Notes from the Road: What We Learned from CFOs

While most of my time is spent with the Workday Financial Management development team, in recent months I’ve also spent a good amount of time outside the office. At events we hosted or participated in, I had great conversations with customers, partners, and prospective customers, many of whom are CFOs. I listened to CFOs talk about the complexity of managing mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as well as the ongoing challenges of the everyday task of reporting.

Raphael Bres August 28, 2014
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While most of my time is spent with the Workday Financial Management development team, in recent months I’ve also spent a good amount of time outside the office at the Workday Elevate events we hosted in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, and also at the Argyle 2014 CFO Leadership Forum in Atlanta. I had great conversations with customers, partners, and prospective customers, many of whom are CFOs.

Prospective customers at those events shared the challenges they’re facing, and asked us how our system could help. I listened to CFOs talk about the complexity of managing mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as well as the ongoing challenges of the everyday task of reporting. Those challenges might include waiting  months for IT to fulfill a reporting change request, often requiring finance departments to fall back on standalone spreadsheets—and create situations where big mistakes are easily made. It gave me the opportunity to talk about how our investments in Workday Financial Management help accommodate M&A with the ease of setting up new entities, while the configuration capabilities we offer for reporting have eliminated the “spreadsheet-fallback syndrome.”

I also heard about a frustration among some prospective customers along the lines of this: “No one at our company likes our finance system, but it’s hard to get buy-in for a change.”

I certainly get that. While real cloud deployments such as Workday are inherently faster and easier than deploying software onsite (our existing finance customers will attest to this), there’s no question that deploying any new system requires time, planning, and resources.

Yet smart finance pros and executives know that wise investments result in positive gains, while doing nothing gets you what you’ve always had. Increasingly we hear those legacy systems and processes are slowing businesses down. A system focused mostly on accounting and little else is of no help in evaluating financial health and the decisions that must be made to move the business forward.

Workday’s CFO Mark Peek often talks about the fact that finance teams  still spend most of their time collecting and managing data and a much smaller portion of their time being strategic with it, and that reality should be flipped.  Clearly this is a pain point, with a 2013 Saugatuck Technology study finding that more than half of the finance and IT executives interviewed saying their existing systems limit their ability to reach strategic goals due to inflexible and siloed systems, poor access to information, and maintenance costs. Now, customers such as TripAdvisor and ServiceSource have overcome these obstacles by using our cloud applications that were built from the ground up with a focus on flexibility and to provide one source of the truth for an organization.

For CFOs and other finance pros who feel like they’re on the wrong side of the productivity ratio, I hope the customer stories we’ve shared inspire you to think about what’s possible, and help build your case for a needed change. You certainly deserve more—and so do your organizations.

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