How Virgin Voyages is Setting a Course for the Future with Workday

Andrew Schwalb is CIO at Virgin Voyages, an innovative new cruise line intent on making waves in the industry with unparalleled cruise experiences for guests. Based in the Miami area, Virgin Voyages plans to design and build three new world class cruise ships, with the first expected to launch in 2020.

To help the company prepare for its bright future, Virgin Voyages selected Workday, including Workday Financial Management, Workday Human Capital Management, and Workday Planning, to create a technology foundation that reflects the values and spirit of the Virgin brand during a period of rapid growth and innovation. In this Q&A, Schwalb discusses why choosing the right technology platform was so important, what mattered most, and how they see Workday helping to support their vision and goals.

What were you looking for when choosing a technology partner for Virgin Voyages?

Andy Schwalb, CIO, Virgin Cruises
Andy Schwalb, CIO, Virgin Voyages

Virgin as a brand is about making the world a better place—for our customers, the environment, the industry, but most of all for our employees, also called our crew. It’s hugely important to us that the technology we use reflects the culture that we are building at Virgin Voyages, which is focused on innovation, empowering our crew by putting them first, complete transparency, and creating a great place to work. This requires a modern, mobile-first approach that can work in a variety of global environments and enable our crew to get what it needs to work effectively and efficiently. We also needed a system that can help us grow, scale, and innovate as a company.

“We are really excited about this opportunity for Virgin to come together with a company like Workday and show why innovation matters.”

Why did Virgin Voyages select Workday?

Workday fit all of those needs. I’ve worked in large companies and seen how cumbersome and painful financial and human resources systems can impact the culture of the company and the way employees engage and feel about where they work. Not only does Workday deliver a modern, mobile-first system, but it also supports our goal to be the best place to work in the cruise industry. We are really excited about this opportunity for Virgin to come together with a company like Workday and show why innovation matters.

“One might say we are the world’s largest startup, with plans to build three world-class cruise ships in a short amount of time.”

How will Workday help support the company’s growth plans?

One might say we are the world’s largest startup, with plans to build three world-class cruise ships inVirgin-Voyages-logo-2016 a short amount of time. We expect a huge ramp up in people all over the world, from Italy to Londonto Germany. Workday will give us a global platform that will make it easy to bring people onboard and enable them to do what they need to do from anywhere, not just sitting at a desk. At the same time, we are going to be running a large number of financial transactions through our system and will need full transparency into our business. It’s critical that we understand things like costs, pricing models, and where the value drivers are in order to make adjustments in real time, so we can deliver the best value for an outstanding cruise experience for our customers.

What is the value in having finance, planning, and HR in one system?

Having one unified system will really simplify IT and make operating the business much easier.  We want to put as much power as we can in the hands of the people that use the system—from finance and HR to business management and operations—and not have to insert the IT team to translate data wants and needs. In many organizations today, what ends up happening is that IT goes off and builds reports to bring back, and the user often doesn’t get what they want or it’s stale data, so they can’t react and take action. With Workday, it’s one set of real-time data so users can understand the context behind the data to make decisions and take action faster.

Given our plans for aggressive growth in the next several years, having a unified approach to financial and workforce planning will also help us better plan for our future people and financial needs and determine the impact of those on financial performance.

“Workday is simple, elegant, and modern, and we want to give our employees the same level of experience we give our customers.”

How will Workday help to support the employee culture you are building?

We are building a culture where employees feel valued and empowered to talk openly and transparently, and creating an environment of encouragement and growth. Workday has a culture that aligns with these same values and will give us a technology platform that supports how we want to engage with talent, drive performance, and enable employees to do many things on their own.

We are also a design-driven company where look, feel, and user experience are very important to us, both from what customers experience, but also with the work we are doing within the company. If you look at systems today, especially in finance and HR, they are clunky, painful to use and take a long time to do anything. Workday is simple, elegant, and modern, and we want to give our employees the same level of experience we give our customers.