Alfa is using Workday’s cloud-based technology to consolidate its data and improve its financial reporting and human resourcing processes.
The asset finance software firm faced a burning platform for change due to its initial public offering in summer 2017. The firm’s listing on the London Stock Exchange meant it went from being a privately owned organisation that had to produce a set of financial statements once a year to a publicly listed entity that had to create detailed monthly reports.
While Alfa is UK-headquartered, the firm also has subsidiaries in America, Australia and New Zealand. Finance director Andrew Robertson explains that the wide breadth of data across the firm meant the business needed to introduce more automation into its processes and the primary focus of the Workday implementation was consolidation:
We wanted to move to industry best practice in our core financial transactions. That included the operations of the finance team, so running accounts payable, running accounts receivable, paying your suppliers, invoicing your customers and doing your bank reconciliations. We wanted to standardise those processes and have the controls within the system. That ticked a big audit and control point that comes with being a listed company.
Alfa’s implementation of Workday remains a work in progress and the firm, which has also used the technology to manage HR processes, is always looking for new ways to make use of the platform. Robertson says the key business benefits to date of the implementation are around smother business processes and more efficient working:
We have a platform for growth. Rather than having to work manually, we now have something we can build reports in. One of our biggest challenges was visibility of revenue and an awareness of how we are making our money. Now everything’s in Workday we can start automating more and giving insight during the month. When it comes to auditing, all out transactions are managed through a business process in Workday, so that we have the suitable level of escalation or approval.
According to Robertson, market analysis was the starting point for the firm’s decision to introduce Workday, including Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. Executives at Alfa knew investors would ask what systems the firm had in place to manage its business. Alfa’s incumbent CFO at the time had previous experience of using Workday and the firm also looked at SAP, but the latter evaluation didn't produce the right results:
We had challenges engaging with SAP because we were a medium-sized enterprise with a turnover of less than £100 million. That means you fall into a certain bucket and we had to deal with an implementation partner and we were put into a certain product range. We had a meeting with the implementation partner for SAP and it was quickly apparent that they didn't have a single solution to meet all our needs.
While the consolidation of financial reporting was a key priority for Alfa, Robertson says the firm’s HR team was also eager to implement a system to manage its processes. As a lot of the transformation work across both finance and HR involved people processes, Alfa was eager to create an integrated approach to system implementation. Unlike its conversations with SAP, Robertson said the engagement with Workday showcased the right kind of solutions to Alfa’s business challenges:
When we went in specifically with our finance and HR requirements, and we went in for a deep-dive and specialist sessions with Workday in their offices, we got the feeling that their answers to our questions were being backed up with evidence. They were talking the right language and explaining how the system worked to us.
So, when we were when making the decision, we could see it met our functional requirements in terms of finance and HR. Looking beyond that, we also had operational needs – we’re a professional services organisation, where our employees report their time and we need to bill that time. And that's actually part of what Workday does. So, functionally, it was a single system that ticked all the boxes.
Robertson was also impressed with the technical capabilities of the product, feeling that the Software-as-a-Service model was “very straightforward”. After starting to investigate the market in June 2017, Alfa signed a contract with Workday in December. The implementation process started in January 2018 and the firm went live with Workday HCM in June 2018. Alfa subsequently added UK financials and reporting for its worldwide subsidiaries. Robertson explains:
We’ve followed Workday’s Launch methodology and we're in a fortunate position that we could just take out and replace certain legacy systems with Workday, where there wasn't a huge amount of integration. That reduced the strain of the implementation process. We’ve just produced our first annual report on Workday Financials and all of our employees are now mastered on Workday, so that's our system of record. We still have employees in legacy systems, just so that they can feed into our project resourcing tool, which is something we’re working on at the moment.
Robertson adds that the firm has continued to add functionality across other business areas, such as graduate recruiting for HR and business assets for finance. In February this year, Alfa started what Robertson referred to as the second phase of its Workday implementation:
That’s where we're putting in professional services automation, which covers time tracking, projects and project billing. And that is a huge leap – it’s where everyone will book their time in Workday, project managers will be reviewing it and we'll be raising invoices through the system.
Long-term aims include a potential third phase, where Alfa will look to introduce Workday Adaptive Insights as a forecasting tool for the business. When it comes to best-practice tips for other executives thinking of implementing Workday technology, Robertson advises focusing on capability:
Ensure that you have a team who are skilled-up to ensure that you can support your workforce who are using it. For phase one, we partnered with Workday and we used their Launch methodology. For subsequent phases, we've used implementation partners and we’re currently working with PwC. Workday is a sophisticated product and, in order to use those new features, you need people who are skilled – and that's what PwC brings to the table.