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Workiva Inc.: Redefining Innovation in Reporting and Compliance

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Martin Vanderploeg, President & CEO, Workiva Inc.Martin Vanderploeg, President & CEO A number of global enterprises strive to foster a working environment where innovators are encouraged to experiment and cultivate big ideas. In reality, though, most businesses use innovation as a buzzword and never truly inculcate “freedom of thought” into their value system and culture. And then there are organizations such as Workiva that go against the grain and empower all employees—from C-Suite to interns—to create new products, constantly enhance operations, and take risks with ideas. It stands to reason that Workiva, one of the leading cloud providers of connected reporting and compliance solutions, is an undisputable choice for many organizations for its deep commitment to encouraging innovation at every layer of their operations.

Marty Vanderploeg, CEO of Workiva, attributes the success of the FinTech solution provider to a highly-collaborative product development process that involves the R&D groups working in close cohesion with finance, accounting, and operations teams, and developers and product managers meeting at regular intervals with customers throughout a product’s lifecycle. “We are proud to be chosen for this prestigious list, which includes some of the most successful companies in the world. At Workiva, we are innovative in everything we do, from how we build our software to how we serve our customers to how we treat our employees. Our innovation will continue to be a driving force in data transparency and trusted, connected reporting throughout the world,” says Vanderploeg.

For perspective, Workiva’s cloud-based data management tools are used across 180 countries, availed by more than a third of the world’s Fortune 500 companies and government agencies. They are now indispensable tools for organizations that rely on Workiva’s solutions to create and connect data to consolidate and publish financial, performance, and regulatory reports. Serving various market verticals such as banking, government, higher education, insurance, and investments, Workiva allows organizations to transform accounting and finance, streamline risk and controls, modernize reporting, manage complex audit fieldwork and paperwork, and manage their entire ERM processes from one central location. Also, organizations that intend to build a robust policy and procedure process (as it pertains to reporting, financial planning, and audit management) can do so by leveraging the all-encompassing corporate FinTech tool, i.e., the Workiva Platform.

Dynamic Platform that Transforms Processes

Built on a cloud-based architecture from the onset, the Workiva platform combines cutting-edge innovation, control, and scalability, modernizing the way organizations manage business data—aggregate both structured and unstructured data—and connect the same across various reporting and compliance outputs such as spreadsheets, presentations, and financial reports. Workiva’s “connected platform” which enables enterprises to connect data, documents, and various teams in a secure reporting and controls hub, has three distinct features that distinguish the solution from any other market offering. For starters, Workiva is a system and hardware-agnostic platform that positions companies to extract data from disparate systems across their organization before enriching the data and connecting them to all outbound reports for analysis and reporting.

Our innovation will continue to be a driving force in data transparency and trusted, connected reporting throughout the world

Since the entire Workiva ecosystem is cloud-based, the personnel involved in fine-tuning the data have the option of amending the outgoing reports on-the-fly with the simple push of a button. This level of sophistication also reduces the dependence on IT teams for both data preparation and report creation.

Also, the connected reporting element of Workiva means organizations can employ an object-oriented approach to reporting and thereby reference data elements in multiple places. For example, they can use and reuse objects such as text, calculations, charts, and images, and build reports from existing (or previous) data elements rather than writing them individually. Moreover, since each data item is hyperlinked, changes are promptly updated and reflected across every layer of the platform. And finally, the third distinctive feature of the Workiva platform is its code-free automation component. Organizations don’t require IT or technical expertise to updated dashboards, workflows, and templates in real-time, and essentially construct a reporting framework that can be used and reused as and when necessary. Also, the Workiva platform facilitates each department to work in their workspace, with the option to provide permissions to other units to access cross-organizational data as per requirements.

While the Workiva platform covers all aspects of connected documentation and compliance, the Wdesk is an exclusive reporting tool that unifies people, processes, and data, to deliver accurate reports required by auditors, regulators, stakeholders, partners, and leadership. By connecting “data with context” across spreadsheets, documents, and presentations, Wdesk not only increases the quality and accuracy of reports but enhances organizational productivity with built-in workflows and automation features that scale to teams of all sizes.

