Unified Workday system ties together HR and finance at ServiceSource

Profile picture for user jmilne By Janine Milne June 14, 2015
One version of the truth’ improves auditing and business decisions for ServiceSource. 

Mike Lemberg
Mike Lemberg

When ServiceSource, a global recurring revenue management organization, went public in 2011, it was running 10 different HR, payroll and finance systems across multiple offices in Asia, North America and Europe.

There wasn’t a global view of the company and manual processes were rife – not a situation the firm wanted to carry forward with its new public-company status.

It needed standard business processes to provide greater transparency into the business and its reporting. Mike Lemberg, vice president of finance at ServiceSource explains:

We had a very fragmented difficult operating environment where Excel was the tool of choice and there were multiple versions of the truth. We were managing that through various HR, payroll and Great Plains systems, but the reality was Microsoft Excel was really our tool of consolidation and tool of analytics and reporting.

That set-up made it very hard to find a “single source of truth”, notes Lemberg. Up to 80% of the finance department’s time was spent reconciling these multiple versions of truth and then it would have to reconcile any headcount figures with HR:

Pre-Workday we couldn’t get a simple set of numbers – how many employees we had, what they were engaged on, what was the productivity of those employees and what was the profitability of those employees across various segments of the business.

Improving the links with HR and ensuring that they were both using the same financial data was a key motivator behind choosing Workday, with its unified system linking HR and finance, in addition to payroll and procurement. Says Lemberg:

We really figured out, out of the gate, that we needed to have these two worlds really tightly integrated and talking together, because talent represents 80% of our cost.


The fact that Workday was in the cloud rather than on-premise was another major draw, particularly as ServiceSource is itself a cloud vendor:

We really bought into the cloud and we wanted to have an application that was easier to deploy and maintain and you certainly get that with Workday’s cloud-based solution compared to the more traditional on-premise type solution.

But the key benefit of Workday, from Lemberg’s perspective, is its multidimensional OLAP (online analytical processing) style functionality, which basically enables the company to pivot the same financial data and look at it from different viewpoints. He explains:

We wanted to be able to slice our business around geographic and location P&Ls, around product P&Ls and around customer P&Ls.

Joining up

All these considerations, plus the benefits of reduced implementation and maintenance costs compared to on-premise solutions, made it an easy sell to the board.

Their faith was quickly borne out when Workday completed the implementation in just four-and-a-half months, which Lemberg points out was “probably an order of magnitude” faster than any traditional on-premise ERP roll-out.

The system went live in three and a half years ago in 2012. Now the company enjoys that coveted and all-important single version of the truth. In practical terms, notes Lemberg, it means that 80% of the finance department’s time

is not spent on processing data, but actually figuring what the data means.

Having Workday as the system of record is also key in ServiceSource’s ability to comply with SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act). Workday automatically documents processes making auditing far easier and more accurate.

Having Workday as the system or record creates a more constant and consistent view across the business and stamps out the risk of information used in budgeting and planning systems creating a “separate and distinct view of the business”.

Mobile capabilities are also key to this consistency, particularly when it comes to workflow, he says:

One of the risks when you have the workflow built as detailed as we do is that if you’re not sitting in front of your computer you create shadow or off-the-record processes.

From an employee perspective, according to Lemberg, having self-service for things such as gaining approval for time off has been a big benefit. Rather than email updates to HR, employees can quickly make personal changes themselves - not surprising then that 99.4% of employees logged in within 30 days.

But, the biggest benefit for Lemberg has been the not just better compliance with regulations but the insight to the business through the in-built analytics:

It’s the ability to manage the business and empower business partners to have better insight into the financial performance. For financial folks, it’s providing the analytics to let us asses our business by customer profitability, by product, by geography, by region.

And it’s tying that back to how we deploy our resources and our talent to meet customer expectations and also meet the margins we expect.

Disclosure - at time of writing, Workday is a premier partner of diginomica.