Ryan, LLC on Finance, Technology, and Its Roadmap for the Future

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that nothing is certain in this world except death and taxes. Yet despite their inevitability, many organizations still struggle with complex and confusing tax codes. Tax services firm Ryan, LLC (Ryan) helps alleviate these challenges, providing a wide range of tax advisory and consulting services to a global clientele of Fortune 500 companies in nearly every industry. Their workforce has helped businesses achieve more than $2.5 billion in tax savings annually.

As one of the 2018 Fortune Best Workplaces in Texas, Ryan wants to hire—and retain—great employees. A big part of this is making sure employees have the right systems in place to help them succeed. Justin Bitner, director of financial management systems at Ryan, discusses the benefits the firm has seen after going live on Workday Financial Management, Workday Human Capital Management, and Professional Services Automation, and the approach Ryan takes to change management and user adoption.

Tell us about your background and what led you to your current role.

Justin Bitner
Justin Bitner

I started my career as an accountant, but I always found myself drawn to the technical aspects of the job, creating reports and learning about software configurations. I switched into finance consulting by doing full suite Workday deployments for clients. Ultimately, I saw myself in a position where I’d be the in-house Workday finance guru for a customer. That opportunity presented itself at Ryan, where I’m the head of support for Workday Financial Management. I’m responsible for working with our stakeholders to define our Workday deployment roadmap, which includes onboarding and adoption, annual updates, and deploying new functionality across the organization.

When you’re a consultant, it’s all about thinking quickly, finding solutions, setting up and configuring them for the client, and then passing on your knowledge the best you can. Once a client is live, the consulting firm typically starts to transition out of the project. On the client side, it’s much more about driving change management, training and user-readiness, and continuous adoption.

We’re always pushing forward and innovating at Ryan to deliver the best services to our clients. We constantly think about how to grow, improve, and realize the most value, and this philosophy extends to optimizing our internal systems. Having both the consultant and the in-house perspectives has given me a strong technical foundation and the change management skills needed to roll out new systems and features to the rest of the organization in a way that sets up everyone for success. 

What benefits have you seen from operating on a single, cloud-based system for finance and HR?

Old-school systems just aren’t as nimble as cloud systems because they need to be maintained and manually updated. A cloud solution, especially one that updates as frequently as Workday, gives us a big advantage. We’re a professional services firm that specializes in business taxes, so we need to keep up with changing regulations and requirements. There are a lot of smart folks here who are extremely knowledgeable about all of the changes that are coming through. However, it’s just as important for our systems to be able to keep up.

Workday is a pretty unique product when you compare it to a lot of the other systems that are out there, and that’s by design.

With everything in one system, we have access to all of our Workday data, and we can work on it cross-functionally. For instance, we recently rolled out a new personalized UI within the Workday system, which the team regularly references to make sure we’re all aligned. We’ve also developed a Workday roadmap in conjunction with our HCM team, so our executives can review requirements for the entire system as opposed to splitting it up. While we still work separately on executing and delivering, it’s great to have everything together in one place rather than having to go into separate systems to track things down and make connections.

Workday is a pretty unique product when you compare it to a lot of the other systems that are out there, and that’s by design. The continuous development and scalability of Workday help support our firm’s innovation agenda.

What other features have been beneficial to the organization?

Two of the biggest differentiators for us have been Time Tracking and Expenses, which give us the ability to translate project billings and expense reimbursements seamlessly into client invoices—an appreciable part of our business. We’re also looking into implementing Workday Worksheets, which will be a huge benefit on the finance side because our workforce will be able to collaborate on live data.

Another thing that our finance team has appreciated is the ability to drill down into a matrix report to see the details of each transaction in a financial statement, and then pivot off that transaction to do further analysis. With other finance systems, you might be able to see how much the travel expense was for each month, but to figure out what it consisted of, you would have to run a report in one system, and then run another report outside the system based on the transaction details. In Workday, you can do it within one system in just a few clicks—something Workday definitely gets kudos for.

Tell us more about your work on Ryan’s Adoption Roadmap for Workday.

To be successful in just about anything, you need to have a well thought out plan to get each stakeholder—functional leads or the executive team—aligned. Say, for example, you’re planning on implementing Workday Expenses or Planning. These features would be added into the Adoption Roadmap, where you can build your adoption plan, add backlog items, and link to Workday updates. It’s a great way to keep everything integrated and up-to-speed within the system. Workday takes the roadmap a step further with the Adoption Planning tool, which I’ve been really excited about.

Putting our roadmap on “paper” within Workday gives us a clear picture of exactly what we want to achieve.

If you don’t have a roadmap or plan for any kind of rolling adoption, then a lot can pass you by, and then you might look back in three years and you’re still in the same spot. I’m excited that we have something great in place that we can continue to build upon. Putting our roadmap on “paper” within Workday gives us a clear picture of exactly what we want to achieve with Workday.

What advice do you have for others who are working on a roadmap strategy?

Even if you don’t have anything formalized or in Workday, start thinking about what you’re going to do in the future and sketch out a plan. Otherwise, you’ll get caught up in other matters as they come up. A roadmap ensures you’re continually pushing forward.