Delivering Success Stories across Industries

To illustrate the effectiveness of the Wdesk platform is a use case involving American Enterprise Group, a diversified insurance company that was already producing a range of complex financial reporting requirements. However, they were doing so by using word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software that struggles to format well, support collaboration, or produce professional results. Sara Lehan—the Assistant Vice President of Financial Reporting at American Enterprise Group—realized that her company needed to upgrade the procedure used to produce and manage financial reports and presentations. Soon enough, American Enterprise Group resolved their problems by switching to Wdesk. “It (Wdesk) takes the best features of those tools (we were already using) and incorporates them in a way that I’ve never seen before. It makes them function together in a package that works better for what we’re doing as a team,” says Sara.

Gradually, Sara and her team expanded the use of Wdesk to other functions such as generation of annual statutory footnotes and audit reports. “All of these reports are linked together. The more of these reports we can pull into Wdesk, the more synergies we get and the more effectively we’re able to use our time,” stressed Lehan, before emphasizing on the fact that Wdesk links data and allows numerous team members to work on a solitary document simultaneously.

“We are all working off one version— it’s the final version. You know who has made changes, and it makes it easy to review as well,” she added. A few years later, when American Enterprise needed to comply with the Model Audit Rule (MAR)—a new financial reporting regulation for insurance companies—Workiva facilitated their compliance.

Another noteworthy case study involves the globally-renowned Tupperware Brands Corporation, manufacturers of high-quality kitchen and household products. The corporation was dealing with a monumental challenge as the deadline to start XBRL detail tagging was looming. To make matters worse, James Hunt, the newly-appointed Director of External Reporting, was still learning the ropes of his new position. After initiation discussions with Team Workiva, Hunt decided to alter the way the company handled SEC filings—switching from a national printer with an XBRL bolt-on solution to a fully-integrated, cloud-based Wdesk SEC reporting solution. It was a wise move on the part of Tupperware. Within a few months, Hunt’s team learned the new Wdesk platform and overcame several reporting complexities without missing any filing deadlines. “During the demo, I saw that the application (Wdesk) would take away a lot of our concerns, especially about XBRL. Our controller suggested we wait a quarter before we implemented the solution. But I pushed him on it, and we took the plunge right away. We haven’t regretted it since,” Hunt said after his company switched to Wdesk.

Connectivity and Data Preparation

The impressive reporting features of Wdesk notwithstanding, Workiva also offers Wdata—a data preparation software solution that essentially allows companies to “put connected data to work.” While IT teams can retain data control and governance while giving users access to the data they need, financial analysts can unify and explore disparate datasets, conduct data transformations, and leverage tooling for more insightful analyses. Also, Wdata allows various departments of an organization access to “updated, connected data” to ensure consistent and quality information is peppered across their reporting and compliance efforts.

Wdata enables companies to connect directly to ERPs, GLs, documents, sheets, and slides, simplify governance-related updates, and observe trends in their data. Additionally, the platform allows clients to view information in a variety of charting forms, analyze the data visually, and drill through the data to get in-depth insights. In fact, Wdata consists of a pivot builder that allows for simple drag-and-drop of interactions so they can be either shared or archived accordingly. It’s also possible to specify and create filters so as to search and gain easier access to the data at a later date.

“The more of these reports we can pull into Wdesk, the more synergies we get and the more effectively we’re able to use our time”

Clearly, Workiva has transformed the way in which a third of the world’s biggest companies solve the most sophisticated financial challenges. After all, Workiva’s solutions are impacting over 3,200 organizations across the globe, generating over 15 million connected reports, and connecting and automating at least 5 billion linked data elements.

Despite consolidating its pole position in the marketplace, Workiva’s rich history of investing in innovations is a reason to believe that the FinTech solution provider has a lot more up its sleeve.

- Aaron Pierce
    January 25, 2021
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Top 10 Account Receivable Solution Companies - 2020

Workiva Inc.

Ames, IA

Martin Vanderploeg, President & CEO

Provides connected reporting and compliance solutions which is used by thousands of enterprises across 180 countries, including more than 75 percent of Fortune 500® companies, and by government agencies