Efficiency is the name of the game for CLEAResult, which provides design, consulting and other services to utilities and enterprises seeking to reduce and better manage their energy consumption. CLEAResult’s ability to meet the diverse needs of its customers has made it the largest provider of energy efficiency programs and services in North America.

Behind the scenes, however, CLEAResult faced efficiency challenges of its own. Founded in 2003, the Austin, Texas–based company today employs more than 2,500 people working out of more than 70 offices in the United States and Canada. But much of its growth has come via acquisitions, which resulted in a hodgepodge of IT, financial and human resources systems and processes.

CLEAResult’s Integration Imperative

When Leisa Tremblay joined CLEAResult’s finance department six years ago, one of her main responsibilities was to manage the integration of acquired firms and systems. “In my first four or five years with the company, I was part of 12 acquisitions,” she says.

By 2015, CLEAResult was running 17 different applications to support its core business operations. They included two financial planning systems, four financial reporting systems, two different instances of ADP for payroll, a talent acquisition system, a separate purchase order system and a variety of other solutions.

Few of these systems were integrated with one another. After acquiring a company that was using Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains) as its main accounting system, CLEAResult learned that it couldn’t integrate the GP system with the Microsoft Dynamics SL (Solomon) system that it was using. “That’s when we started doing accounting and financials on two separate systems,” Tremblay says. “And we had to establish two completely separate accounting teams to accommodate that. The inefficiencies were just insane.”

This fragmented IT and operations landscape caused process inefficiencies and resulted in added costs and data management challenges for the company. Seeking to remedy this situation, CLEAResult set out to find a cloud-based  solution that would provide a single foundation for human capital management (HCM) and financial management robust enough to replace the functionality of its 17 existing applications. After an extensive and rigorous evaluation process, CLEAResult selected Workday.

Using ERP as a Springboard to Rethink How Work Gets Done

In launching its search, CLEAResult hoped for more than simply a well-integrated technical solution. “We really wanted to redesign how we work,” explains Sandra Mokey, senior finance director at the company. “Going with an ERP [enterprise resource planning] system gave us an opportunity to rethink what we do and how we do it. We weren’t just trying to put lipstick on a pig.”

For the evaluation and selection process, Mokey and Tremblay led a team of about 20 people who represented all of CLEAResult’s main functional areas. Many of the company’s existing applications were on-premises deployments, which involved significant management demands and licensing costs. As a result, CLEAResult wanted to find a cloud-based ERP solution.

After considering six different solutions, the team whittled down their choices to the final three: Workday, Oracle and NetSuite (since acquired by Oracle). Ultimately, CLEAResult selected Workday, in part because it offered the broadest scope of functionality with the least number of integrations required. “Being able to have HR, finance, operations and PSA [professional service automation] all in one place was huge for us,” says Mokey.

Other Workday strengths included that its procurement module can support supplier punchouts, allowing CLEAResult to stay within Workday when purchasing items from a supplier’s website. Given that the majority of CLEAResult’s 2,500 employees are in the field, Workday’s strong mobile capabilities were also important.

CLEAResult included total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) as key criteria in the selection process but based 75% of its rating scale on fit and functionality considerations.

The company determined that Workday had many functional strengths in finance and, especially, HCM. However, at the time of the evaluation and selection, some functional areas such as PSA were still evolving. Yet, even though professional services are a big part of CLEAResult’s business, “We ended up making a bet on Workday given where their functionality was going,” says Tremblay. The reason? “One area where Workday scored really well was in their focus on innovation and the money they put into development.”

Taking a Comprehensive Approach to Implementation and Training

CLEAResult initiated its Workday deployment and training program in November 2016. The company planned a “big bang” launch in which all the major Workday elements would go live on the same date, with Mokey heading the financial side of the implementation, Tremblay on HCM and an associate on PSA.

Because the company was changing technologies in addition to redesigning its teams and work processes, it brought in change-management firm Appirio to help navigate the process. Appirio recommended creating a change advocacy program with participating representatives from across the company. Over 13 weeks, the team trained more than 125 “change advocates” on the core system. Separately, a number of functional business holders helped to determine various design and configuration requirements.

