Finance and the Tech Foundation: Making Business Change Easier

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” —Charles Darwin

Across today’s business landscape, constant change has become the new normal. Multiple forces—political and economic uncertainties, digital disruption, and talent shortages—are impacting organizations, and survival depends on the ability to navigate these turbulent waters and evolve with the times.

This can be a major struggle for companies that don’t have the right technology in place. Just as the foundation of a house makes all the difference in weathering tough conditions, the same concept applies to the technology foundation and how well a business withstands uncertainty and change.

When we built Workday, we wanted our customers to have a technology foundation that could help them keep pace with change, whether it’s expanding into a new market, changing their business model, or complying with new regulations. The technology concepts I’ve discussed in previous blogs—a cloud delivery model, a unified architecture, and transactions and analytics in one place—all help make it easier and faster for companies to do this, but a company’s ability to adapt business processes to change is key.

Big changes often require modifications to workflows or core business processes, whether it’s changing organizational structures, approval processes, or policies. That’s why we built workflow into Workday’s foundation—called the Business Process Framework—where business processes are defined and tied directly to organizational structures and role-based security. All activity is modeled and governed in one place, so nothing happens in Workday without it being fully reflected in the Business Process Framework.

According to a 2016 Robert Half Management survey, technology and business systems are the most difficult part of integration during a merger or acquisition.

We also designed the Business Process Framework for non-technical users, so that those with appropriate security access are easily able to make updates when business rules change. All changes are self-documenting and auditable, including who made the change and when.  This is very different from legacy systems where workflows, controls, and approvals require significant work to set up and adjust, and are only delivered for select transactions and business processes. Also, because all customers are on the same version of Workday, users are also able to leverage best practices when it comes to using the Business Process Framework from each other through the Workday Community.

Managing M&A and Market Expansion

So how does this make a difference with some of the biggest changes impacting today’s organizations?

One area is growth initiatives, such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and expansions into new markets. According to a 2016 Robert Half Management survey of 2,200 finance leaders, technology and business systems are the most difficult part of integration during a merger or acquisition. A typical acquisition can end up taking months or even years, and in the meantime, companies are spending significant time and resources on complex workarounds and manual efforts working between systems, all subject to error and auditing scrutiny.

With Workday, organizations can drastically reduce the time it has traditionally taken to incorporate an acquired company. Having the Business Process Framework as part of the Workday foundation is key to supporting these growth initiatives and gives businesses the architectural flexibility to easily and quickly set up or integrate new entities, move people and hierarchies, and streamline or change business processes—all without reliance on IT.

With everything in one system, finance can also easily and quickly create real-time, consolidated financial statements that include a newly acquired company. Consolidating this data in legacy systems is extremely time-consuming and requires a lot of manual intervention, especially without real-time forward-looking capabilities. Also, working between separate systems implies limited control, thus increasing the compliance risk of the new entity. Having a single system with built-in business processes, workflows, and controls can significantly reduce compliance risk from any new entity.

Workday’s CFO Robynne Sisco has written about her experience setting up new legal entities, stating that “adding a set of books to support a new legal entity could take six to nine months on legacy systems.” She added, “With Workday, that same set of books takes only 30 minutes to set up. Workflow or business process changes take just a few minutes. This flexibility allows us to keep up with the dynamic nature of business today and spend more time looking forward.”

In my final blog in this series, I will look at the evolving role and importance of auditing in today’s business climate of heightened corporate fiscal responsibility and regulation, and why the tech foundation of a finance system matters in staying compliant today and in the future.

(Read the first five blogs in this series: “Finance and the Tech Foundation: Making Sense of Enterprise Tech Concepts, Part 1,” “Finance and the Tech Foundation: Making Sense of Enterprise Tech Concepts, Part 2,” “Finance and the Tech Foundation: Real-time Consolidation and a Shorter Financial Close,” “Finance and the Tech Foundation: What’s Needed to Deliver Impactful Business Insights,” and Finance and the Tech Foundation: Making Collaborative and Continuous Planning a Reality.”)