Diary of a Deployment Part 3: Going Live with Workday Financial Management

On Sept. 1, it became official.  We at Shelter Insurance moved to one system of record for all of our financial data. For our company, which provides insurance to customers in 17 states, that day marked a milestone in our journey to gain more transparency across our organization.

Last March I wrote about how quickly the deployment took off after selecting Workday—we had converted a full year of historical data and were testing transactions within the first 10 weeks. In my second post, halfway through the deployment, I shared how we were using Worktags to tag keywords and events in our data so we could later report and analyze it in different ways and from different views. I talked about how we’ve been able to consolidate our accounts pretty dramatically moving to Workday—from 1,400 accounts with our previous system to about 400 today—and I think we’ll be able to bring that number down even more in the coming months.

In this third installment, I want to share some immediate benefits and changes that we’re already seeing or expect to see in the near future.

Faster answers. Prior to Workday, if there was a question about an account, for example, it required exploring and using three different systems—the journal through an access query, the ledger, and a third party reporting tool—to find the answer. It took a lot of time, and in many cases we discovered after all that effort there wasn’t a problem. While those realizations were a relief, it was still frustrating how much energy was used to find the answer, rather than on work that can add strategic value to the business. Now that all of the data and the reporting exist in one system, it’s easy through the delivered reports to find out right away whether there’s a problem. In addition, many of the delivered report fields allow you to take action directly from the report, therefore reducing additional steps.

Greater insight into supplier spend. In many instances, payments to suppliers have been tracked in spreadsheets. We can now process and track those payments within Workday and gain insights into how we’re spending that money using the system’s analytics capabilities. By navigating to the supplier’s page in Workday you can see the submitted invoices and their status, as well as payments made.

Greater insight into expenses. Like other companies, we have teams that travel a lot. In the past we’ve initiated internal audits to better understand employee expenses that were above average. In addition, if a manager wanted to analyze spend, he or she needed to request a report from the expense administrator. Now, both accounting and employee supervisors have immediate insight into expenses and can monitor travel spend by expense item, employee, region, or even cost center.

Automated invoice routing. We’ve eliminated the manual processes for paying out supplier invoices. It’s all done within Workday, with a built-in chain-of-approval process. This change was not without its challenges. Our staff was used to a paper process, and the new process forced us to determine how and when something is routed. Frankly, it is something we are still getting adjusted to using.

That’s a sample of day one finance transformation, but in many ways we’re still at the beginning of this journey. We are continuing to look at what we can provide to budget managers to help them early on with digging into the details of transactions to understand what’s happening in their area. Then, we’re hoping to build reports for managers outside of accounting to drill down and better understand finances the way they want to see them.

All of this represents a big change, for sure. While there was a lot of excitement here leading up to Sept. 1, there was naturally some anxiety, too. The use of Workday requires folks to do things a little differently as well as learn a new account structure. Before, paying an invoice may have meant filling out some paperwork and walking it down the hallway to someone else who would then cut a check.  Now, that process is done within Workday. But I think everyone understands that to meet our goals of greater transparency, we need to absorb and embrace change.

Another big change for our employees is access to data.  In the past, data necessary for an individual’s job role was limited to PDF-type reports with none of the background. With Workday, we have the ability to provide the user all the details of a transaction.  We want to balance the need to see information with the need to protect sensitive data or data that does not need to be viewed by all. We continue to refine configuration of security policies within Workday to help us accomplish this task.

I’ll end this post with an observation about our partnership with Workday, as well as IBM which was brought in to assist with our deployment. Our internal team did an amazing job, both with how they partnered with the Workday team and their dedication to learning about the system and how to best configure it to meet Shelter’s unique needs. When challenges arose along the road to deployment, we tackled and solved them together. I’m proud we hit our deployment date on schedule, but even more so, I’m proud of how well we worked together to get there.