Delivering services at scale has always been challenging. Today's connected digital technologies raise the stakes even higher, with clients expecting faster, more responsive services at keener prices and margins than ever. In the case of Equiniti (EQ), which specializes in managing shareholder dividend records and payments for public companies, these pressures have led to new investments in analytics to monitor product and customer margins much more closely, as well as automation of its core accounting processes, following the global roll-out of a Workday financials and HCM platform.
With its origins in the banking sector — the business span out of UK-based Lloyds Bank in 2007 and later acquired North American operations from Wells Fargo in the US and Canada — EQ's systems of record had been more like those of a bank than of a digitally enabled service provider. The volume of transactions is at banking scale too, with the company handling payments on behalf of its clients totaling around $400 billion a year. Nevertheless, moving to the new platform has played a fundamental role in reorienting its systems to provide a more joined-up picture across its operations. Robert Bloor, Chief Financial Controller at EQ, says it's been an incremental journey:
We didn't set out with the intention of all these things happening. They've kind of happened as we went to deliver a functional activity. But ... it's exposed a lot of our enterprise data issues outside of Workday, that are all central to this piece around how we make our money.
What the link is between a revenue and a cost [is] very hard to establish within a services business. We are a software provider back to our client base, and each offering is unique. It's tailored to the client base. That's very complicated ... You can see a lot of the hallmarks of banking platform systems of record. Workday has really exposed all of that, to the extent that we've reorganized IT into product and engineering, and we have established a data office to build all the framework of data management and aggregation, all of the upstream activities for when they come into Workday. So it's interesting the effect that it's had.
EQ's first experience of Workday was in 2017, when the group needed a financials system for the acquisition it was making from Wells Fargo. As soon as the deal closed, the business would no longer be able to use its former parent's systems, so time was of the essence. Workday proposed a rapid roll-out that was completed in just 16 weeks. Bloor comments:
We went live extremely quickly, for a small part of the business. That's what took us into the decision to use them globally.
The global rollout took place in April 2020, bringing some 4,500 UK staff onto the system including full UK payroll. All back-office functions and much of the Workday expertise is based in Chennai, India, with around 1,300 people also on Workday. The formation of this shared service center several years earlier had been an important factor in the success of the initial Workday roll-out, and in turn led to a successful global roll-out. Bloor explains:
Having that scale, mature team that understood the processes, and it was all documented — that gave us that additional confidence going in to deliver a greenfield operation. Those two bits combined, made us feel an awful lot more comfortable about a global migration ... particularly for a team that never done a systems implementation before.
Over time, Workday has helped solve several challenges as the platform's reach has expanded. For example, Bloor cites another acquisition last year which was brought into Workday and reduced its close process from 15 days to five, while its historic payroll data is now accessed using the Workday Prism data analytics platform. More broadly, Prism has made it possible to bring in data from various other sources for analysis, helping in use cases such as accounting for labor capitalization rates, or looking at profitability down to an individual client and product level, which wasn't possible in the past. But the exercise has also surfaced data shortcomings that need attention. He elaborates:
The client product profitability, which consumed 250 million lines of data at Prism, showed a lot of paucity in our data and our ability to capture the logical level... For every accounting record of costs that we pulled out, using Prism, we were taking an additional 20 allocation steps within Prism to cater for this paucity of data. So for example, it could be something like, what were individuals working on, which is a relatively straightforward attribution method. It might be some circular reference to what share of a bundled product that client might take. And so it's informed by some other reference points.
But we ended up creating a lot of allocations and algorithmic rules within Prism ... We know that the data capture is part of this [and] that data outside of Workday, which we use to inform that cost-revenue relationship, needs to be enhanced.
Freeing up time
It's almost a case of, the more the organization does with Workday, the more opportunities it finds to do more. Bloor says:
Even with what we've done, I'd say we probably only use maybe 30-40% of what Workday can really do for us. We use the technical core extremely well, but the analytical core is what we now are hungry to start consuming. And we also have some time to do it, whereas before all our focus was on the integration activity.
In other words, automating how data is brought into Workday is freeing up time that used to spent poring over spreadsheets to collate input from different sources. Bloor is keen to offer similar benefits beyond the back-office teams, out to colleagues across the business. He says:
The harder, more elusive things we're getting to, is to free up the business partners so they don't then spend all their time analysing things in Excel, preparing data... We've got some very talented people who I think will make a real difference. But we need to arm them, I think, with a bit more insight and access to be able to commoditize what they do.