Plex Systems provides cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution systems (MES) and industrial internet of things (IIoT) solutions that help manufacturers gain visibility and control over their manufacturing operations.
Since its founding in 1995, Plex has grown to over 550 employees throughout North America, including its headquarters in Troy, Michigan, and globally in Prague and Pune, India. Over the past decade, the company has enjoyed double-digit revenue growth each year. Today, the Michigan-based company’s customer base consists of nearly 700 manufacturers with production facilities spread across 29 countries.
With growth comes complexity. By 2016, Plex had realized that its homegrown financials and human resources (HR) solutions were no longer able to keep up with its current growth trajectory. Plex needed a more robust financials and HR platform that would not only facilitate current growth but also provide the scalability necessary to bring its global expansion plans to fruition.
Home-grown vs. third-party ERP?
Plex faced a tough decision, according to Chris Pesola, Plex’s vice president of IT. “Do we stick with our home-grown solution and continue to sink development time into it, or do we purchase something else?”
Plex needed a system that was strong in both financials and HR, and one that would accommodate the unique accounting requirements inherent in Plex’s software-as-a-service business model. The company also wanted an integrated system to streamline workflows within and across financials and HR functions.
Ultimately, Plex decided to look for an external provider to meet these needs. As Pesola noted, “it would be someone else’s job to stay up to date on financials, HR and other functionality, and, ideally, the solution would be globally scalable and consumable across our entire company.” Using an external provider would also allow its developers and support staff to focus fully on Plex’s own manufacturing ERP solution.
Finding the Right Solution
Since Plex is a cloud-based ERP provider, it knows the benefits that the cloud model provides—and wanted to use a cloud-based solution as its in-house ERP solution.
Plex assembled a team consisting of its chief financial officer and its head of human resources, along with Pesola representing the IT department to evaluate different cloud-based ERP solutions that manage financials, HR and a number of other functions including professional services automation and procurement. In addition, Plex needed a vendor that was familiar with the accounting requirements of a SaaS business, and would also integrate with its existing ADP and Salesforce implementations.
Plex evaluated a few different options and found that Workday best met these requirements, and provided other desired capabilities. These included specific tools and resources to help managers better engage and manage their talent, as well as the ability to provide employees and managers with easy access to the information they need to improve decision-making.
When Plex was conducting its evaluation in 2016, Workday’s financial capabilities weren’t as mature as its HR functionality. However, the Plex team decided that Workday’s overall development roadmap in this area was solid, and decided to go with Workday as its ERP provider.
“We considered the Workday purchase to be an investment in our growth,” Pesola continues. “It represented best-in-class technology that would grow with us going forward. Plus, our own company growth is furthered by just having a system like Workday, which helps many of our employees do their jobs more efficiently.”
Plex wanted the solution to give everyone within the company the ability to self-manage almost all HR-administration elements, to save time, increase accuracy, and reduce the need for calls, emails and other follow up on changes. Workday’s ability to provide employees with tools to self-manage their own expenses provided another key advantage.
Streamlining Implementation and Operations
After selecting Workday, it took Plex just three months to implement the first phase of the solution and train its employees on the new software. Plex decided to leverage Workday’s best practices to help make implementation as fast as possible. Plex used Workday’s professional services team to assist in the roll-out, and went live with the solution in October 2016, switching on HR functionality slightly ahead of financials and other services.
Everyone in the company’s finance and HR teams now use Workday, and the entire employee base also uses Workday HR functions regularly. One person in Plex’s 14-person IT department is 100% dedicated to supporting the Workday solution, and another spends about 70% of their time supporting Workday.
“Workday has transformed the operational responsibilities of the HR team,” says Jeanette MacNaughton, Sr. Director, HR Operations at Plex. “The HR coordinator used to do data entry all day. Now, we’re just validating data – implementing the flow faster – it’s been transformative and not only for HR. For many of our managers, this is the first time in their careers they have had such access and control over the data they need to make the best decisions for their teams.”
“It was important to Plex to be able to accumulate financial and HR information in an effective and efficient manner, which added to the empowerment of our leaders at all levels to operate our recurring revenue software business,” continued McNaughton.
“Workday allows us to slice and dice through vast amounts of information with ease and speed,” said Leslie Sears, VP and Controller at Plex. “More importantly, because Workday’s business process framework is so rigid, the internal controls and approval processes are solid and very auditable. There is never a question the information is complete and robust. As Workday touts, there is a single source of truth.”
When Plex has its annual audit, it gives auditors direct access to Workday, allowing them to review data directly in the system. This approach has not only enabled a paperless audit but has also shaved days off the auditing process.
In addition, the company was able to easily integrate Workday with ADP and with a third-party benefits provider. As an existing Salesforce.com customer, Plex is now integrating that cloud service with Workday as well. Plex was also using Adaptive Insights’ business planning cloud service prior to its Workday implementation. Fortuitously, Workday acquired Adaptive in 2018, and is working to integrate Adaptive functionality into the Workday suite—another positive for Plex.
One of the biggest benefits Plex has realized from the Workday deployment has been in its professional services operations. “We’re moving from Excel,” Pesola says, “so having a PSA system that’s integrated into the HR and finance program is big.”
The Workday PSA implementation was new when Plex deployed it in 2016, but the features Workday has rolled out since “are like a big bowl of candy for our professional services team,” Pesola says. “Workday PSA has transformed that operation and how they operate by helping align time spent on projects with profitability, as well as simplifying the invoicing process.”
Taking Advantage of Enterprise-Grade Functionality in a Midsize Business
When Plex first configured Workday in 2016, all of its employees were based in the U.S., and it set up the system with a U.S.-centric focus. In 2018, when Plex acquired industrial IoT specialist DATTUS, it needed to come up with a workaround to fold its new India-based employees into Workday’s HR module.
“In today’s global economy, international operations and employees should be the assumption,” advises Pesola. “While Plex didn’t have an immediate need for this capability when we launched, knowing the company was scaling for growth, we wanted to ensure that we selected an ERP system that would support international expansion long-term.”
Plex has been happy with Workday’s quick attention to support requests and its willingness to brainstorm with Plex about needed functionality on this and on other issues.
Plex has found that the broad breadth and depth of the Workday suite offers many advantages. In order for Plex to continue to grow on the platform, they have taken very strategic approaches to review new functionality and new modules twice a year aligned with each Workday release.
Pesola also notes there are many positives associated with Workday’s scope and enterprise-wide functionality. One single system of record supporting one version of the truth was essential to the organization’s reporting standards. Workday provides Plex with the capabilities it needs not only now, but those we’ll need well into the future.
“Now, our HR and finance people have a world-class system they can grow with and on,” he says. “They’ve gained the ability to request functionality and quickly get it. Often, in fact, the functionality they want is already in the system, and they just need to turn it on.”
This post is sponsored by Workday.
© SMB Group 2020