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How to make your technology implementation successful

With so many enterprise applications on the market, choosing the right one can be a challenge. But there is a way to find the right solutions for your business—and get them in place quickly.

In 2013, when Robert Potter joined Skookum, a nonprofit facilities management and logistics support services company that hires veterans and people with disabilities, he was immediately struck by how inefficiently the company tracked its employees’ time. About 80% of the company’s expenses were related to labor, but it wasn’t properly accounting for when staff came and went for the day, when they were taking paid time off, or whether someone was out due to illness or a personal matter.

Potter, the company’s chief information officer and vice president of business systems, knew what he had to do to improve Skookum’s processes: implement state-of-the-art cloud-based solutions, something he’d learned how to do during his tenure at two large multinational companies. “What was cool about coming into my role was that it allowed me to bring big company tech and business processes into a small not-for-profit with a lot less bureaucracy [to contend with] to make it happen,” he says.

For Potter, that ultimately meant implementing Workday’s human capital management solution, a robust cloud application that can deliver granular insights into how people work—which aligned perfectly with Skookum’s business needs and analytics focus. “We’re a huge metrics company, and we needed to understand how each one of our contracts was performing across time accounting, human resources, and finance,” Potter says. “We needed something that could pull that all together.”

What Skookum found in Workday was a platform that could help it address its immediate needs, as well as help the company grow for the future. In general, technology, whether it’s human resource or finance-related, should support a company’s end-to-end processes and its growth plans, says Workday vice president of information technology Colin Forth, who is responsible for the company’s corporate usage of the platform. But the key, according to Forth, is to focus on an operation’s business objectives instead of the tech itself. “If technology doesn’t work to propel the core business value, then it should not exist,” he says.

There are several questions companies must ask themselves before embarking on a transition from an existing enterprise application product to a new, more transformative solution. The first, says Forth, is what the organization’s needs are. Think about what the business is doing to achieve its mission and vision and what pain points are preventing the operation from achieving those goals. Maybe too much time is being taken up by manual processes, or perhaps the company is not getting enough business-driving data insights from its current technologies. “It’s not about resolving tickets faster,” says Forth. “It’s, ‘How many hours can I automate out of the business? What can we put in the system to make your jobs more efficient?’”

Then ask whether the solutions the company is considering are adaptable, configurable, and don’t require users themselves to facilitate any upgrades or reimplementation to utilize new features or support. That’s especially important, says Forth, given the pace at which technology continues to change. For instance, when Workday was founded 15 years ago, there were no smartphones, and artificial intelligence (A.I.) was barely even a buzzword. Now, most of the platform’s features can be accessed via an app, while A.I., machine learning, and big data are core parts of its programs.

Workday has successfully adapted because the architectural framework the company was built on was designed to be agile and flexible from the start. This makes it much easier for the company to implement new features and technologies, which it can then deliver to its customers through continuous delivery of weekly updates instead of new implementations. “The flexibility to pull stuff into the architecture is really important, because CEOs don’t want to make these kinds of investments multiple times during their tenure,” says Forth. “They want to build it and move forward.”

Another key question to ask is whether the technology has an audit trail built in. With an audit trail, everything that happens within the system, whether human capital or finance-related, gets tracked, so people can see exactly who did what and when. If a figure or data point somewhere seems off, for instance, an executive can easily identify which employees worked on that project and task them with resolving the issue. “People can look at the data, down to how many times someone opened the screen and viewed a particular field,” notes Forth, who adds that Workday’s audit trail is consistent across all of its solutions, so every keystroke is accounted for, whether that’s in its HR or finance solutions.

For Skookum, these solutions addressed every pain point, and the company’s Workday transformation couldn’t have gone better, says Potter. This is in part because Workday’s solutions, and its flexibility, line up perfectly with the company’s business needs—both now and in the future. Skookum began working with Workday’s software four years ago, but the company is always looking for ways to improve its processes. For instance, it started using biometric readers, developed by a Workday partner, to make it easier for staff to clock in at a jobsite. Now, the company wants to move to a GPS system, which would automate reports on employee clock-ins. Both solutions are compatible with Workday’s offerings.

And the partnership has paid off: Better vacation tracking alone quickly saved Skookum $750,000. The 1,400-person company has also added 500 employees over the past few years—but it hasn’t had to increase its payroll staff at all. “We needed something that was easy to use, so that our users could figure it out,” Potter says. “We have some hairy processes, but the majority of it is now ‘click, click, click, and you’re right there.’”

Transformations do take a while, but with the right—flexible—solutions, growth will come in no time.