The Great Acceleration: Can Your Business Keep Up?

The acceleration gap was already emerging prior to the pandemic, but the past year tested every organization’s ability to respond. Based on our work with thousands of customers worldwide, we’ve found seven imperatives businesses need to thrive in the “next normal.”

After a year that’s tested businesses and communities on so many levels, economic recovery and a resurgence of growth are coming into view. Widespread vaccination efforts and stabilization of the pandemic mean more businesses can open (or reopen), consumers are reengaging, and demand is soaring.

As tricky as it was to navigate the sudden shifts brought by the pandemic, leaders are facing a new challenge: keeping up with a historic revitalization. Can they capture the opportunity before them and emerge from recovery even stronger? Can they hire at the pace they need? As we work with our customers to navigate the constant change, we have concluded that success today requires organizations to run at a new level, operating with precision and impact.

The harsh truth is that most organizations struggle to keep up with change. In fact, 63% of CEOs say their processes and execution are too slow. It’s an acceleration gap—between the pace of change driven by new opportunity and the ability of an organization to capitalize on it. This is a strategic problem with painful results. And it’s growing. 

What’s more, as the pressures of market volatility and data volume grows, the gap will only get wider. We’re certain of this because we hear from so many executives that their skills, budget, and resources just aren’t keeping up. In fact, many say their companies spend up to 80% of their resources just to run in a steady state. 

Seven Imperatives for Closing the Gap

To be fair, the acceleration gap was already emerging prior to the pandemic, but the past year tested every organization’s ability to respond. And how companies responded revealed a set of new best practices for closing the gap. Based on our work with thousands of customers around the globe, we’ve found seven imperatives businesses need to follow to thrive in the “next normal”:

  • Continuously recalibrate: Organizations need to quickly move from planning to execution to analysis, and be prepared to restart that cycle with each new opportunity or challenge.

  • Run in the now: An organization can’t run at the speed it needs if silos among teams and systems delay action and decisions. To run in the now, businesses must break down their silos to operate seamlessly in real time.

  • Mitigate uncertainty with the full picture: Unify financial, people, and operational data from across the enterprise and give teams the ability to access and visualize it. This enables every team to make timely, data-driven decisions.

  • Rewire your business processes as quickly as needed: Our customers proved they could enact new workplace policies, increase paid time off, and deliver one-time payments in response to the pandemic or social justice issues within days—not weeks or months. This is only possible when business owners are empowered to initiate changes and aren’t hindered by their systems’ limitations.

  • Shape a new future: Enable teams to run multiple scenarios. This past year, our customers delivered 30 times more business planning scenarios than they’ve done in the past. Their ability to deliver actionable insights and predictive guidance to others helped their organizations manage through change.

  • Elevate human performance: Use touchless automation, lean on machine learning (ML)-assisted decisions, and create engaging experiences to get the most out of your people. Let your teams focus on higher-value work and remove the tasks that slow them down.

  • Measure real-world impact: To quickly reach milestones along your digital transformation journey and achieve tangible results, ongoing metrics and the willingness to change course—when necessary—are paramount. 

Operating at a new level of speed and agility means you can’t be saddled with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system of the past. This model is backwards-looking and uses fragmented data and calcified processes, and too often it’s created by merely porting outdated software to the cloud. 

The way forward? It’s a new class of what we call the enterprise management cloud. This is the backbone of digital transformation, and we’re already seeing a movement of global outperformers who have made this shift—with big results. 

The Enterprise Management Cloud

So, what is the enterprise management cloud, exactly? And, why do we think Workday is a great example of this new class of software—really more of an operating system for business than a collection of code in the cloud? 

It all starts with a frictionless foundation. That includes modern automation, like transactions driven by ML, and worry-free service delivery of a true cloud offering: enterprise scale, predictable economics, embedded security, and more. And it fits seamlessly into your IT ecosystem so that you can run better, and faster, every day. 

With a frictionless foundation, your teams have a complete picture with your financial, people, and operational information in a unified data core. ML-augmented analytics help you see around corners and anticipate what’s coming next. Data is always live, easy to understand, secure, and is put to work to grow the business. 

Next, customers can configure, change, and extend core business processes—a true business-first approach.This is an important point that bears emphasizing: Applications conform to what the business needs, rather than forcing the business to conform to the software. Meanwhile, tight IT governance ensures enforcement and integrity of events with full auditability. So you give more power to the business while at the same time freeing precious IT resources.

Perhaps most importantly, with an enterprise management cloud your teams can continuously recalibrate as changes arise, with a single system to plan, execute, and analyze. Through continuous planning, you are able to anticipate multiple scenarios as fast as the world changes. Those plans turn straight into action, aligning people and resources to drive the best outcomes. And ML-fueled analytics spot when you need to course-correct, and what to plan for next, so you stay ahead of the accelerating pace of change. 

Shining a Light

Lastly, I want to explain how we achieved our 97% customer satisfaction rating for 2021. It’s a number to be proud of, for sure, but it’s important to note how not too long ago "customer satisfaction" and “business technology” were phrases you usually didn’t see on the same page. When Workday started in 2005, business technology makers had more of a “eat what’s on your plate” mentality. 

We turned that idea on its head. We’ve always known that there are certain areas that businesses either can’t or aren’t ready to touch—the general ledger, for instance—and we’re all about meeting customers where they’re at rather than dictating where they should be. That’s why our satisfaction rating is a function of two main things: Our employee-first culture, and our customer-first experience. If you peruse our customer stories, you’ll see we are obsessed with getting customers live on time and accelerating their path to value. 

Yes, the world has changed, but we’ve seen that companies that abide by the seven imperatives above have come out stronger, more resilient, and, just as important, more willing to address some of the shortcomings of our society. 

It is truly springtime after a long, cold winter. We’re looking forward to sunnier days ahead, and doing our part in creating brighter work days for all.

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