People and money: Unlocking new opportunities from vital government assets

By on 23/04/2024 | Updated on 23/04/2024

Workday was created to disrupt the market for HR and finance software. The company’s cloud-based, AI-enabled HR and Finance software is an increasingly popular choice for both businesses and public sector organisations wanting to transform these vital functions. The company’s vice president for the UK and Ireland, Daniel Pell, talked to Global Government Forum about how Workday can help manage the crucial people, process and technology elements of government transformation.

It is a truism that the most important asset any organisation has is its people. This axiom is even more true in government, where it is the civil servants who deliver the public services on which the country relies.

If a public body has a second most important asset, it would be its money. In government, departments and organisations work hard to maximise value from every pound, an imperative that is only growing in importance as economic projections mean that public spending is likely to be tight in the years ahead.

So managing these two things is key to the work of government – and an area where Workday, the leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources, is focusing on helping the UK public sector become more effective.

Daniel Pell says that his company is focused on helping the public sector realise the “big opportunities” that come from better utilising these vital assets.

“We see people and finances being pivotal to the success of any organisation, whether it’s commercial or public sector business,” he says. “We are incredibly focused on how organisations can make their employees as productive as they can possibly be, and how organisations can use their money in the most efficient way to grow revenue or provide services to their citizens in the best way.”

Helping improve the UK’s skills

The importance of managing both an organisation’s people and its finances has been demonstrated by the many crises that governments have faced in recent years. 

Pell stresses that there are many opportunities to be unlocked from more effective HR and finance information across the public sector – opportunities that reflect the “real changes in the way organisations work post-COVID”.

“Remote work and hybrid work means people have choices, and the investment that organisations are making in their people is increasing,” he says. “There is a shortage of great employees and therefore, finding that talent, attracting that talent, retaining that talent becomes more important than ever.

“And equally, we’re seeing lots of organisations that are very focused on how they can use finances as efficiently as possible amid macro trends like supply chain challenges or interest rates increasing or inflation increasing. So there’s really an increased focus on both of those two aspects right now.”

This means there is “a really big opportunity for us at Workday not just to deliver value to organisations that we’re working with, but also to help the success of the nation”, he says.

“We can help public sector organisations help their employees serve the citizens better, and help organisations understand and gain skills they need.”

The UK is facing “a big skills gap”, Pell says, and Workday helps companies develop their staff by enabling HR processes that make the right training easier to find and to access. The firm is also putting its money where its objectives are by working with schools and charities to help spread better skills across the country.

How to better use technology in government

So what can government organisations do to meet these challenges?

Pell, who is a passionate advocate for ways to boost the UK’s skills agenda with Workday’s customers and partner ecosystem, and even in meetings at Downing Street says “everyone realises there is a bigger role that technology can play in solving the skills gap”.

“All organisations are going through similar challenges right now around digitisation and embracing data-driven decision-making amid the advent of AI,” he says.

Public sector organisations need the skills to take advantage of this technology – and use it to help drive greater productivity.

This will mean focusing on using technology to help deliver services more efficiently and avoiding simply transferring often ineffective manual processes onto digital platforms.

“One of the mistakes in digitisation – and this is not just public sector organisations, but commercial organisations as well – is that they try to move their pre-digital processes and manual processes onto digital platforms,” Pell says. “And similarly, if you’re replacing an on-premise legacy platform with a born-in-the-cloud platform, sometimes there’s a tendency just to replace one or the other. But if the processes remain the same, you don’t get the efficiencies. It requires quite often a rethink of how you run an organisation.”

This is something that Workday can help organisations achieve. “Our platform comes with over 700 processes already built into it. This is what’s different about us – these processes have been defined and built from 18 years of deploying in organisations. So, whether it’s expense approval, invoice management, internal performance management processes, we know what works in different industries. Workday brings a lot of knowledge and insight into how to improve processes, as well as how to deliver the people change.”

“This comes back to the skills agenda,” he adds. “There’ll be less manual processes [in government] but you need to train your people to understand how to read data and how to use data, and how to work with AI.”

Managing change

All this requires government to get better at managing change. Pell says that not managing the people, processes and technology elements of transformation effectively is why projects often fail to realise their full benefits.

But Workday has proven it can be done. Its technology is used by 50% of the US Fortune 50 and 500 companies, and more than 43% of the FTSE100, including British firms from Asda to Zoopla, as well as a growing number of public sector organisations. Workday counts the Crown Commercial Service, Ordnance Survey and Ofcom among the public sector organisations where it has helped to make a difference.

Ordnance Survey has used Workday to develop a single trusted source of its people data, which, as well as helping processes run more efficiently, also allowed the organisation to use Workday’s AI tools to analyse and improve female representation across the business.

The Crown Commercial Service, meanwhile, migrated from a set of outdated and inefficient finance and HR systems to Workday, addressing the problem that some officials were spending up to three days a month simply reconciling data.

“We took a lot of manual work out of that system – expense claims and absence reports that were all manually done on paper forms.”

As a result of these efficiencies, the Crown Commercial Service team has been able toincrease the percentage of invoices paid within 30 days from 66% to 98.5%.

“Their ability to deliver has increased dramatically, which means all their suppliers can get paid in a timely manner,” Pell adds.

This indicates the improvements that can be unlocked through better use of technology, he concludes.

“It always comes back to: what are we trying to achieve in government? And you need a partner who understands how to deliver change that stays true to those guiding principles while helping you adapt to new technology.

“We’re really passionate about getting more involved in public sector and building on this great platform we have, and helping government use technology to deliver these efficient services. It’s a really exciting time.”

For more information about Workday and how it can help public sector organisations, check out: https://www.workday.com/en-gb/solutions/industries/public-sector.html

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