CLEAResult set an ambitious goal to go live with Workday on July 1, 2017, but challenges associated with its existing payroll vendor caused the launch date to slip one financial quarter to October 1, 2017. On that day, all 2,500 CLEAResult employees plus 300 contingent workers went live with the Workday solution. Within two days of the launch, more than 80% of the workforce had logged into the system.

CLEAResult retired 14 of its 17 disparate applications at launch and the 15th shortly thereafter. Fortuitously, Workday acquired one of the remaining applications, Adaptive Insights financial planning software, in August 2018, which it is now integrating into the broader Workday suite. “We currently have some third-party integration between Adaptive and Workday. As Workday builds out the roadmap, we are looking forward to in-solution integration so that information will flow seamlessly between Adaptive and Workday. We know they’re working on it now, but they only acquired Adaptive in August, so it hasn’t been that long,” notes Tremblay.

At the time of its Workday deployment, equity investor General Atlantic owned CLEAResult. (TPG Growth and The Rise Fund subsequently acquired CLEAResult in August 2018.) General Atlantic had seen many of its portfolio companies undertake ERP deployments, “and they told us our Workday deployment was the best ERP implementation they had seen in their history,” Mokey says.

For the most part, CLEAResult is using out-of-the-box Workday functionality, although it has tweaked that functionality to meet its specific needs. For example, CLEAResult’s utility customers sometimes offer their customers incentives to undertake energy efficiency measures in their homes or buildings. Funds associated with these incentive programs must be separated from other funds, and they require different flows and different banks. Workday has been able to accommodate these and other special needs.

CLEAResult has also integrated Workday with third-party applications. Initially, Workday served as the prime integrator. But, according to Tremblay, “After Workday did the first one or two integrations, our own integrations person was able to build out the rest.” She says, “It’s been pretty seamless.”

Racking Up Benefits

The shift to Workday has generated several benefits for CLEAResult, including improved TCO, thanks to the elimination of multiple application licenses and the management overhead associated with maintaining so many discrete systems.

The shift has also enabled the company to reduce finance, IT and HCM headcount via natural attrition, freeing some people to take on new roles. For example, CLEAResult formed a six-person Workday management team, headed by Tremblay, within the IT organization. “It didn’t cost the company any more to build my centralized Workday administration team,” Tremblay notes. “We were able to take resources we had in the company, involve them on the implementation project, get them the training that they needed, and then build my team from that.”

One of the most consequential benefits has been the creation of a centralized procurement team. “We now have an entire procurement functionality which we didn’t have before Workday,” says Mokey. With that team, along with Workday-supported functionality such as supplier punchouts, CLEAResult realized $2.2 million in procurement-specific savings in the year following the go-live launch. “We’re on pace to achieve $19 million in savings over a five-year business case,” Tremblay says.

Mokey and Tremblay give Workday high ratings across a range of metrics, from its ease of use to real-time information visibility to product functionality. Tremblay notes, “Workday’s customer center and customer support team is awesome. We’ve partnered with Workday and its product development team, and they’ve remained interested in making sure we have everything we need.”

Looking back, Mokey and Tremblay might have done some things differently, including defining CLEAResult’s specific report needs at the start of the implementation. “Reporting tends to be an afterthought in implementations,” Mokey says. “We eventually found we needed reports that we didn’t even realize we needed. Focusing on that from day one would have been very helpful.”

All things considered, “We’re very happy with our choice, and very committed to growing with Workday,” Tremblay says. “We’re basically driving the organization to Workday and Adaptive to run the company.”

Mokey agrees. “We’ve become huge advocates of Workday,” she says. “We have a lot of lessons learned, but we remain really happy with the purchase and with our ongoing partnership with Workday.”

This is the first post in a four-part blog series sponsored by Workday that examines how midmarket companies are streamlining their businesses with unified financials, payroll and HCM applications. 

© SMB Group 2019