At Workday Rising, planning for a changing world

If all this wasn’t already obvious before last week, then it’s certainly clear to anyone who attended Workday Rising Orlando, the annual customer conference for Workday’s HR, finance, and planning communities. The conference’s theme—For a Changing World—shaped the entire program.

I write often about change. I note frequently how it is not just inevitable, but accelerating.

I do this because change is the defining force in business today, and it’s a force that creates both challenges and opportunities. Though for the 75% of finance executives who say their organizations aren’t equipped to meet it with the right mindset, talent, and tools, change will present nothing but challenges.

If all this wasn’t already obvious before last week, then it’s certainly clear to anyone who attended Workday Rising Orlando, the annual customer conference for Workday’s HR, finance, and planning communities. The conference’s theme—For a Changing World—shaped the entire program.

The power of Workday Rising, however, was its ability to map a path forward for organizations at risk of being caught flat-footed in a world that requires you to stay on your toes. Every workshop, panel discussion, and keynote speech spotlighted how decision-makers throughout the enterprise can become the change agents their businesses need.

In other words, Workday Rising was about seeing (and seizing) opportunities where less agile organizations can see only challenges. And that is a powerful thing.

Plan to execute

Planning is a fundamental part of the path forward shared last week at Workday Rising. That’s because planning is where strategy and execution meet. Without planning—and planning in a way that’s designed for the age of urgency—strategy and execution are disjointed.

Workday recognized this last year when it acquired Adaptive Insights. Now, Workday customers are seeing how this sensibility is making its way into Workday solutions. A new “plan to execute” capability more deeply unifies the Adaptive Insights Business Planning Cloud with Workday. It allows Workday Financial Management users to more effectively control spending based on approved budgets. And it makes it easy for managers to start the process of creating a position in Workday Human Capital Management as soon as that position has budgetary approval.

 ‘As disruptive as the cloud’

The need for agility has put us all in the prediction business. This explains the prominence that advanced technologies like machine learning (ML) are now claiming in modern business software, not to mention at Workday Rising. In his innovation keynote, Workday CEO Aneel Bhusri argued that ML is having a transformational impact not just on Workday applications, but on every business. ML, said Aneel, will prove “as disruptive as the cloud.”

Right there with him was Ajay Agrawal, professor of innovation and strategic management at the University of Toronto and co-author of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence. At a Workday Rising Executive Symposium, Argawal described how predictions enabled by artificial intelligence (including ML) will become commonplace in business. Like photography—which was a complicated and often costly chemical process until people figured out a way to “apply arithmetic to make photography cheaper”—AI and ML are applying arithmetic and automation to make predictions cheaper. And just as smartphones and digital cameras have put picture-taking capabilities into the hands of billions of people who previously never took photos, ML will do the same for predictions.

What does this mean for business? It means having at your disposal a planning system that ingests massive amounts of business data and learns as it goes. It means detecting anomalies in your plan so you can flag costly errors. It means, one day, uncovering the drivers of your business so you can know which assumptions are the most important for determining your business outcomes—and where to optimize your investments.

Bhaskar Himatsingka, chief product officer at Adaptive Insights, noted in his strategy and innovation keynote that ML’s ability to improve predictions will improve the quality of plans and the decisions that result from them. Our Business Planning Cloud, for instance, already serves as the foundation of data-driven, modern planning for thousands of companies worldwide. It also provides a foundation for those companies to apply advanced technologies like ML to the way they plan. “As we automate processes in parallel,” Bhaskar said, “we continue to imbue intelligence into the platform to augment your work and help you make better decisions.”

This is what modern planning looks like, and it’s the future we’re building with Workday. That future was on full display in Orlando last week. And if it revealed anything, it’s that even in the age of urgency, change doesn’t have to be a challenge. In fact, it can be an opportunity to gain agility and the competitive advantage that comes with it.

Watch Adaptive Insights Chief Product Officer Bhaskar Himatsingka’s Workday Rising keynote as he explains how ML is shaping the future of planning.

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