Welcome to day two of the Workday Rising Daily. In this edition, we recap all the news announced in Tuesday’s Innovation Keynote. We also provide you with recaps from sessions where finance leaders discussed challenges and opportunities facing their organizations, and one where human resource leaders discussed the value of upskilling your workforce.
Innovation Keynote: How Predictive Technologies Will Fuel New Products
During the Workday Rising Innovation Keynote, our leadership team announced a number of new products that focus on helping our customers plan, execute, analyze, and then extend, all with a single system. They also explained why we’ll increasingly use artificial intelligence (AI)—especially machine learning—across our product lines to generate useful predictions. Let’s take a closer look at news announced during the Innovation Keynote:
- Betsy Bland, vice president, corporate strategy, spoke to how Workday enables finance teams to execute on their strategies. She announced we’ll deliver the Workday Accounting Center within the next 18 months. This will allow organizations to bring in operational transactions from external systems and run them through the Workday accounting rules engine to generate the accounting journals, debits, and credits for those transactions. Within this same time frame, Workday will leverage machine learning to deliver transaction matching, account reconciliation, and anomaly detection as part of Workday Financial Management, freeing up finance teams for more strategic work.
Finance Leadership: Expectations, Aspirations, and Reality
At the Executive Roundtable for Finance, Jim O’Connor, finance and global business services advisory leader at The Hackett Group, shared how finance teams measure up against organizational objectives, and why simplification, standardization, and analytics are critical to delivering on expectations. He told the group of CFOs and finance leaders, “The mandate of finance is clear. Finance needs to manage costs for the entire organization at the same time that they’re building capabilities and finding more ways to add value.”
Finance must focus on improving its analytical, modeling, and reporting capabilities, developing better partnerships across the business, and aligning skills and talent with business needs. O’Connor noted that some of the capabilities that are critical to supporting a competitive cost structure and the digital transformation and analytics needs of the business are the most challenging to improve.
The finance function deals with multiple complexities, much of it self-imposed and within its control—for example, legal entities, the number of finance applications, bank accounts, general ledger accounts, and budget line items. Reducing the complexity through simplification and standardization should be the foundation of an organization’s transformation efforts, not only reducing costs but also improving agility, accuracy, and reporting. “Imagine what insights you’ll gain if you can free up time for your financial planning and analysis (FP&A) team to focus on analyzing data rather than collecting and compiling it,” O’Connor shared.
O’Connor concluded by taking attendees through what the operating model of finance could look like in 2025. To fully realize the benefits of digital transformation, finance will need to shift their focus from containing costs to improving quality, and expand the scope of their role and analytics expertise into knowledge Centers of Excellence (COEs).
CIO Roundtable: Blockchain and the Future of Identity
Workday Chief Information Officer Diana McKenzie kicked off the CIO Executive Roundtable by explaining that all technology leaders are charged with keeping their companies secure and protecting information. That means giving access to the right people at the right time.
She said that so far, this has meant usernames and logins—one worker often has many to access different systems. “It’s resource intensive, it’s complicated, and it introduces friction,” she noted, but explained that she’s excited by what her guest Phil Windley, chair of the Sovrin Foundation, has to say about how blockchain-enabled technologies can make digital identity simpler for users and more secure for companies.
Windley, who is also an enterprise architect at Brigham Young University and formerly the CIO for the State of Utah, said, “We’ve got millions of identity systems that are not really cooperating in a significant way.”
Windley explained that the vision of the Sovrin Foundation is to serve as a sort of public utility and standards organization. Analogous to a driver’s license, which is accepted as a form of trusted identity for many different purposes, a person will have their own digital “self-sovereign identity” that they will own, and that does not depend on any one company.
Toward the end of the talk, when asked about a timeline for making this vision a reality, Windley said that British Columbia is planning to offer business licenses this way soon and that credit unions are very interested in the concept.
“If companies like Workday start to make digital IDs available, these closed ecosystems will really start to take off,” he said.
