Innovations & Trends in Workday’s Adaptive Planning Solution

Makrand Jadhav 📋 blog 📅 June 10, 2024

The core, foundational design elements of any solution have a pivotal implication on how the solution is utilized by its users. Workday’s Planning and Budgeting solution - Adaptive Planning - was co-created by team of CFOs and Finance professionals. They took a fresh approach towards a business planning solution with a perspective of what the users would like to have. They looked at what could make the job of the finance professionals easier and at the same time, have a meaningful impact on their business KPIs. This foundational thinking resulted in a path breaking solution which is today used by more than 6000 organizations globally. 

So what makes Workday Adaptive Planning the perfect solution for today’s budgeting and planning requirements. 

1. Pre automated financial planning and budgeting capabilities: Compared to other planning tools Workday’s Planning and Budgeting solution comes with prepackaged capabilities most relevant to finance teams. Some of the examples include account definitions & linkages, account roll ups, automatic currency conversions, etc. Another key feature is it's Allocation engine. This engine enables organizations to program single step or multi stepallocations, which can be applied across the model as required.

These functionalities require coding and effort on other platforms, resulting in longer implementation timeframes and higher costs, whereas they come pre-built in Adaptive Planning.

2. Unlimited versions, dimensions, accounts, or cost centres: For finance professionals, the need to create multiple versions is elementary. Whether it is budget or actuals, it always entails having multiple versions so that different views can be presented to the management as necessary. For example, when organizations are creating their annual operating plan it is very common that the budget undergoes multiple revisions - best case, worst case and before finalising the most optimum one.

Now imagine if there is an overhead when creating new versions either in terms of the performance or cost. This would severely limit the finance user’s ability to model and analyse data in different ways in order to arrive at the best option. Understanding this, Adaptive Planning does not limit its users in terms of the versions or dimensions they can have. In addition, users scan and compare data across various versions to understand differences and gaps. Similarly organizations can have any number of dimensions, accounts, or cost centres as they require. Not all solutions enable organizations to have versions as they wish or expect them to bear financial or technical overheads.

This is made possible through Workday’s EHT  (Elastic Hypercube Technology) technology, which scales effortlessly across all parameters without any overhead for users and organizations. 

3. Reporting, analysis & dashboards: Reporting and analysis is amongst the strongest feature of Workday’s Planning and Budgeting solution. Developing new reports, creating ad hoc analysis or publishing new dashboards - all these capabilities are available in a very user friendly and self service manner. All these capabilities also have some of the most often uses features,, such as drill down, filtering and pivoting, exploring data,  creating visuals on the fly, and drag-n-drop. Because of all these robust features, users have reported minimum to zero dependency in developing new reports and analysis. 

Most of the competitive solutions, by contrast require you to define and develop each of the reports and dashboards required by the users. In some solutions not all users get to develop reports, which severely limits the ability to analyse data and make decisions as and when required. In addition, today Adaptive Planning also enables organizations to automate their board books and monthly & quarterly reports. In short, decision-making is the most powerful functionality offered by Adaptive Planning.

4. AI/ML: Today, most business solutions are expected to have artificial intelligence or machine learning abilities. Anomaly  detection and outlier reporting are some of the AI/ML based capabilities included in Workday Adaptive Planning. Anomaly detection helps organizations define what are the different ranges for specific KPIs or business measures which they need the system to track automatically. If the KPI or the business measure is not falling within the given range, then the solution will automatically detect and highlight the user of the same. It also provides multiple built in machine learning enabled models for business forecasting purposes.

5. Excel integration: Spreadsheets, specifically Microsoft Excel is the core tool used by finance teams globally. Therefore, Workday’s Planning and Budgeting solution ensures that the look and feel of its software are very similar to those of Excel. It also provides functionality by which users can use Adaptive Planning right within excel i.e. they don't need to even log into Adaptive. They can continue to work in Excel and update their data and sync it, while leveraging the features of Adaptive Planning. Super cool!

Last but not least, even business rule definitions formulas definition are very simple and English-like. This ensures that users have a lower learning curve and are easily able to adapt this solution with low or minimum training. Many other leading tools expect users to develop new coding/technical skills in order to manage and maintain them on an ongoing basis.  

6. Process Tracker: Budgeting planning and analysis is essentially a multi user process. Different teams from various departments come together, collaborate, provide the inputs, review, before the final plan is agreed upon. However, all these functions also need to be carried out in a particular time frame. A good example is the rolling forecast - unless every team provides (finance, sales, marketing, HR) it’s forecast in a timely manner it will never be rolled-up and provided to the executive team in time. Workday Adaptive Planning provides process tracker functionality in which organizations can define their different processes, the timelines, assign responsibilities & tasks, and then view the progress as it happens. This ensures timely completion of the various processes and any escalations or reviews that may be required. 

7. Data integration: Bringing data from transactional systems in one of the key requirement for a budgeting solution. Workday Adaptive Planning provides built-in integrators for transactional systems such as Oracle NetSuite, SAP, SFDC, Snowflake, etc. This makes the data ingestion process seamless and less effort intensive for organizations. In summary, the core reason why more than 6,000 organizations use Workday’s Planning and Budgeting solution for their budgeting is planning and analysis is the fact that it is the most user friendly and easy to use planning software on the market. Whether its pre-built functions, easy reporting & analysis, pre-built integrators, support for multiple versions, or Excel integration - these capabilities aid faster adoption and lower implementation timeframes and costs. And this goes back to the fact that it was a solution developed by CFOs/ people with strong finance backgrounds, making it easy for finance users to adopt and deploy the solution within their organizations.

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