Workday Podcast: Automation Drives the Professional Services Industry to Improve Business Outcomes
Bruno Navarro: Over the past two years, organizations of all types and sizes learned the value of being able to adapt to changing environments. Many of them turned to technology and automation to create a more efficient way of working. In the process, businesses have reimagined and revamped their processes to reflect these new abilities. I'm your host, Bruno Navarro, and today I’m talking to Jon Milkovich, director of Workday Financials ERPA. Together we’ll discuss ERPA’s journey with professional services automation, as well as related issues organizations can keep in mind when managing change. Welcome, Jon. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Jon Milkovich: Thank you.
Navarro: Could you please start us off by telling us a little bit more about yourself and your role at ERPA?
Milkovich: I am the director of our Workday Financials practice at ERPA. ERPA is a professional services organization. We have a PeopleSoft consulting practice. We have an Amazon Web Services practice. And we also have a Workday AMS practice. AMS stands for application management services. So we have a consulting practice, and I lead our Workday Financials group.
Navarro: Great. I’d love to learn more about the ERPA story. What was your previous process for handling consolidation and close?
Milkovich: Our accounting and finance groups at ERPA had a lot of manual processes. A lot of spreadsheets, a lot of pulling data from disparate systems, bringing it all together in Excel and generating the reporting out of Excel. Basically, a lot of manual processes, to sum it up.
Navarro: In a recent webinar, an ERPA colleague of yours mentioned that, “As our business continued to grow, what we found is that our back office was not growing with us.”
How did that challenge your organization, particularly as a professional services firm that needs to manage multiple resources across multiple projects?
Milkovich: As our organization continued to grow, we needed processes; we needed software that could scale along with us. And having spreadsheets and these disparate systems, like I mentioned, it just wasn’t cutting it. It became a lot of work. A lot of, as I said before, manual work, bringing data in from different spreadsheets. And it wasn’t efficient. It wasn’t efficient at all.
Navarro: How has that improved your processes, such as revenue sharing, customer invoices, and employee expenses?
Milkovich: Having one system where our employees can enter time, and they can enter their expenses. We generate our invoicing, our invoicing team reviews the time, reviews the expenses. We have our contracts entered in Workday, our projects, all of that in one system, is huge for us. And with our revenue-sharing process, we’re able to create allocations using Workday’s allocation functionality that really streamlines our process at month end. It used to take us about a day to calculate all of our revenue share each month. And with Workday’s allocation functionality, it takes, I think, about 15 minutes.
Navarro: Wow. That’s a big change.
Navarro: Can you share the work you’re doing on improving revenue forecasting and accuracy, and maybe a little bit about how this has helped support business objectives?
Milkovich: We use Workday’s resource forecasting functionality within PSA. And so our employees, once a week, go in, and they update their forecast on the projects that they’re assigned to. And our project managers and our internal project meetings, every week, they’re reviewing that forecast, and they’re going through the forecast with our teams. And what that does is when we have projects that are time- and materials-based, we’re able to, from week to week, get a really good sense of what our forecast of revenue for those projects is going to be in the next, you know, four to 12 weeks. So it’s really provided a lot better real-time insight as to what our forecasted revenue’s going to be on those projects. And then, as I mentioned, Workday has different functionality to capture your different types of contracts. So, you know, we have time and materials contracts. We have fixed-fee contracts. We have time and material and fixed-fee. We have milestone-based, and we’re able to create all of those different types of contracts in Workday and then capture our revenue forecast for each of those different types of contracts in Workday. And we've created reports so that our leadership can run those reports self-service. Nobody has to send them to them. They can just pull them up on their homepage on Workday and run them, and they get real-time insight.
Navarro: That sounds impactful. How has this affected your efficiency as an organization?
Milkovich: It takes away a lot of the manual processes we talked about earlier. Workday's doing a lot of the work for us. Once we actually create the contracts and just do our process of having resources update their forecast every week and the project managers keeping an eye on those forecasts and updating them. That all feeds into how our revenue forecast gets generated. Nobody’s having to do anything to generate that whenever there’s a change.
Navarro: It sounds like you’re able to leverage technology in a sense. Can you talk a little bit about how it affects hiring decisions looking out, going forward?
Milkovich: Absolutely. So with our ability to capture our resource forecasts in Workday, we’re able to take a look at our different groups that we have. In our Workday consulting practice, for example, we have a human capital management group, we have a financials group, payroll, absence, and time, integrations. And whenever we have a project, whenever we sell a project, and it’s focused on our human capital management group, they can go in, and they can update their forecasts. And our recruiting team has visibility into that forecast, so they also are keeping an eye on our pipeline. So when they see we have opportunities that we are going to potentially close in the near future, they can look at that. They can look at the forecast for our resources in real time, and they can say, “Okay. Our HCM group is going to be maxed out in six weeks, it looks like, so I think we should prioritize hiring for that group.”
