Workday Podcast: Building Internal Talent and Support Teams at Cisco Systems

Todd Scott, director of the Workday Solutions Organization at Cisco Systems, talks about what he’s learned about building internal talent and support teams.

Audio also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Human resources leaders often face a tricky balancing act centered around this question: How do I get the most out of my systems, and the most out of the humans who manage them? But when they figure out the perfect balance, the results are the best of both worlds. 

Our guest on this episode of the Workday Podcast is Todd Scott, director of the Workday Solutions Organization at Cisco Systems. He sat down with us to share how he’s achieving that balance and what he’s learned about building internal talent and support teams at Cisco. 

Here are a few highlights of our conversation, edited for clarity. If you enjoy this episode, remember you can find all our episodes here.

  • “You have to look at where your organization is and where it’s going. Then, use digital to provide the experience that you’re looking for, or if those factors are working against you, you can use your humans to provide that service. It’s all about the experience at the end of the day.”  

  • “We developed these [design principles] early in our journey. And we used them throughout, from the principle of trust to the principle of simplicity, focusing on the experience, talent agility, and transparency. Those were all top of mind. And we still use them today.” 

  • “Time to capability is a key competitive advantage. It’s critical that our workforce systems are positioned to keep up with those constant market transitions. And as you’re approaching deployment, start planning for your talent strategy and what that 1.0 version of your operating model may look like. The more time you invest thinking through that and getting the right resources aligned, it will position you for a successful go-live.”

Jeremiah Barba: For leaders like my guest today, getting the most out of their Workday implementation is a balancing act between what's best for humans to manage and what is best to leave to the power of the system. But when you find that balance, the combination makes it possible to get the most out of Workday and out of your people. I'm your host, Jeremiah Barba, and I'm joined by Todd Scott, director of the Workday Solutions organization at Cisco Systems. And today we're gonna talk about what Cisco has learned about building internal talent and support teams. Todd, welcome to the podcast.

Todd Scott: Thank you, Jeremiah. It's great to be here.

Barba: Wonderful. So let's start off, tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your work with Cisco.

Scott: Yeah. I'm the director of Workday Solutions here at Cisco. I've been here for 22 years, I’ve been on the Workday journey since the beginning, about three years ago. And prior to that, I've led multiple global organizations within HR, I’ve led the contact centers, our support centers as well as an enterprise go-to-market type of program team. So any time we had compensation programs, those types of things, enterprise performance programs. There's always a go-to-market element of that as far as the trainings, and communications, and so forth. So I led a team like that for a while and then I've also done multiple COE types of roles, as well as started in recruitment, and done a business partner role as well.

Barba: Awesome. That's great. So let's talk about this phrase, use digital where digital does best and leverage people where people do best. So this seems to get at the heart of your work at Cisco. So let's start off by talking about that concept and then how it plays out in real life.

Scott: Yeah. For us, it's really a simple and practical philosophy for our solution design. I mean, a lot of times, technology's great. Technology is continuing to evolve over time. And a lot of times you have to kind of look at where your organization is at this point and what they're coming from and where they're going to. And a lot of times you have to look at both the frequency in which the user's interacting with any use case as well as the complexity in which they're interacting at that point in time and really kind of assess when you're making that decision of use digital when it's going to provide the experience that you're looking for or if those factors are working against you a little bit, you can always use your humans to provide that service, deliver that particular experience that you may be looking for. It's all about the experience at the end of the day.

Barba: Yeah, it makes sense --- making those choices based on the experience really seems like it gets to the core of what you do. So one of the key concepts that you're going to talk about in your session is how certain design principles translate into real life. Could you talk about a few of those principles and how they could apply to others who are in similar roles to yours?

Scott: Yeah. For us, we develop these very early in our journey. And we used them throughout each of the deployment phases for us, and it just became kind of something that we live and breathe by when we went through our decision-making, from the principle of trust to principle of simplicity, the principle of focusing on the experience first, talent agility, transparency, those were all kind of top of mind. And we use those for the guidepost for our design decisions throughout, what we call Olympus, which was our deployment name. And we still use them today, when we're looking for, release decisions and what to, configure and deploy, versus what to maybe hold off on and put in the back log and, and wait a little while on. The other thing I'd say is that you can use design principles and you should use design principles in any type of transformation that you're trying to drive because a lot of it is not only for you and the group to be able to make decisions, but it's also to bring your stakeholders along on that journey from an adoption perspective on, on why you really need to make this particular change. And you can, pivot back to those quite a bit as well.

Barba: That's great. It's very helpful. It's interesting how you see that all play out. Now this was another interesting term, that as I was looking through the session that you're giving this week---digital product ownership. So let's talk about, first, define that. And what does that mean as it plays out practically for you?

