Workday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. They administer a suite of finance, planning, HR, and sourcing applications for the over 8,000 organizations around the world, including to more than 45 percent of the Fortune 500. Sheri Rhodes, CIO at Workday, spoke with AWS Enterprise Strategist Miriam McLemore to share her experience and insights in leading organizational change, developing strategies for transformation, and collaborating to deliver results.
Listen to the inteview on the AWS Conversations with Leaders podcast
We want our employees to love our products. Every employee is part of the product’s future because we use those products every day. Road testing our products, and building them to support, shift and adapt to our feedback.”
Build a platform you would use everyday
Miriam McLemore: One of your priorities is being your own customer of your solutions. Can you tell us about the internal deployment of Workday?
Sheri Rhodes: Internally we call this team, WoW, Workday on Workday. We use and manage the internal deployment of our products (HR, Finance, Planning, Sourcing) across the application suite. We started using our products when we had just 200 employees and now we’re at 12,500 plus. The tools and applications have scaled with us. We haven’t had to re-implement the solutions because, just like our customers, we’re part of the upgrades each and every time. The tools and platforms have kept current as we’ve grown as an organization.
We organize around products, not projects, so that we can move with agility in our dynamic business.”
Miriam McLemore: Having a solution that upgrades easily and has the modern capabilities you need for HR to lead a large organization is absolutely critical. Internally for Workday, what was the most impactful piece of that implementation?
Sheri Rhodes: We know that companies have a high standard for tech companies around security, reliability, and resilience in terms of adapting to our business. Our WoW team road tests the products we are implementing and updating for seamless platform improvements, allowing every employee to be a part of the product’s future—not just those who build and support our products. We want our employees to love using our Workday products and help them engage intuitively— benefiting them and ultimately our customers.
An agile mindset invests in teams not projects
Miriam McLemore: Before COVID, you implemented a product operating model. Shifting funds from projects to products. Can you explain the impacts of this change?
Sheri Rhodes: Before this change, my team was operating in a waterfall mode, limiting our ability to innovate and keep pace with the business. I encouraged an agile mindset across teams companywide. We shifted from funding projects to funding teams. It wasn’t just about an IT change; it was a complete culture change. And AWS was a great partner by sharing best practices and even job profiles, making sure we had the right model to be successful. Our company was able to keep pace with the changes thanks to AWS.
How to anticipate change and capitalize on opportunities
Miriam McLemore: You work with a number of C-suite leaders as well. You have previously spoken about the increased need for collaboration at the C-level. Why is this so important?
Sheri Rhodes: Communication is everything! It’s the cornerstone of our operations. It's how we engage as a company to prepare for the next opportunity or change. Collaboration internally and externally has increased dramatically, and we’ve all benefited. I try to bring back what I hear from my CIO peers to our executives to talk about what kinds of trends they are seeing, and the diversity of approaches others are taking across environments.
Keep empathy and fun at the forefront of your organization. Work to build a strong, talented, diverse culture open to new ideas. Fostering that culture is hugely important to the success of your business or organization.”
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Enterprise Strategist, Amazon Web Services
Before joining Amazon, Miriam was the Chief Information Officer, Corporate and Consumer Technologies and a leader in the Global Information Technology Division of The Coca-Cola Company. In this role, she provided global leadership across the enterprise on all technology matters in support of global marketing, consumer/commercial leadership, product R&D, human resources, legal, sustainability, public affairs; and strategic security.