Packed Finance Indaba Impact Session hears how Workday enabled Aon to go virtual overnight

Two Aon Workday experts revealed their learnings from their global solutions implementation.

When Covid-19 hit, Chicago-based professional services firm Aon took the decision to move its 50,000 employees to working from home. In an enthusiastically attended Impact Session at the virtual launch of the Finance Indaba Network, Peter Riccio, the Workday project manager at Aon, shared his screen to show a slide detailing the steps that needed to be taken. The slide was blank.

“This isn’t a mistake,” he said. “The slide is blank for a reason. we stopped working from the office one day, and worked from home next day, and we didn’t have to do anything different. We were able to leverage the Workday platform to tell colleagues to go home, and continue with their daily tasks as if they were in the office the very next day.”

He said that everything that they needed was right there in their browser – all banks statements, transactions, journals, expenses… “There was nothing from a physical perspective to worry about. Everything our colleagues needed to continue to function was right there on their laptops.”

At the same time, because everything was in the cloud, there was no need to worry about the maintenance of hardware of software. “We didn’t need to maintain our servers, or worry about having an IT team on site to deal with any issues. There were no systems installations to worry about – all anyone needed was an account and password to go through their browser into the system. All the worry you have when you are tied to something physical just disappeared for us.”

While Aon’s decision to go ahead with Workday was based on careful research and engagement, they are still surprised by the extent of efficiency that the solutions have delivered.

“I think a very important takeaway here is that until this year really, I don’t think we at Aon realised the true potential of the cloud,” said Peter. “We use it in our day-to-day lives, photo sharing, video game saves, but even in the workplace, while we were always aware of Workday being in the cloud, we didn’t see its true potential till we needed it. We were fine because we existed in the cloud and everyone can work from home and there’s no difference or impact to our operations. That level of comfort is really fantastic to have.”

Aon’s global implementation
Aon implemented Workday across various different geographies starting from 2016. South Africa was brought on board in phase three. “What excited Aon about Workday was that it was cloud based and all the systems are fully integrated with all the different financial processes on one platform. In our previous environment PeopleSoft, things were really disparate, with certain things on PeopleSoft, and certain things on other platforms and it was very manual.”

He added that because PeopleSoft wasn’t cloud based, they weren’t getting automatic release of new features timeously, so it was difficult to manage. All these issues justified moving to Workday.

In South Africa, they followed the same steps that they followed internationally – plan, architect, configure and deploy. They also avoided using customisation as much as possible, because past experience that this can cause challenges with upgrades across different countries. There were some local customisations for local terminology, tax rates, and certain thresholds for controls in a highly regulated environment.

Jeremy shared three key takeaways from the South African implementation:

  • Focus on the user: It’s great to have a solution, but you have to listen to the local teams from the onset. Get buy-in from finance leadership from the get-go.
  • Identify requirement gaps early on in the implementation. And work to close them sooner rather than later.
  • Don’t overlook the importance of change management. If you don’t have proper communication and training, no matter how good the product is, it will fail.

CFO South Africa MD Joël Roerig then invited Workday country MD Zuko Mdwaba to comment on the day’s presentation.

“To be honest, I have nothing to add above what has been said already,” Zuko said. “The thing that I love about my job is listening to the customer. My favourite slide was that blank slide – showing how when you moved into the virtual world, you had to do nothing. Workday has 99.97 percent availability, and 97 percent customer satisfaction. The power of Workday is that the configuration decisions taken back in 2005 meant that we look at configurability over anything else. All our customers globally are on the same version and with innovation at the core of everything we are doing, there are two releases a year, and no customer is left behind as things evolve.”