CFO Magazine Names Workiva a Tech Company to Watch
Excerpt from "Disruptive Influences: 20 Tech Companies to Watch," by Vincent Ryan, Editor in Chief, CFO Magazine
The only publicly held company in CFO’s tech watchlist, Workiva has products that are as essential to the offices of the CFO and the controller as oxygen is.
The company’s Wdesk cloud-based platform features proprietary word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications built on top of a data management engine. But don’t mistake Wdesk for a desktop application suite, because it’s in a whole other league. The platform offers synchronized data, controlled collaboration, granular permissions, and a full audit trail. Companies trust it for reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission, managing audits, and complying with Sarbanes-Oxley.
Stuart Miller, CFO of Workiva, points to what differentiates the platform: it’s “massively collaborative” (several hundred people can work on the same document); it has a full audit trail (changes are perpetually time-stamped); and it features a live-linking capability, around which Workiva has built a patent.
“I can open up my [earnings] press release, my script for the [earnings] call, and my board presentation and see numbers that are all driven by the same spreadsheet, and they are linked,” Miller says. “If I change a number in the spreadsheet it changes in all the other documents. It reduces ticking and tying and the chance of making an error.”
Miller says CFOs like that Workiva’s platform “brings order to the chaos” of financial reporting, but the people who really “feel the pain” and thus understand the complete benefits of the platform are the finance and compliance team members assembling the reports. Workiva started its business by calling on business users and allowing them to sign quarterly contracts. But once several groups within an organization adopt Wdesk, its IT department contacts Workiva. “The message from IT is that you need to improve your user management so I can add thousands of people instead of hundreds,” Miller says.
Once Workiva is deployed, companies are saving money through lower costs of compliance. According to a Forrester Research case study, a large auto parts retailer using the Wdesk SOX solution to streamline its monitoring and testing of internal controls slashed the time to finalize a control from two weeks to two days and saved 240 hours annually on SOX certifications. The net present value per user over a three-year horizon was more than $6,000.
Miller says Workiva has a 50% market share among accelerated SEC filers. It also has 480 customers for its SOX product. While Workiva started out in 2008 taking business from financial printers, its ambitions are broader now. It is being adopted by customers for auditing, risk and compliance (including Dodd-Frank stress testing), and operations (managing and tracking key performance indicators). For auditing, finance teams use the workflow capability for task assignments and a digital support binder to attach substantiating documents for auditors.
Workiva is also working on a data application programming interface to enterprise resource planning systems. “If you run analytics outside of ERP, you have to get that data out. Companies have been dumping it into Excel spreadsheets, but the data is too large for Excel spreadsheets,” says Miller, forcing companies to export it piecemeal and reassemble it. Workiva’s API will allow users to dump an entire trial balance into the Wdesk cloud-based spreadsheet.
Workiva spends about 30% of revenue on R&D, but it’s also trying to meet Wall Street’s expectations. The $200 million company is posting quarterly net losses, and its sales growth slowed in 2016, to 23%. According to analysts, though, non-SEC use cases of Workiva’s platform could constitute half of the company’s bookings in 2017.
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