Appetite for Change: How UK Businesses Are Accelerating Digital Transformation

Michael Douroux, who serves as our general vice president for Northern Europe and South Africa and country manager for the UK and Ireland, takes a look at the pace of digital acceleration in the UK and why businesses are choosing Workday as their partner for change.

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If businesses have learned one thing in the last two years, it’s that digital transformation is a dish best served well in advance of a crisis. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed untold confusion on the world, organisations of all sizes were starting to understand that digital was changing the dynamics of global business, that entirely new models would be needed to deal with this disruption, and—perhaps most crucially—business leaders felt they were struggling to keep up with the pace of change.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed untold madness on the world, organisations of all sizes were starting to understand that digital was changing the dynamics of global business.

Many business experts have pointed to the fact that change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. For some, that pain happened to be a global pandemic. Companies realised that their old systems of record, based on ageing technology platforms, could not respond to the challenges of a global lockdown and a fundamental need for operating their business remotely.

Early Digital Adopters and Those Swimming Naked

Suddenly, agility is no longer a buzzword. For those who had already embraced digital transformation, the ability to adapt to change quickly and make fast, accurate decisions brought a clear competitive advantage. For others, there was a tougher road ahead. 

In the book “The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation,” one interviewee discussed how companies that talked big about digital transformation but did little meaningful to accomplish it are being exposed in the current circumstances, stating,“When the tide goes out, you see who’s been swimming naked.”

The digital acceleration gap highlights the pace of change driven by new opportunity and the inability of many organisations to capitalise on it. It is a strategic problem with painful results. And it shows no signs of letting up.

The digital acceleration gap highlights the pace of change driven by new opportunity and the ability of an organisation to capitalise on it.

EMEA Business Leaders Call Time on Legacy ERP

Fortunately, through the thousands of customers Workday has globally, we have seen how organisations with the right approach to technology can thrive during challenging times. These businesses have freed themselves from the burden of legacy enterprise resource planning systems and turned to what we call the enterprise management cloud—the backbone of digital transformation. We’re already seeing a movement of global outperformers that have made this shift—with big results.

For me, what has been so striking about the last two years is the pace at which customers have turned to Workday. Their appetite for this new class of software—which is really more of an operating system for business than a collection of code in the cloud—is truly impressive given the challenges they are facing. 

At a global level, Workday has over 9,000 customers, 3,800 of which use Workday Financial Management and Workday Human Capital Management products as core business systems of record. Over 70% of these customers are now live. Workday boasts 70% of the Fortune 50 as customers and over half of the Fortune 500. None of this would be possible without the support of over 13,400 employees and a substantial and committed partner ecosystem.

Here in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region, businesses select Workday to get a complete picture of their financial, people, and operational information in a unified system. Machine-learning-augmented analytics help these businesses see around corners and anticipate what’s coming next. Against a backdrop of uncertainty, business leaders choose Workday to continuously recalibrate as changes arise, with a single system to plan, execute, and analyse.

A Culture Built for Change Is Crucial to Success

I’m lucky enough in my role to speak to many of our customers across numerous industry sectors, and it’s clear that Workday’s commitment to the EMEA region is a huge part of our success. Transformation is as much about people as it is technology, and Workday in the EMEA region now has over 2,800 employees and a presence in 14 countries, looking after more than 675 EMEA-headquartered organisations. We now have dedicated data centres in Dublin and Amsterdam. According to IDC’s latest data (ERM market share 2021), our growth rate in Europe is at 30.6%.

Such growth requires a real commitment to finding the right talent, and part of that is Workday’s unique culture, which is designed to meet the needs of all our employees. Our leadership team works together to make our employee experience and culture a priority every day. As we expand into new regions and markets, we are building a diverse workforce and cultivating our employee-first culture to ensure we have the right people to support our customers. ​This has led to recognition, such as being placed #3 on the 2020 “Fortune: Best Workplaces in Technology” list, #7 on the most recent “Fortune: Best Workplaces for Diversity” list, and #3 in the “Best Workplaces in Europe 2019” awards.

UK Leaders Accelerate Digital to Boost Agility and Resilience

Few European countries have faced more disruption than the United Kingdom in the last few years. Brexit, COVID-19, and myriad societal, economic, and environmental challenges have placed UK businesses under significant pressure. Yet, the resilience of these organisations and their willingness to find a way to thrive is typified in the Workday customers I meet. These businesses and their leaders understand the role of technology in building for change, and in the UK, Workday can now count 30% of the FTSE100 as customers. It should come as no surprise that some of the most forward-thinking businesses in the UK have started their Workday journey, including AstraZeneca, BP, GSK, Just Eat, Ocado, Rolls-Royce, Schroders Personal Wealth and Unilever.

These companies may not have identical business challenges, but they are united in their understanding that digital transformation is fundamental to their ability to survive persistent change, and that it is an evolution rather than a moment in time. We’re committed to meeting our UK customers where they are in their digital journey rather than preaching about where we think they should be. We’re pushing forward with our obsession for getting customers live on time and accelerating their path to value.

UK businesses need the right talent if they are to emerge from the pandemic and thrive. Workday is no different, and we’re expanding our global workforce by 20% in 2021 to help customers on their rapidly accelerating journey toward digital transformation. In 2020, we were ranked #2 on the “Great Place to Work UK’s Best Workplaces” list, and we understand the importance of an engaged, empowered workforce in guiding an organisation through challenging times.

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