As our chief accounting officer (CAO), Robynne Sisco manages day-to-day finances at Workday. We asked Robynne to share a bit about her role at the Workday Blog, as well as her unique perspective as a user of Workday’s financial management system. Robynne told us that being a CAO isn’t all about numbers and accounting regulations—at least not when you’re at a company that’s redefining finance for the enterprise.
Q: What is your typical week like as a CAO?
A: In addition to accounting oversight, I also serve as a strategic partner to the business. I think this is increasingly common for CAOs working at modern-thinking organizations. CAOs have become instrumental as companies look to improve employee productivity, since we have a big influence on the management of internal processes. The less time employees spend on administrative matters—requisitioning goods or services, recording time off, changing payroll elections, submitting expense reports—the more productive they will be.
Q: What would you consider among the biggest challenges or pain points for CAOs today?
A: Our business is growing very quickly at Workday, which is exciting and energizing but it also means little down time—my team has to move fast to meet the needs of the business. The pace at which all organizations operate is accelerating, and keeping up with business changes is a significant challenge for a CAO. We use our own product internally, Workday Financial Management, which is essential to helping me meet those challenges. But I know from past job experiences, and from what I’ve heard from customers and prospects, that financial systems installed at many organizations hinder their efforts to support this accelerated pace. Many are difficult to change and expensive to maintain and upgrade. Due to their outdated system architectures, just adding a set of books to support a new legal entity can take six to nine months, and simple changes to workflow rules can take weeks or months to implement. Accounting teams then become tasked with managing tedious and inefficient manual workarounds to bridge the gaps between the business’s needs and the capabilities of its systems. That leaves very little time left for looking ahead and being strategic.
Q: How has your role been redefined since you joined Workday?
A: My role, and the role of my team, is not just to focus on our productivity or even the productivity of the entire Workday employee population. Rather, we see ourselves as responsible for enabling the productivity of our customers and prospective customers. Since we use our own products, we work with our product teams to prioritize new features, help design them, and provide feedback that improves our offerings. Our team tests new functionality and is among the first customers to deploy new products and features. We have constant, continuous interaction with our customers as we really see ourselves as trailblazers working for the benefit of the entire finance customer community.
Q: Can you provide some examples of how Workday Financial Management differs in comparison to accounting systems you’ve used in the past?
A: Because I’m such a big fan of our system, I enjoy spending time with customers and prospective customers sharing my experiences and showcasing how we’re using our application internally to maximize our efficiencies and serve the business needs of Workday.
In these discussions, the first thing I often point out is that our finance system has a tremendous amount of flexibility. Remember how I mentioned that a new set of books can take up to nine months to implement in traditional financial systems? 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 business needs and spend more time looking forward.
Reporting and analytical capabilities are also a huge differentiator. Reports are run in real time, with no lengthy consolidation process or reporting jobs that run for hours. I can run a consolidated report at any time and get an accurate real-time picture of where we are. With Worktags, I can then drill down all the way to the transactional level to get the details I need to understand what’s behind the numbers. By the way, being able to offer this type of work environment makes it easier to attract and retain finance talent. Most finance professionals want to develop strong strategic and analytic skills, and get excited about working with a modern finance system that makes that possible.
And finally, I love the regular updates. The update process for all of our applications happens over a few short weekend hours, with no lengthy and costly software upgrade. We’re consistently getting new features and functionality that my team can use to improve its productivity. Regulatory changes are also incorporated into the system through these updates, helping ensure we stay compliant. These productivity gains allow us to continually move the role of my team up the value chain.