Navarro: So that quickly, you’re able to adjust, what scales, and what hiring you guys do?
Milkovich: Absolutely. Yeah.
Navarro: How have you driven adoption of Workday across your organization? Do you have any advice for managing that operational, technological, and cultural change?
Milkovich: Having a plan. Having a change management plan is key. You need to evaluate all of the people, process, and technology changes that are happening in your organization. You need to come up with a plan to mitigate those changes or address those changes, whether it’s training, whether it’s communications, whether it’s both, to what degree you’re doing both. It’s just important to have a plan going into it. You don’t want to get caught flat-footed, with employees wondering, “What's going on?” You want to make sure you're keeping them in the loop.
Navarro: It was interesting that you mentioned people. Very often when we talk about technology, we’re not always mindful of the people who actually use the product. What have you been hearing from your employees about this change? How has it improved or affected their employee experience?
Milkovich: Fortunately for us, we have a lot of consultants, and they understand the reason for the change. So when we talk about rolling out resource forecasting, we have consultants that have worked at a variety of other organizations. Every professional services organization, at least in our space, has resource forecast requirements, so everybody’s pretty much used to it. So it wasn’t hard to get them to buy into the process because they know that it’s important to have. It’s important for leadership. It’s important for our recruiting team to have the most updated view of their forecast that they can provide. But in other cases where you might have folks where you’re trying to roll out a new process, explain to them the why. Don’t just tell them, “Hey, you need to start doing this.” When it’s appropriate, try to explain to them why and the impact that it's going to have on the organization if they start doing that.
Navarro: That makes sense. Getting employee buy-in seems to be a strong component of this.
Navarro: Or an important component.
Navarro: So here’s a broader question for you relating to the future of the professional services industry. Where do you see the industry going over the next few years? What trends will have the most impact in the industry, whether it’s technology, demographics, economic, cultural, and so on?
Milkovich: I think COVID has definitely changed a lot for professional services organizations. Organizations that used to have their employees or their consultants traveling every week, Monday through Thursday, obviously came to a halt about two years ago, two and a half years ago. And I think we learned over the last couple years that maybe traveling Monday through Thursday isn’t necessary. We can get a lot of work done remotely. Technology enables us to do that. I was just thinking back, when I was traveling Monday through Thursday, even on Fridays, I don’t think I got on many Zoom or Teams calls. I think I had maybe one or two Teams calls every month. And now I’m on Teams or I'm on Zoom every single day, and it’s just hard to imagine three years ago that that would be what I’m doing on a daily basis. But right now, I work 100% remote. A number of my colleagues now have that same arrangement. Thinking back to the organization I used to work for, where I was traveling Monday through Thursday every week, my colleagues that are there, they’re not traveling hardly at all anymore either.
It’ll be interesting to see if we get back to more travel. It doesn’t seem like we’re ever going to be back to what it was for some of those organizations that travel, where employees traveled every week. But it’ll be interesting to see if the 100% remote is going to stick around, if that model’s going to stick around, or if maybe employees are going to get sick of being 100% remote after time. I know I’m 100% remote, and I love it. But some people I’ve talked to are getting a little bit uneasy, and I think that’s where maybe the hybrid approach is really going to be key.
Navarro: It’s interesting that you’re bringing up productivity. How have you seen productivity affected by technology, compared to before the pandemic?
Milkovich: I think about before the pandemic, I was hardly ever on Teams or Zoom calls. And I didn’t have a remote job, at that point. And now I’m 100% remote. I’m not traveling hardly at all anymore, and I’m on Teams and Zoom every day. So it feels like I’ve had both extremes. Traveling 80 to 100 percent, to being 100 percent remote. And there’s pros and cons to both. I enjoy being 100% remote. I enjoy the time I have to do other things rather than travel. But at the same time, I do see value in having a hybrid approach, and I think that’s where a lot of companies are probably going to move toward, because that gives the best of both worlds, right? You have that flexibility, but you’re also getting some face time with some of your colleagues and customers.
Navarro: Well, Jon, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
Milkovich: Thanks for having me.
Navarro: We’ve been talking about what benefits ERPA has experienced from professional services automation. Don't forget to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And remember, you can find our entire catalog at Workday.com/podcasts. I’m your host, Bruno Navarro, and I hope you have a great work day.