Back in the 1990s, when Coventry Building Society first implemented the general ledger system for its Finance function, and which was still in use up to March 2023, the assets on its balance sheet stood at somewhere around £5 billion. More than 2 decades of rapid growth later, this had risen to nearly £50 billion. This marked change in scale was not the only factor that caused the Society to look for a new solution. According to Andrea Harrison, head of Finance Transformation, “The system had not been consistently updated either, meaning no standard reporting or integration. We were left with very manual processes—lots of workarounds, lots of trying to extract data, lots of hard work manipulating data into something understandable.”
New flexibility and data capabilities confirm Workday selection.
“It meant we were bogged down in admin and failing to add value. It wasn’t something that could be tweaked—a complete change was needed.” Harrison’s colleagues on the People team had made the shift to Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) a couple years prior, with positive feedback. Following further analysis, Harrison says, “We too were very impressed with the Workday solution, particularly the flexible foundational data model for reporting. We also saw that its multidimensional data capability would give us the ability to slice and dice data. For these and other reasons, we went with Workday.”
We were very impressed with the Workday solution, particularly the flexible foundational data model for reporting.
Andrea Harrison, Head of Finance Transformation
Creating a receptive environment for the new solution.
Looking back at the deployment of Workday in finance, Harrison is proud of the approach taken by the team, Workday Services, and advisory partner KPMG. “Both Workday and KPMG really went the extra mile to help us, responding really positively to any requests we made,” Harrison says. And Harrison is quick to emphasize the scale of the communication effort that led up to go-live. “We really banged the drum about where we were on the journey, about what people were seeing, what the benefits were. And we were very clear about the outcomes we were aiming for, such as a three-day close and getting 80% of our reporting standardized and self-service.” This effort was highly successful, creating a receptive environment for the new solution and allaying any embedded cynicism about what it could really help the Society achieve. “We got people involved as champions of the system to highlight what it could do day-to-day in their jobs, so they could really celebrate what it was capable of,” Harrison says.
“We were 100% right to go with Workday.”
Harrison reflects on the early days following deployment and feels relieved when receiving positive feedback from the Society’s senior leadership on the selection of Workday. “As a regulated organization, there are concerns at the idea of implementing a SaaS solution,” Harrison says. “So it was great to hear that we were not only 100% right to go with SaaS—we were also 100% right to go with Workday.” This certainly reflects Harrison’s own experience with the new system. As Harrison says, “One of the main advantages is the ability to analyze costs. In the old days, we had to copy rows into Excel. Now we can get information at the touch of a button, we can drill down, we can see information sources. It’s like night and day.” The same is true when it comes to visibility of what’s happening at a transactional level. “You used to have to trawl back to the core banking system and try to extract reports from it directly,” Harrison continues. “Now we can interface with the core system via Workday Accounting Center to drill down straight away at a transactional level—that’s a million miles from what we had before.”
Both Workday and KPMG really went the extra mile to help us, responding really positively to any requests we made.
Andrea Harrison, Head of Finance Transformation
“A huge, huge improvement.”
Two essential benefits that Harrison calls “absolutely massive for us” are a significant reduction in out-of-system processes and a close to 70% reduction in the spreadsheets that used to surround the Society’s month-end processes. “This has been a huge, huge achievement,” Harrison says. “And linked to that is an increase in the number of automated controls in our month-end processes, from less than around 5% to more than 70% of them being automated or semi-automated. “This has meant that within a few weeks of deployment we are now capable of a three-day month-end. In fact, in the first month of running the new system we closed ledgers on working day five, which I think is pretty amazing.” Harrison emphasizes that much remains to be done and is clear about the next priority in extracting full value from the system. “We want to better understand performance at a channel level—whether our business is coming through intermediaries, the branch network, or the call center,” Harrison says. “We set up the structure to do so in the foundational data model, and I believe doing this will allow finance to add more strategic value to the Society.”