Workiva [NYSE:WK]: Building Smarter Teams

Matthew Rizai, Chairman & CEO It was a cornucopia of many things for the audience that thronged downtown San Diego to attend Workiva’s [NYSE:WK] annual The Exchange Community (TEC) event. As a symbolic gesture to kickstart the event, Workiva’s Chairman and CEO, Matthew Rizai reminded the crowd of the humble beginnings of the company. Back then, the homespun mission statement was to help businesses do their job better, faster, and smarter. Today, in just eight years since its fruition, the company, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader, has come a long way to monopolize the productivity market with more than 300 of the Fortune 500 enterprises doing it the ‘Workiva way.’

As early as 2010, when the ‘tech’ universe was still cynical about cloud and its security, Workiva’s team was making headway in its R&D, leading to the launch of its first cloud-based software to automate business data processes. A game changer in the SEC reporting market, the solution paved way for the modern-day enterprise productivity tool, Wdesk. At its core, the indigenous platform includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation applications that have become the building blocks of enterprises big and small. These applications may have long replaced the paper-based paradigms, but according to a whitepaper published by Joseph Howell, EVP, Strategic Initiatives and Co-Founder, Workiva, these disruptions created more paper than ever. “Not all the paper we create with these tools is physical,” says Howell. Every time a spreadsheet is distributed across an enterprise to several teams and members, there is more redundancy, increasing the company’s risk factors as each version can be shared, sent, or lost. It is this precise predicament that Wdesk mitigates for its enterprise users.

“Wdesk lets you establish connections between various pieces of data and portions of documents,” explains Rizai. Documents, financial as well as non-financial, are constantly being pushed across an organization until it reaches a point, from where it has to be distributed or submitted to external committees. Although these files may be of varying formats such as spreadsheets and presentations and may reside in emails or shared drives, the data contained is correlated or often the same. For instance, the pie-chart in a presentation used by a department may take its values from a spreadsheet generated by another team. The SaaS-based Wdesk platform is coupled with Workiva’s proprietary live-linking technology to ensure that the much needed data consistency is maintained in real-time, throughout the organization’s footprint. “When a change is made in one place, it updates the connected pieces instantly,” he adds.

Many large corporations entrust us with their most sensitive data, and we take that responsibility very seriously

The system’s interface requires minimalistic technical expertise from users and can be set up for operation within short timeframes, whereas on-premise structures require months spent on developing and testing the software.

The Gravity of Security

For a document to be made available across the length and breadth of an organization is to put the whole gamut of intellectual property at risk. “Many large corporations entrust us with their most sensitive data and we take that responsibility very seriously,” evinces Rizai. One of Wdesk’s salient attributes is the stringent security measures that are employed, such as data encryption and encoding. Alongside, its distributed architecture spreading the data across multiple physical and virtual servers globally makes sure that only the right party gets access to the information. Team members can view documents only when the entity owner delegates access to the particular person, and based on the security clearance and function, view or modify rights can be set. Customers also reap the benefits of the audit trail feature that lets users to track and trace every intricate modification made to the document. Color-coded tabs are displayed on top of every change along with time-stamps recording the history of the document. Further, each change can be substantiated by attaching related documents inside a workbook, and owners can also request for the same from a team member.

Wdesk has identified the surge of mobility and BYOD trends right at the onset of the smartphone boom. Its Wdesk platform can also be used on iPhones, tablets, and Android devices, enabling telecommuters and key stakeholders to stay in the loop of communication any time of the day. Users with the mobile app can check and respond to emails, assign tasks, modify documents and approve or reject changes. Greatly enhancing collaboration, team members are notified instantly through the ‘mention and comment’ feature about document related activities that are on priority and other Wdesk events. This was of immense help to a state government customer that was tasked with creating reports for monthly board meetings. The comment feature vastly improved the team’s productivity in the particular setting as it allowed the teams to collaborate and bring up questions before scheduled meetings.
In addition to the federal institution, Wdesk’s comprehensiveness has invited hundreds of prominent enterprises aboard its customer base, such as eBay, Whirlpool, and National Health Investors. Such large organizations often run into bottlenecks in collecting, verifying, and monitoring the massive amount of business data they need from a wide variety of sources. In these scenarios, implementing manual processes is virtually impossible and even if done, may cause concerns over accuracy and security. Wdesk’s Data Collection, the powerful engine that underpins the entire system was deployed across multiple departments in Whirlpool’s infrastructure. The data collection engine automated the data acquisition process, imparting control, accuracy, security, tracking and monitoring of all sources, changes and progress, right from a dashboard. Whirlpool realized huge benefits of Wdesk; paraphrasing Whirlpool’s Accounting Manager, Nancy Fadel, Workiva’s tool helped them save 75 hours of productivity for a user base of 120 employees by eliminating administrative and non-value-added processes. “Data Collection is just one more piece of the Wdesk productivity platform that gives enterprises the confidence they need to report to management, boards, regulators and other stakeholders,” said Rizai.

"Wdesk lets you establish connections between various pieces of data and portions of documents"

Never-Ending Product Enhancement

In the recently held TEC event, Rizai spoke about Wdesk’s latest feature, the ‘Data Platform.’ “It has always been there, only a lot more powerful now,” he commented. Powering the largest spreadsheet on cloud, Wdesk now has advanced formula editors and sophisticated workflows, providing more visibility and insight into the information, so as to reduce risk and make better and timely decisions.

As Rizai extols, Workiva owes its remarkable stature in the market to Wdesk becoming the norm for enhancing productivity in several high-performing enterprises and accounting for “linking over two billion disparate data pieces.” With Rizai at the helm, Workiva’s teams are knee-deep in R&D, delivering solutions that continue to improve enterprise productivity. Through monthly software patches for the Wdesk platform, and most importantly, users being notified and guided through the new features, Workiva’s momentum is on a par with the pace of technology, encouraging their customers to follow suit. “Our customers continue to expand Wdesk across their companies, so we continue to improve its features and functions,” he states. Sure enough, the company’s legacy in the recent years is a testament to its proficiency in making its customer’s job better, faster, and smarter.


Ames, IA

Matthew Rizai, Chairman & CEO

Developer of Wdesk, a cloud-based productivity platform for enterprises to collect, link, report, and analyze business data with control and accountability