Looking Forward: The Next 10 Years with Finance in the Cloud

Hitting milestone birthdays causes reflection on where we’ve come from and anticipation of where we are going. For me, 2015 has double the impact as Workday just turned 10 and I turn . . . well, it ends in a zero.  So I am deep into reflecting and anticipating.

First, reflection: My professional life for the past decade has centered on our Workday Financial Management application. Some might surmise that Workday began as a human resources application provider that added financials years later, but that’s not accurate. We started developing our financial management application the same year Dave Duffield and Aneel Bhusri started Workday. Yet while market research showed that organizations were becoming increasingly comfortable with moving HR functions to the cloud, the level of readiness to do the same with finance in 2005 was—as the kids say today—”not so much.”

Back then and for some years after, analyst firms were reporting that only a small percentage of organizations planned to move their financials to the cloud. It was considered too risky and new for such a critical function. So—as legacy software executives sought every opportunity to convince the market that cloud applications were just a frivolous fad—we continued building out both applications, realizing Workday Human Capital Management would lead the way on growth and proving our cloud-based technology. We knew that with time and evidence, the market would recognize the value and security of a modern, cloud-based financial management application, and continued to work alongside customers and potential customers to fully understand their needs, knowing their trust had to be earned.

Looking Forward - The Next 10 Years with Finance in the Cloud Ten years later, attitudes around cloud applications/SaaS are very different. There have been many successful cloud deployments (including hundreds for Workday HCM) and happy customers eager to share their stories about business transformation. Finance professionals have become very familiar with cloud applications, which are likely being used in some form within their organizations.

Legacy vendors are now scrambling to find a way into the cloud applications businesses. Large systems integrators have built practices around advising clients on cloud deployments. And as consumers, the cloud is universal—almost everything we interact with through our personal devices either resides in, or was downloaded from, some type of cloud.

Now the anticipation:  The growth and familiarity of the cloud has broken down the barriers to financials, and the market for cloud-based financial applications is poised for strong growth. In a new Saugatuck Technology research survey, “Cloud Financials: The Third Wave Emerges,” more than half of all CFOs surveyed report active or planned replacement of their on-premises financial management with cloud/SaaS versions over the next couple of years.

We see further evidence of this momentum here at Workday. We are honored to have more than 100 Workday Financial Management customers, a number that’s rapidly climbing. Our customers represent many industries, including publicly traded companies and large enterprises exceeding $1 billion in annual revenues. More than 50 organizations are live, running their daily finance operations with Workday Financial Management and  sharing their stories about the transformations within their organizations (including ServiceSource, Shelter Insurance, and TripAdvisor).

We are ready for more to join us.  A financial management application is a complex and comprehensive system, and 10 years of intense work has resulted in an application that is rich in features, designed to address industry-specific requirements, and scalable for large organizations. We find ourselves delighted on a continuous basis by new discoveries around how our cloud-based development and update approach lets us quickly deliver new features and innovations.

So, Happy Birthday Workday Financial Management!  Here’s to a great 10 years, a momentous 2015, and every opportunity to help customers transform their finance organizations over the next 10 years.

As for me . . . it may take the whole year just to gather enough candles for the cake. I’ll let you know how it goes.