and Workday is not there then Anaplan is a good fit, but in the Workday environment we would prefer not to see Anaplan. If the customer wants it we will support it, but we aren’t really partners anymore.”

Read next: How Anaplan plans to kill off Excel use within the enterprise

He expanded on who Workday traditionally views as competitors, stating: "In Europe it is the same as it is in the USA, we are replacing PeopleSoft, SAP and Oracle. There is not much Oracle HR in Europe. Our main competitor in Europe has been and remains to be SAP. If you look at our large wins in Europe they are all SAP shops like Airbus, Phillips, Rolls Royce that chose Workday."

When asked what makes Workday the best solution in the market Bhusri typically said it comes down to the platform as a whole: "I don’t think customers want separate planning and transactional environments. They really want it unified. That’s what we’re finding. The uptake on Planning has been much more rapid than we ever anticipated."

Phil Wilmington, co-president at Workday added: “When we have our discussions with the office of finance it is about taking what we are doing in the transactional applications and extending it to the business leaders so that its not the office of the few addressing the needs of the many. If your system isn’t unified, it is more than integration, that drives the adoption throughout the organisation."

Read next: Anaplan: What does the UK’s latest tech unicorn actually do? We talk to Anaplan to find out how it is changing enterprise resource planning (ERP) software

Anaplan is a small fish compared to Workday when it comes to revenues. Workday has annual revenues of just over $1.1 billion, and although Anaplan doesn’t report revenues, it says it has a run rate of over $100 million and has been making good progress in terms of customers over the past few years.

The key for Workday to corner the market will be to get its existing customer base to embrace financial planning in the cloud before Anaplan gets to them. Not making it generally available until the second half of 2017 gives Anaplan a healthy head start though.

Anaplan has yet to respond to our request for comment but we will update this story accordingly once it does.


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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