Workday’s data model is enabled by the intelligent data core where we combine operational data from over 15 external sources, bringing all accounting into one system. Workday Financial Management along with Workday Accounting Center and Workday Prism Analytics is foundational to the intelligent data core, saving us over 50 hours during the close by automating the accounting from external data.
Second is our adaptable architecture, enabling us to “future-proof” finance. Creating a new dimension, legal entity, or even a business process is quick and easy. Workday also makes it easier to keep up with evolving regulatory environments, such as changes to revenue recognition that we saw a few years back and the more recent lease accounting standards.
What are some of the benefits you’ve realized so far on the journey toward a zero-day close?
We’ve realized tremendous benefits using these best practices. Perhaps the most important one is that we’re able to see problems early in the close process before they become issues, enabling us to take remedial action quickly and resolve anomalies as they surface.
Also, the percentage of manual journal entries we now perform is extremely low. Thanks to the automation in our system, we’ve achieved nearly 100% automation of our cash flow and 100% billing accuracy, but as you can imagine there are exceptions. Workday surfaces those exceptions, helping us quickly address and resolve them before they impact the close. And we know there is so much more value ahead as we continue to adopt more machine learning capabilities.
You’ve been very vocal about the best practices that companies can adopt to streamline their own close processes. Can you share those?
First, send out a close survey so anyone involved in the close can surface risks, provide feedback, and share what’s working and what’s not. This gives you a holistic view, making it easier to identify bottlenecks or areas of risk.
Second, enable better collaboration and partnership with FP&A (financial planning and analysis). Our teams are working from the same dataset, which helps drive real-time insight into budget versus actual and make it easier for the teams to resolve variances together.
Third, using dashboards in Workday, create a chief accounting officer command center where you can see critical metrics, such as cash collections, accounts receivable (AR) analysis, days sales outstanding (DSO) and days payable outstanding (DPO), and profit and loss (P&L) expense trends. This allows you to identify unusual trends and take action throughout the month, not just at month end.
Fourth, monitor the close. The period-end close dashboard gives us real-time information, including the leader board, which provides management with a high-level status of the close process, and the close overview, which gives us a view of all remaining tasks to complete the close.
Finally, do a thorough financial analysis of external reporting, whether it’s a regulatory filing, news release, or preparation for investor calls. Since FP&A and accounting are working from the same data, we can perform deep analysis to ensure the numbers are accurate.
Who else benefits from a shorter closing process?
The employees themselves benefit. Especially as we’ve seen during the pandemic, the forces that have contributed to the “Great Resignation” mean that people have placed a new emphasis on their quality of life. This includes a better work-life balance, which is supported by a zero-day close.
Of course, a more streamlined process that doesn’t take up weeks of our finance team members’ lives also helps with recruiting and retaining talent—and that’s absolutely important to help organizations succeed now and for the foreseeable future.
Finance professionals want to work for a company where technology empowers them to solve challenging, complex problems that help the business. With Workday’s adaptable architecture and unique object data model, anyone on my team—with the proper access privileges, of course—can spin up their own dashboards or reports, drill down to transaction-level detail and get to the story behind a certain number or trend, and get the answers they need on their own to make an impact.