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Using Cloud-Based Financial Systems to Empower all Employees in their Jobs

By Al Perlman

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, the legacy financial systems that have long been the backbone of accounting departments are crumbling under the weight of heightened expectations and increasingly demanding requirements.

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Traditional ERP systems, typically built to address financial accounting requirements, simply don’t have the architectures or flexibility to deliver the real-time, actionable information and analysis required for today’s businesses. For many businesses, the path to better financial information is to move away from on-premises systems and to find a more nimble solution in the cloud.

What these organizations are pleasantly discovering is that moving finance to the cloud doesn’t just help the finance department -- the benefits can permeate the entire business, from sales, marketing, and human resources, to compliance, operations, and customer support. Leveraging innovations such as in-memory technology and embedded analytics, cloud-based financial systems can empower employees with real-time financial information and analysis relevant to their jobs, helping to improve decision making.

AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah (AAA-NCNU) provides a compelling success story of how an organization is using Workday’s cloud-based application for human capital management and financial management to empower the entire business. AAA-NCNU has more than 4.2 million members, with a vision to create “fanatically loyal lifetime members by delivering consistently outstanding member experiences,” according to Paul Gaffney, former president and CEO of AAA NCNU.

Prior to deploying Workday Financial Management, AAA-NCNU struggled to get accurate real-time information needed for forecasting and strategic planning. “We never knew where we would actually end up at the end of a month or the year,” recalls Siobhan Mc Feeney, the company’s chief operating officer. “I couldn’t really spend time on growth because it was just a shot in the dark.” Things are different now: “I can actually now use real information from Workday, both from our people side and our financial side.”

AAA-NCNU has achieved dramatic cost savings by moving to the cloud. Mc Feeney estimates that the company has reduced the cost of running payroll, human capital management (HCM), and financial management by 50%, ongoing. Yet saving money was not the only factor in choosing Workday.

“Obviously, it saved us a lot of money,” Mc Feeney says. “But that really wasn’t the ultimate driver. It was employees needing to know how to manage and develop their team. And financial systems that were not burdensome.”

Employees throughout the organization can now use accurate and up-to-date information to focus on the member experience. “We spend very little time on the supporting functions inside the organization,” says Osh O’Crowley, AAA-NCNU’s chief information officer. “The functions work. They do what we need them to do. They’re easy to use. And we focus the rest of that time on our members.”

Gaffney says empowering all employees is critical. “We can put much more emphasis on line management and much less emphasis on staff functions,” he says. “That lets us spend more time improving our core operation. We make better decisions. We make them in a more timely manner. And we’re less distracted by administration.”

What to look for in cloud-based financial management systemsLearn More

Employees are additionally empowered because Workday HCM and Workday Financial Management are unified in one application. “One of the big benefits of having a unified suite is that the methods are common across these two functions. So we count on managers to be both disciplined financial operators and great people managers. It’s wonderful for them to be using a common toolkit in both of those domains,” says Gaffney.

Would you like your organization to achieve the same benefits? Here are some resources to get started:

Product Preview: Workday Financials

Innovation in Financial Management: How Workday is Breaking the Barriers of Legacy ERP