Business Leader Forum: Blurring the Lines Between Learning and Working
Public education alone can’t provide the skills training and learning opportunities that people need in the workforce today. As part of a Workday Rising Business Leader Forum on skilling to unlock workforce potential, Jon Kaplan, vice president of training and development at Discover Financial Services, said employers have an obligation to step in.
“I think the solution to so many of society’s ills lies with corporations starting to invest in their employees in ways they hadn’t before,” said Kaplan. “And the good news is that there’s an enormous return for shareholders.” Upskilling programs lower attrition and absenteeism and increase promotions, which saves costs in training and recruitment.
Jaime Fall, director of UpSkill America, part of the Economic Opportunities Program at the Aspen Institute, also participated in the forum. “People with frontline and entry-level jobs are struggling,” he said. “Unemployment is low, but wages have only seen a small increase. Employers are struggling to fill their skills needs.” To address this, Fall works with employers to get them thinking about the types of education, training, and development they can provide people so that they have the skills to advance in the workplace.
Kaplan and his company are on board. In late May, Discover launched a college tuition reimbursement program, and have already registered 500 employees. The goal, said Kaplan, is to register 1,500—and he thinks they’ll exceed it. “This is part of our talent strategy,” he said. “We believe that it helps us acquire the best talent; we believe that it helps us retain the best talent. It leaves the employees with the key to the middle class.”
Moderator Leighanne Levensaler, senior vice president, corporate strategy at Workday, asked Fall and Kaplan if these programs will continue to be successful if the unemployment rate increases. They both agreed that the need for upskilling is more than just a corporate trend.
“What’s not going to go away,” said Fall, “is the pace of change, the increasing use of technology, and the employers’ need for a variety of skills in the workplace. [Employers] need to get these systems in place now while the economy is going well.”
Business Leader Forum: Finance Insights from Aon and Unum
Digital transformation and data proliferation have transformed the finance role from crunching numbers to becoming a strategic arm of the organization.
In a Business Leader Forum, Betsy Bland, vice president of corporate strategy at Workday, joined two Workday customers, Bart van Oort, senior director of global finance strategic projects at Aon, and Chanda Pepping, vice president of finance technology at Unum Group, to discuss how finance is evolving within their organizations.
Bland started off the session by presenting takeaways from Workday’s global finance leader study, “Finance Redefined,” which surveyed 670 finance leaders and revealed four important priorities: resilience, intelligence, leadership, and talent.
When it comes to improving risk resilience, Pepping shared that cybersecurity, regulatory changes, data accuracy and reporting are among Unum’s biggest priorities. For Aon, van Oort commented that political risk and uncertainty, regulatory scrutiny, and agility are among the top challenges.
“At Aon, we’re operating in 90 different countries and we’ve seen instances when things change fast and we need to be able to quickly react,” van Oort said. “We need to be able to address what the impact will be on our financial accounting, reporting, and systems.”
That isn’t possible without the right data and technology to be able to make sense of it. Pepping revealed that data can be challenging because of the granularity and accuracy that’s needed to obtain meaningful insight. She advised that “Having IT at the table and the right tools to pull that information in real-time is critical.”
Of course, a cohesive strategy requires the right talent to support it. As Aon moves from a global distributed organization to centralized functions, it needs people who can learn quickly, are data-driven, and can empathize with other functions. Unum looks for similar traits, keeping their job descriptions up to date with new expectations and technical skills required.
Workday Rising started Wednesday morning with the Culture Imperative Keynote, featuring Great Place to Work CEO Michael C. Bush and some fantastic panelists. We also provide recaps from today’s Business Leader Forums: one on how General Electric is using artificial intelligence and machine learning, one focused on data privacy, and another on how several companies have reinvented performance management. Read more in today’s Workday Rising Daily.
Welcome to the Workday Rising Daily! Every day during our annual customer conference, we’ll post a daily news report on what happened at Workday Rising. Today you’ll get highlights from our Kickoff Keynote with Andre Agassi and Soledad O’Brien, and recaps of executive sessions that took place on Monday on culture, creativity, and the Opportunity Onramps movement.