A New Approach to Enterprise Planning: Perspectives from Customers

Finance leaders from Brown University and the City of Orlando share their experiences as customer design partners for Workday Planning, and how this new product will impact their organizations.

In today’s world, organizations must have solid planning strategies in place to achieve their goals for growth and success. Yet despite their best efforts, many struggle with budgeting and forecasting technologies that don’t provide the insights they need.

We’ve heard about these challenges from our customers over the years, and this week, Workday launched Workday Planning. Workday Planning is the first planning, budgeting, and forecasting application that unifies financial and workforce planning in one system when combined with Workday Financial Management and Workday Human Capital Management (HCM). This new application is designed to help our customers approach planning in a more unified, collaborative, and continuous way so they can focus on driving performance.

In building a product that truly meets our customers’ needs, Workday partnered with several organizations across different industries to design Workday Planning. Two of those organizations are Brown University and the City of Orlando—both Workday Financial Management and Workday HCM customers. In a recent interview, Susan Howitt, who recently retired as associate vice president for budget and planning at Brown University, and Brian Battles, deputy chief financial officer for the City of Orlando, shared their current planning challenges, what excites them about Workday Planning, and what it’s like to be a customer design partner with Workday.

What are your organization’s biggest planning challenges?

Howitt: It’s difficult to manage and consolidate budgets across the entire university. We have four different schools and getting budget input from each one requires a lot of back and forth, and time spent consolidating information. We really needed one central system for both finance and planning in order to further reduce manual work and administrative burden.

Battles: As a municipal government, we need to ensure our budget is balanced, current, and accurate at all times. The challenge we have is making sure all of the appropriate parties, from finance managers to leadership, are aligned on the budget. Much of the communication is done through emails, phone calls, and meetings, so there is no real way to track budget feedback in one place. This can also result in version control issues.

What unique opportunities do you see with Workday Planning?

Howitt: I believe having planning in the same system as our financial and workforce data will make our ability to plan and forecast better and easier, with much tighter controls and simplicity for everyone. The ability to work with real-time data on metrics like spend and cash will make it much easier to do rolling forecasts, and project for critical things such as cash-on-hand and cash needs 30, 60, and 90 days in advance.

It will also help us better adapt and plan for change. For example, higher education is very people-driven with positions often funded from multiple sources, such as research grants and state budgets. If we learn that a grant is not going to be renewed, we can see the impact of that immediately—from how many people the grant is paying for, to who those people are—and forecast what that means short-term and long-term.

“Being a design partner has also been an opportunity for us to explain what we want and need in a planning system and help shape the product now and in the future.”

Battles: Being able to plan and forecast directly in Workday will remove administrative burdens and make it much easier to create viable multi-year financial forecasts and budgets for our different funds.

Another is the ability to build a forecast budget based on an active budget with real-time data. I will be able to utilize various scenarios and model for things like cost-of-living salary adjustments, changes in population, consumer price indexes, and property tax base valuation without having to do anything outside the system and with the confidence that we are working with the most current data.

We also look forward to having a system with built-in business process that allows workflow routing through the appropriate channels, which will make it easier to collaborate on the budget and create better controls in the process.

What was most interesting about being a design partner with Workday?

Howitt: It’s been really interesting to hear from peers that we wouldn’t normally talk to about their planning challenges and what they care about, which gives us new ideas on how this application might help us. I also discovered that we have some of the same issues as they do, which was helpful for the Workday product team and for us to hear that.

Being a design partner has also been an opportunity for us to explain what we want and need in a planning system and help shape the product now and in the future. We also learn how the product team envisions the system, and that gets us thinking about how we will use it and what we might focus on or need.

Battles: As a user who conducts budget development solely in Workday, it was refreshing to see the application and the Workday product management team push the limits and deliver a tool fully unified into the core of Workday.

It has always been evident to us that customers help influence product direction through Workday Community, preview testing, and weekly updates.  Working directly with Workday on a continuous basis, you see the complete lifecycle of a new product line and know immediately you made a difference that benefits all.

Posted in:  Finance

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