Q&A: Accelerating Corporate Finance Transformation

Financial transformation comes in many forms, and for some organizations, cost and the complexity of their existing environment mean that “rip out and start again” is not a viable option. Terrance Wampler, general manager, Workday Financial Management, shares how finance leaders are approaching agility, complexity and transformation in some unique ways.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many finance organizations, out of necessity, made accelerating their digital transformation a priority. As closing the books, scenario planning and guiding other business leaders—all remotely—were elevated to the top of the C-suite priority list, agility became the phrase du jour for finance leaders.

But, transformation comes in many forms, and for some finance organizations cost and complexity mean that “rip out and start again” is not a mantra they can fully support. We spoke with Terrance Wampler, general manager, Workday Financial Management, to discuss how finance leaders are approaching agility, complexity, and transformation in some unique ways.

The pandemic has pushed agility even further into the spotlight for finance, but what kind of technology and cultural challenges have CFOs and their teams faced in the last 12 months?

We saw, even before the pandemic, a variety of technological, societal, economic, and political factors were already building a perfect storm for disruption. These forces continue to challenge the way organizations think about doing business, raising many questions about what the new normal will look like when we eventually get there.

I also think that as we see new ways of working and a reliance on remote access and mobile technology, there’s likely to be additional scrutiny on how organizations manage risk. Even under more normal circumstances, agility has become a defining characteristic of businesses that are better than most in their ability to anticipate what’s coming. In my experience, these businesses can act quicker when faced with change, and decisively respond to the demands of customers, the market and their competitors.

Discussions continue around transformation and moving to the cloud, but complexity in current environments can be a major barrier to embracing innovation and new technologies, can’t it?

Absolutely. We see some finance teams, particularly in large conglomerates, that are saddled with multiple systems consisting of rigid data models, disparate architectures, and static siloed data. For example, many manufacturing and supply chain systems have yet to achieve necessary maturity in the cloud, so CFOs and CIOs must still rely on their existing operational enterprise resource planning (ERP) investments, forcing finance teams to make the best of rigid on-premises systems. They are on a transformation journey, but it may take longer to put all the pieces together.

Can you share Workday’s approach to meet customers where they are in their digital transformation journey?

We believe that by connecting finance disciplines in a common architecture, today’s leaders can unlock the power of their data and make the most of their time and resources. This can be the foundation for a complete finance transformation, but it also can create a foundation for the corporate finance function of a large conglomerate, providing them meaningful insights into their business and greater agility to plan for what’s next. 

We’re seeing digital acceleration come in different forms, and for many organizations, replacing legacy systems all at once isn’t an option. With the Workday enterprise finance solution, Workday empowers finance teams to produce global consolidated financial statements, deliver trusted business insights, and strategically plan across existing, multi-system environments with minimal disruption. Customers can retain their operational ERP systems for industry-specific processes such as merchandising, supply chain management, or manufacturing, while transforming their finance functions and taking control of their business data. 

Historically, we focused our financial management solutions on helping customers in very people-intensive industries, but we also have customers outside of these service-based industries getting incredible value from Workday. We’re leaning in to meet those customers where they are, to deliver many of the benefits of finance transformation to more asset-intensive or product-based industries. Our solution allows customers in those industries to make real strides towards a more data-driven finance organization.

Are there other use cases for the Workday enterprise finance solution?

One other area of focus for us is in helping organizations spin up new entities. M&A, divestitures, new ventures: they all require creating new entities on demand, and there’s broad agreement that we’ll see a great deal of this kind of activity in 2021. 

Organizations may spin up a new business unit to take advantage of emerging opportunities, make acquisitions to solidify its position in a consolidating industry, or choose to divest a non-core business to maximize shareholder value. In these scenarios, the Workday enterprise finance solution can be quickly deployed to meet shared targets with an improved time-to-implement in stark contrast to the delivery of many traditional legacy solutions currently in use today. 

Finance leaders may be at different stages of their transformation journey, and operating at varying degrees of complexity, but all are united in their need for good quality data to make better, faster decisions. 

Visit the Workday enterprise finance resource page to learn more about how we’re meeting our financials customers where they are on their journey to digital transformation.

Join us at the Harvard Business Review Webinar: Elevating Finance from a Function to a Dynamic Capability on Monday, May 10 at 9 a.m. PST to hear from Deloitte’s Jessica Bier and Matt Schwenderman as they describe the shift finance leaders must make to accelerate digital transformation.

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