Chief Accounting Officer POV: 4 Ways the Cloud Changes Business Analytics Forever

In my last post, I gave examples of how a cloud-based finance system built on a modern technology architecture makes many of my core responsibilities as a chief accounting officer significantly easier. Perhaps the most important benefit I’ve realized is that I now have time to focus on more strategic initiatives, such as delivering insights to the business.

It’s a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace to be able to access insightful data and make the most of it as quickly as possible. At Workday one of the questions we look to answer for our business is, “What patterns have we seen in the past and how are trends changing?” We also want to know, “What do we need to do differently to achieve the end results we’re looking for?”

At earlier points in my career, these questions were challenging to answer because I was using legacy finance systems. With these systems you can only get consolidated financial information at the end of a month after the books are closed—getting data outside of that cycle entails a full-scale, mid-cycle closing of the books, which can take days to complete. Traditional finance systems also are held back by static, hard-coded charts of accounts, so you can’t access or analyze data in a meaningful way without a business intelligence system.  This requires loading and reconciling data, further delaying the delivery of information. Any attempts to drill down on results are limited to the construct of the finance system’s chart-of-account segments. On top of all these challenges, significant systems expertise is required for gathering data, limiting the job to highly trained accountants and IT personnel.

With Workday Financial Management, however, the experience is completely different:

  1. Financial consolidations can be done anytime (even mid-period) and within seconds—no closing of the books is required.
  2. Data is stored in-memory so analytics are run within the system on real-time data, which completely eliminates the need for a separate business intelligence system.
  3. Worktags (unlike static charts of accounts) give us the ability to slice, dice, and pivot on a virtually unlimited number of data elements.  We also can use any combination of Worktags to drill into information all the way down to the transactional level.
  4. Anyone with proper security permissions can run reports and gain insights in real time directly within Workday because of its consumer-like interface.  I also can prepare reports for executives to access from their iPads and other devices, and they can drill down—in real time within the system—and analyze the details on their own.

Just like any company focused on strong and healthy growth, we at Workday are continuously looking at our spending, investments, and performance. With the ability to analyze information in real time, we can evaluate where we are at any time and have the business insights we need to make quick decisions that impact the current period.

We all are operating in an environment where business is fast paced and change is continuous.  We need the ability to make quick decisions and react to the realities of our global economy and competitive pressures. If you have to wait until the end of the month to gain business insights, then you’re already behind and it’s too late. Real-time insights are imperative, and in my 25+ years of finance experience, I’ve only found that achievable with Workday’s cloud-based finance system.