Upland Software grows strategically with ERM solution

Wdesk for SEC reporting. Check. Wdesk for SOX compliance. Check. Wdesk for enterprise risk management (ERM). Check.

Austin-based Upland Software is steadily expanding its use of Wdesk to keep pace with its rapid growth. The company, which recently went public, is bolstering its position as a market leader in cloud-based, enterprise work management software through an active acquisition strategy—buying several software firms in one year alone.

As the company grows, Upland’s financial professionals use flexible, customizable solutions from Wdesk to meet compliance requirements, support strategy and planning processes, and now to help leaders manage risk.

Most recently, Upland added Wdesk as an ERM solution.

The decision was a “no-brainer” accordingly to Marissa Palmer, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and Compliance Manager. She and Upland’s Vice President of Finance were attending the annual Wdesk user conference, The Exchange Community (TEC), to learn more about Wdesk for SOX compliance when the VP heard about Wdesk for ERM. “He immediately wanted it,” she comments. “He isn’t easily impressed, and Wdesk impressed him so we had to be looking at something good!”

A customized solution

It took just three days for the Workiva team to build a customized ERM master workbook for Upland and link dashboards to that data. “They customized it in real time. They asked for a lot of feedback from me, and there was a lot of collaboration,” explains Palmer. “It was a really positive experience. It doesn’t always feel that way when you go through an implementation.”

She says the ability to customize Wdesk is critical, especially for smaller companies like Upland that don’t need a complicated ERM process. “Wdesk for ERM can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. It’s one size fits all—that really does fit all.”

With all of the dashboard and template options available in Wdesk and Workiva consultants sharing best practices, Palmer was able to be very strategic in her ERM implementation. “Right now we just need the basics. But I asked Workiva for a little bit more because I was thinking about five years from now and what our organization will need then,” she explains. “We might not be looking at something in a particular way now, but we could be in a couple of years.”

Because it’s Upland’s first year of ERM, Palmer is focusing on populating the solution, validating information with stakeholders, and getting her team up to speed with risk management reporting. With SEC reporting and SOX documentation already underway in Wdesk, Palmer says the three solutions work together seamlessly and ERM is “the cherry on top.”

“SEC and SOX are related, so there’s a ‘stickiness’ between the two processes,” she says. “As we move into ERM we’ve started with the risk and controls from SOX, so Wdesk is progressing with us.”

I could just sing Workiva praises constantly.

Marissa Palmer, SOX and Compliance Manager

Now Upland has one dashboard for each of its main ERM processes, plus a summary dashboard. The C-suite, finance department, and operations team all want to see information in a different way. Flexible Wdesk dashboards make fulfilling those requests easy. “I love the dashboards,” says Palmer. “By having all those dashboards, we know they’re telling the same story, just from a different perspective. We don’t have to worry about our story being inconsistent.”

Truth and transparency

She says the linked data and “single source of truth” in the master workbook are key. “It’s a core competency of Wdesk that keeps us loving the platform. I don’t have to worry about reconciling my data.” When she needs to make a change, she updates the master workbook and the change flows through the other documents affected by that change. “Anyone who has ever done ERM metrics of SOX will attest to how much time is spent reconciling data to ensure consistency throughout the documents,” she says. “With Wdesk it’s a matter of making the update in one place and it’s done.”

I’m in awe of how much easier Wdesk makes ERM and how much cleaner it’s become.

Marissa Palmer, SOX and Compliance Manager

Palmer has experience with ERM at a previous employer where she used a much more manual reporting system heavy on cutting, pasting, and combining spreadsheets. Comparatively, she says using Wdesk for ERM will save her several weeks a year. “I’m in awe of how much easier Wdesk makes ERM and how much cleaner it’s become. A process that was riddled with human error is suddenly so truthful.”

While Palmer is the main user of ERM at Upland, auditors and other team members use the solution to track and document changes to risk. Wdesk gives her the control to see everything that happens to the documents. Time stamps verify when each action was made and by whom. “It’s all about transparency in today’s world of SOX, risk, and audit,” she explains. ”I can see if someone is in there and they can see if I’m in there doing something. It’s really nice to have that audit trail.”

The ability to add processes, risks, and controls to the existing Wdesk ERM framework is so easy.

Marissa Palmer, SOX and Compliance Manager

A comprehensive risk profile

Overall, Wdesk delivers a more accurate view of Upland’s organizational risk by reducing manual work and human error that are intrinsic to many other ERM solutions. Palmer says when the process is unclear and the metrics are off—even by a small amount—it can cloud understanding of organizational risk. “It can make an inherent risk seem higher than it really is, or your residual risk seem higher. Suddenly, you’re going to be throwing resources to remediate something that doesn’t actually need to be remediated because an algorithm is off.”

It’s a more complete risk profile, too. Palmer says that as Upland identifies more risks—even those not related to SOX like cybersecurity and reputational risk—Wdesk can integrate them seamlessly. “The ability to add processes, risks, and controls to the existing Wdesk ERM framework is so easy,” comments Palmer. “And Wdesk reduces the administrative risk around those tasks and reduces time. Who doesn’t want to have a little more time?”

I feel like Wdesk is my partner.

Marissa Palmer, SOX and Compliance Manager

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