Workday: Why you can't afford to ignore the cloud any longer


Dave Sohigian says the cloud is producing huge results in the US, Europe and Asia.

Many companies fear the cloud, but it’s been through the hype cycle and is now becoming an imperative for organisations that want to remain agile and competitive.

That’s the view of Dave Sohigian, CTO at Workday EMEA, which he conveyed at his Finance Indaba session on 3 October. 

“If you’re not using the cloud, be aware that everyone else is moving forward and moving faster than you are. The cloud is producing huge results – we’re seeing it all over Europe, the US and Asia. It’s an opportunity to leap ahead of your, by being able to see what is happening inside your organisation in ways you can’t without it.”

Dave said there were two things financial administrators hate – the way things are, and change – and that they would have to resolve that conflict and embrace the cloud sooner or later, or remain stuck with enterprise software that was old, inflexible and difficult to use.

Using the cloud, it turns out, is not just about dumping your databases on a server out there somewhere. Rather, it’s about getting the entire organisation onto a single platform, where everyone has one view of the data, specific to their role.

Finance professionals should be able to answer basic questions like a headcount of their organisations, or how much a particular marketing campaign cost, he said, yet most would be hard pressed to do so. “That information is typically in a hundred different spreadsheets all over the organisation,” he said, pointing out that one of the problems is relational databases, which are the core of every system.

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In designing their own software, Workspace looked to consumer internet companies like Google, Netflix and Amazon for inspiration. These companies serve hundreds of thousands of consumers, and they do it by taking the data out of relational databases. They’re the pioneers of using the cloud to its full potential.

“Think of the experience you have with them,” said Dave. “You can talk to Alexa on Amazon to buy a book. Halfway through, you can decide to look at the reviews on your laptop, and then if you’re in a hurry, you can pull out your phone and finish your transaction on the way out. So it’s three different user interfaces, but the same experience. That’s what the cloud can give you – and that’s what you should be looking for, for your employees.”

He cautioned against the hype that inevitably comes with every new software programme or technology on the market. The question you should be asking, he said, is how does it serve my business? 

“And then remember that all of the new technologies that have people excited at the moment are highly dependent on the data. In most organisations, most of that data is what I could call noise. To get an answer, you have to run off to a bunch of spreadsheets and purchase orders and invoices. And the data is hard to trust. Our goal is to remove the noise and to get to the signal.”

Once everyone is looking at the same information, he said, you can have a much more productive conversation. “It creates a community inside the organisation,” he said, “and managers can have peer-to-peer conversations and compare their divisions and how they’re running.”

“Tech is just a shiny object,” he concluded, “and it’s easy to get distracted. Think about the bigger picture of what you’re trying to do. Because systems themselves don’t drive transformation. It’s just software. But you can use implementing systems as a way to push transformation in your organisation, to convince people that the old ways of doing things don’t apply anymore.”

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