Scott: Yeah. Our digital product owners, on the team are really those trusted advisors to the, to the service owners. For whether that be compensation or, you know, absence management and the benefit space or time tracking, we've got digital product owners for each of those areas. And really, I think it's kind of three-fold. They're a visionary from one perspective in translating strategy into business value through the delivered capabilities. They're also a strategist that has the depth and breadth of that digital product and aligning that to the guiding principles that I just spoke about. And really kind of influencing those business owners as needed through those key decisions on what to deploy and how to deploy it. And then thirdly, they're also a catalyst. They're a catalyst that drives to the prioritization and really kind of brings those capabilities to, to the delivery step.

Barba: Sure, and it seems to be all focused around how you are using these concepts to build internal talent and support, right? So it's a perfect segue into this next topic, which is the difference between a solution architect and a solution consultant in your Workday practice. Let's talk about that a little bit.

Scott: So for us, I'd say the biggest difference is our solution architects are more seasoned resources with broader depth and breadth across multiple product areas within Workday. But they also know how to design solutions, that connect with our boundary systems, right, and weave that end-to-end experience together, which not everybody can do that. Especially when you take a, take an approach to build your own talent, right? Everybody starts their journey in a different place, and our solution architects are usually those ones that have come to us, externally from the outside, that, that a part of the team at this point. And for us, that's a pretty small number. We've got, we've got, 4 maybe 5. I think 5 at this point out of our, team of 30 that have come to us with prior Workday experience. And 2 of those are in solution architect types of roles. The solution consultants are more focused on one product area, initially, to kind of build that depth and breadth in their own ability to kind of consult with the business teams, from discovering to configuration, to the actual deployment of those capabilities.

Barba: So one concept that seems to be at the core of your talent strategy that we're talking about here is building a sustainable pipeline of digital talent ---this pipeline of folks that are in these roles and they've got a clear path of career growth. So could you talk a little bit about that journey for someone who comes into Cisco and is working within your solutions organization? What does their path look like?

Scott: Yeah. We absolutely believe in the grow your own type of strategy. We spent a lot of time looking at that, talking with our system implementor, beforehand about thinking through that and what you really kind of wanted to get out of it. And for us, it was really just kind of bring them on from the beginning of the journey, right? Kind of tap into some internal talent. There's great talent in the HR, in the HR arena that are in more junior roles, more generalist types of roles that can transfer out of the support centers or out of, kind of the data entry types of teams into roles like this, right? I mean, if they've got the digital curiosity, and some background and understanding and love process, right? I think those are two of the biggest components that you need. We can teach them Workday, right? So you can accelerate that learning in Workday and with the platform the way it is, configuration type of talent and skillset is, is much different than a technical talent and skillset. So once they do that and they get some experience in, in a product area or two, right? They can always eventually move on to other roles like a product owner, or a solution architect or they can just continue as a solution consultant but branch out into those other module areas, to build that depth and breadth.

Barba: Yeah. Is that something newer for you? Is that something that you work to develop or what it already there? Cause I love that concept. I think it's really great for someone who comes in your organization. Is that a newer idea of having that solid progression? Or was it around before?

Scott: It was really new for us. It was definitely new for us. I mean, you've got two choices when you deploy, right? You can --- well, you’ve kind of got three. You can either build your own like we've chosen to do and leverage some of that internal talent, and move people from other roles, and see how it goes. You can also spend a ton of money and hire from the outside, right? That's definitely an option. Or you can continue to lean on your partners and your vendors to really have them help support your platform. For us, it was really about that ownership and, and taking it to the next level for us. And with a defined kind of site strategy on where we wanted to hire our talent, we kind of just put it together from a plan perspective and then we went and executed against it.

Barba: All right. So finally for our last question, if you could pick one piece of advice to share with others in roles like yours as they build their internal talent and support teams, what would it be?

Scott: Yeah. For us, I'd boil it down to two things. One is into today's environment, especially for companies that are in tech, right, time to capability is a key competitive advantage. I mean, our business evolved so quickly that it's critical that our workforce systems are positioned to kind of keep up with those constant market transitions and how that impacts our people's strategies. So that is definitely top of mind. The second thing would be as you're approaching deployment, definitely about six months out, start planning for your talent strategy, and what that 1.0 version of your operating model may look like. I think the more time you invest thinking through that and getting the right resources aligned to that, it's what will put you best positioned for a successful go live. 

Barba: Wonderful. Again, Todd, thank you so much for joining us today.

Scott: Well, thanks for having me, Jeremiah. It was a pleasure.

Barba: We've been talking about building internal talent and support teams with Todd Scott from Cisco Systems. Be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite podcast and remember, you can find our entire podcast catalog at I'm your host, Jeremiah Barba, and I hope you have a great workday.

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