Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

"Our users are ecstatic!" Reimagining Business at Western Digital

Lynne Sampson
Managing Editor

If you have photographs, memories, personal records, or work files on digital storage, the odds are good that you’ve been using at least one solution from Western Digital. Bill Roy, a senior director at the company, describes their customers as, “The everyday person who's taking digital photos, needs storage for their computer—all the way through to hyperscale data center customers and scientists imaging black holes. Data is integral to virtually every aspect of how we live, work and play. It needs to be protected, and readily available at their fingertips. And so that's why people choose Western Digital.”

That customer trust is one of the reasons Western Digital has grown in recent years. “We see that there are opportunities out there to do things better,” Roy says. “There are innovative companies that are doing things that complement our strategy and portfolio—so we're always looking for opportunities to acquire companies and bring them together.”

The biggest example of this forward-thinking strategy was the recent merger of three Fortune 500-sized companies—Western Digital, SanDisk, and HGST. The companies had obvious alignments, but integrating three companies of this size was an enormous challenge.

At the start of the merger, the companies had three separate ERP systems: two from SAP and an E-Business Suite system from Oracle. Rather than try to move data onto one system from the other two, Western Digital decided to take the opportunity to reimagine its business in the cloud. 

“We had what we called a ‘bake off’ with Oracle and another competing company,” Roy explains. “Both companies came in and presented how they were going to solve our challenges. And it was obvious from the beginning that Oracle had a better product. One, because they had a cloud product. The other did not, so it just felt natural for us to move forward with Oracle. Once we chose Oracle ERP Cloud, then the Oracle suite made sense as well—ERP and EPM and analytics and other Oracle systems [including Oracle SCM Cloud]—they all integrate well together.

“We wanted a streamlined process, something end-to-end from the point you capture the data to the point you want to report out the data.”

Planning the move to Oracle ERP Cloud

When Western Digital looked across all three companies, they found duplicate cost centers, three IT departments, three HR departments, and more than 2,000 separate applications. Eighty systems were being used just to process payroll. So one of the first jobs the team undertook was creating a unified chart of accounts.

“We were able to unify on a standard chart of accounts that went from a few thousand accounts down to around a thousand,” says Roy. “We were able to cut down from 15,000-plus cost centers to around 3,000.”

Roy says his team didn’t worry too much about existing customizations. “Being able to leverage new capabilities out-of-the-box was a key factor for us. We didn't want a lot of customization or programming; ERP Cloud provided that for us.”

Instead, the IT team collaborated with the lines of business to adopt new processes and best practices in the cloud. “As we brought the three companies together, we had three different processes for just about everything—for instance, forecasting. There were three different ways it was done across the three companies, on three different tools. Some were using spreadsheets, some were using Cognos, some were using SAP BPC. We were using Hyperion [an Oracle on-premise solution] as well.”

Getting aligned on a single process was one of the initial challenges. In the cloud, “You can't have three different ways of forecasting. That's one reason why we moved forward with EPM Cloud; we knew it would force us to gain that alignment, which was a huge benefit for us.”

Oracle EPM Cloud drives additional value

Roy says that adding Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud has resulted in story after story of benefits. For example, at one of the acquired companies, a single 75-megabyte Excel file—that lived on one computer and couldn’t even be emailed—was crucial to anyone doing work around analytics, reporting, and forecasting. People had to go through the owner of the spreadsheet to get the data, and they had no way of validating its quality. Now, all of this information is in one place, in one version, and is fully accessible by anyone who has permissioned access to it.

Another success story is around workforce planning. Prior to consolidating on EPM Cloud, one company counted headcount at the employee level. Another worked at the job-code level. Still another just concentrated on trending out workforce needs. Now, all the FP&A teams are aligned on a single process and platform. Data fields are pre-populated so that FP&A can spend less time on data gathering and more on planning and forecasting.

“They can actually be financial analysts who do financial forecasts instead of data consolidators or reporting gurus. They can just spend their time doing what really they're employed to do.”

Better data, faster access

Now that Western Digital has easier access to consolidated data, IT is getting out of the report-writing business. Instead, it’s making data available to users via self-service tools and easy-to-use dashboards. Using a combination of Oracle systems—including Oracle Analytics CloudOracle Exadata and others—Western Digital has achieved a historic leap in reporting capabilities. When they started, their data warehouse had an 8.5-hour refresh time. Now, it’s down to 20 minutes.

“It's 25 times faster access to data,” Roy enthuses. “Our users are ecstatic! We have operational reporting that's real-time, and then we have analytical reporting, which is available within 20 minutes, which is unheard of. No one can refresh their company data warehouse for a company this size in 20 minutes, and we can do it.”

Exploring AI in Oracle Cloud

Roy’s IT team now has more time to focus on more strategic projects that, for instance, use artificial intelligence to uncover new ways to view customer potential and value.

“We had one gentleman who, once his time was freed up, started looking into how he could leverage AI to provide data to our executives about our top customers—on which customers we have opportunities to re-engage with to get more value out of the relationship. So now we have a solution that looks at our top customers, how much business they've done over the last three to six months. The point I'm trying to make, the hard one, is that using some of the latest technology, they've been able to take that data and provide executives opportunities to further engage with customers, to try and get more sales.”

Roy hopes this is just the beginning of more strategic projects at Western Digital. “I am passionate about problem solving,” he says. “If there's a problem, I want to fix it. So one of the things I love is to go out to the business, talk to the users, talk to the executives, and figure out what challenges they’re having. And then I take that back and work with the team and figure out, what can we do differently? Let's look at this differently and provide unique solutions that no one else is going to provide to them.”

Watch this video to learn more about Western Digital’s success story.

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Comments ( 1 )
  • lalit chadha Tuesday, September 15, 2020
    it's actually thought provoking, rethinking solutions by not dealing with issues in a traditional way but to innovate and think beyond the current circumstances is what makes a good organization great. By choosing not to go for unifying ERP's but imagining the enterprise operating on a cloud solution is astounding. .
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