Northern & Shell the UK publisher of newspapers the Daily Express, Daily Star and magazines OK! And Star have replaced their aging on premise finance system with Workday, the cloud based finance and HRM solution.

From its beginnings as the publisher of a single magazine, Vision Northern & Shells is a media company with Newpapers, magazines and TV stations. In September 2014 it completed the sale of Channel 5 for £464.3 million to Viacom and it is now considering its options for acquisitions. To support its strategy the company realised it needed to invest in an up to date finance package that would support and enable it to measure any new investments it made.

Danny Mansfield, group systems finance manager, Northern & Shell commented: “Workday Financial Management will give us a financial system that can take us into the future and easily scale with the business, whether that be acquiring or merging a new company, or launching a new brand, … By moving our financials to the cloud, we will create new efficiencies that will give our finance team the time and freedom to focus on the financial performance of our brands and strategy for the future.”

Northern & Shell appear to have selected Workday as it fits their current direction, enabling Financial Management and with the HRM applications as well as the insight applications the solution well support any acquisition and analysis of new staff comprehensively. The package will allow Northern and Shell to centralise its financial management into a single application giving its senior management a comprehensive, real time consolidated view of how the organisation is performing across key metrics.

With real time data decisions can be made quickly, especially important in beginning new brands where success needs to be leveraged quickly and failure cut off. The media business is fast moving and new publications need to succeed faster than they have done before.

In an interview with Dennis publishing last year it was clear that less and less time is being allowed for publications to show profitability. Staff will be able to build reports with drill down capability to understand business performance across every brand and geography ensuring that changes in readership are noted and can be understood faster.

The new solution will also give staff access to mobile expenses, enabling managers to authorise approval of expenses via a mobile device. This cuts out the delays repaying staff who are out of pocket and is a factor in improving morale. The negative aspect is that it can negatively impact cash flow in the short term, though at the moment this is unlikely to be an issue.

Moving to the cloud will also bring the benefit or removing the need for Northern & Shell to administer the software, upgrades will be managed by Workday and no longer the pain, cost and responsibility of the IT department.

The Workday view

Chano Fernandez, president EMEA, Workday commenting on the announcement said: “The publishing world is more competitive than ever before. Northern & Shell needed a financial management solution that can not only support business needs today but also future growth and expansion, … With Workday Financial Management, Northern & Shell will have one view of financial performance across all its brands and access to real-time insights that will enable a more strategic, efficient, and empowered financial organisation.”

Is HRM + Finance enough?

Workday has not traditionally targeted the publishing market although Cambridge University Press is already a customer. There is some logic to it as the industry goes online there is less and less physical product involved and it is becoming a people business. The combination of HRM and Finance that Workday delivers to its clients therefore has a better fit in the environment.

Mark NIttler wrote a blog a while ago entitled  “Why ERP Is Out, and Unified Finance and HR Is In”, discussing the idea and approach that Workday has, he acknowledges ERP has its place but believes workday has the combination which people will see greater benefit.  However, Workday does not manage all of an enterprise software portfolio and it will be interesting to see what CRM Northern and Shell use and whether Workday will make an acquisition in this area themselves.


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