Cat Glimpse Image by husnerova from Pixabay Workday has published some insights from a report that it will publish in the first quarter of 2021. The press release and an accompanying blog highlight findings that show the progression from the 2019 report, despite or perhaps because of the pandemic. Workday looks briefly at the state of digital transformation compared to a year ago. How functional leaders approach digital transformation differ, and it reiterates the six steps that organisations should take to manage their transformation.

The report: “Organisational Agility: Roadmap to Digital Acceleration” is based on a survey of 1,024 business leaders and senior executives (C-suite or their direct reports). Respondents were from 14 countries and worked across 12 sectors, with most from the financial services (18%), professional services (15%), and technology (10%) sectors. The survey was carried out by Longitude, a Financial Times company, in June and July 2020.

State of digital transformation

The main result of the pandemic is that organisations have had to pivot to engage with customers using digital methods. Three times more organisations are using digital methods to sell to customers than in 2019. This year, more than one third expect 75% of their revenue to come from either digital products or online.

To enable this, 56% have the right technological tools in place. Worryingly only 16% believe their culture has transformed. This is a concern for many and shows that the enforced home working has not led to the necessary changes in culture across many organisations. Does this mean that there will be a return to the same working methods as before? That seems unlikely. Some of the changes appeared to have stuck. Organisations are failing faster, 77% now halt or change technology deployments that are failing, up 10% from 2019.

Another change that Workday will welcome is the more widespread adoption of continuous planning. To achieve that companies have normally had to enable six things with the first three having the most influence:

  • Real-time access to data
  • Deployment of smart technologies
  • An agile culture
  • Access to analytical and technical skills
  • Cross-functional teams
  • Integrated, cloud-based systems

Workday offers more advice on how organisations can become more agile here.

What is your boss thinking?

The report also looks across four functional areas that Workday typically engages with: Finance, HR, IT and the CEO. Each has their priorities and views. This taste of the report highlights only a subset of the full data available. It also appears as though Workday did not combine its quantitative research with qualitative interviews which may have shed more light on this. Workday has decided to label each of the functional leaders with a moniker, which seems one dimensional at first glance.


The Office of the CEO is called the Digital Optimists. Workday does not evidence why. Instead, it highlights the perceived barriers that CEOs face to deliver continuous planning, note, not digital transformation. The two barriers are culture (31%) and data accessibility (32%).


The Office of the CFO is named the Future Technologist. It tries to steer a safe course for the organisation. The statistics highlighted to evidence this looked at the priorities of finance leaders. In the context of improving continuous planning, reporting, and risk mitigation, they look to ensure that systems are highly integrated (64%), and cloud technology is deployed (49%).


It names the Office of the CHRO, Cultural Renegades. Perhaps a poor word choice and open to misinterpretation. One assumes the authors prefer a friendlier definition than “a deserter from one faith, cause, or allegiance to another” (Merriam-Webster). Even the secondary definition is only slightly better: “an individual who rejects lawful or conventional behavior”.

It may have been attempting to focus on the unconventional aspects, or rather how HR leaders are looking to evolve their culture to a completely new one. Perhaps revolutionary would have been a better term- “constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change”. The release claims (without evidencing it in this glimpse) that HR leaders are focused on developing a culture to embrace true agility. However, only 62% see that the incentives and metrics such as KPIs measure the required cultural outcomes. Hopefully, Workday will extend and expand on this in the full report.


Finally, the Office of the CIO is described as Data Champions. IT and operations leaders see the ability to use smart technologies (33%) and advanced analytics and data visualisation (30%) as most important. Is this a retrograde step? Are IT leaders focused on technology or the smarter application of technology? In the glimpse that Workday gave, there is not enough information to determine which.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

Leighanne Levensaler, CMO and EVP Workday (Source linkedIn)
Leighanne Levensaler, CMO and EVP Workday

The challenge of only offering a small portion of the full results from a survey is that they do not offer the full picture. These findings raise more questions than they answer. The key message is that digital transformation is happening, but barriers remain.

Leighanne Levensaler, executive vice president, corporate strategy, and managing director and co-head, Workday Ventures, Workday commented: “Business leaders now face a harsher reality about the urgency of digital transformation. This study highlights that COVID-19 not only cemented the need for companies to modernise but, as important, to accelerate those efforts. From supporting remote work processes to increasing opportunities for digital revenue and rebuilding supply chains, technology limitations proved to be a challenge for organisations in 2020, creating urgency to embrace and adopt new digital strategies.”

There is little doubt that the full report will be an interesting read. Hopefully, some of the questions posed above will be answered.



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