Embracing cloud instead of "cloudish" solutions is how Workday keeps up with the pace of innovation


Companies must adopt true multi-tenancy cloud technologies and architectures, says Workday's Zuko Mdwaba.

“Adapt or Die means asking questions, challenging assumptions and revisiting formulae that have, for a very long time, worked just fine,” says Zuko Mdwaba, country MD at Workday, which has sponsored CFO Day. “Digital disruption and the use of smart technology are the most dominant forces that shape our future. Their impact is huge. As a result, the world as a whole is changing in dramatic ways.  Leadership needs to change too. It is that simple - it is that complex. We need to take a step back, think again and be willing to change.”

CFO Day, which takes place on 23 July at Marble restaurant, is the most important event on the calendar for South African CFOs. Supported by Workday, CFOs will look at the various angles of the theme Adapt or Die, with a range of world-class speakers, including Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko, EOH CEO Stephen van Coller, South African comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys and Health & Stress expert Richard Sutton

According to Zuko, having the right technology to support your business is critical: 

“Uncertain economic conditions will force CFOs to evaluate their existing technology to ensure they can respond to change, and quickly take advantage of opportunities when they arise. You have to be ready for change, and that means being built to change.”

He pointed out that cloud-based enterprise resource planning (widely known as ERP) technology is now capable of seamlessly combining finance and operational data, so finance professionals have a great opportunity to become more analytical and data-driven to help their business make better decisions. “CFOs will need to broaden their scope and start to take responsibility for organisational data,” he said. 

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“To do that, CFO’s will need to attract the right talent. Finance leaders will need to add analytical and data science skills to the finance function. That means both recruiting new external talent but also developing and reskilling their existing workforce.” 

Adding to this, Zuko says that people are often a company’s biggest cost and its biggest competitive strategic advantage, so leaders should be taking note and investing in their most significant asset: their employees. 

“Whether it’s spending more money on culture initiatives -- such as new employee programs -- or bringing in new technology that helps make jobs more efficient, finance leaders should be listening to their workforce and not only increasing satisfaction across the board, but ultimately reducing costs associated with recruiting and retaining talent.” 

He explains that this year, data science has come to the fore in corporate finance and HR. Increasing use of new technologies - such as AI, machine learning and augmented analytics - to dissect vast troves of data is resulting in actionable insights such as “where are our employees having a good work experience” or “why did this financial performance metric shift”. 

“Many of today’s tech companies are ‘cloudish’ and not really cloud. To keep up with today’s innovation velocity, companies must adopt true multi-tenancy cloud technologies and architectures,” Zuko says. “You cannot write new powerful machine learning algorithms against data-sets if the systems are not running the same exact version of the software configured - a true cloud model.”

He refers to Amazon, Google, Salesforce and Workday that are “doing this right” and says that’s why they are able to keep up with the pace of innovation. 

Workday’s very simple philosophy is that the company really takes care of its employees and they take care of the company’s customers. “Every employee at Workday thinks about how they are going to help customers be successful,” Zuko says. 

“It is a simple formula but a lot of companies go out and they don’t listen to their customers, they don’t try to solve hard problems, making it tougher for themselves to create a great business.” 

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