Two H&R Block executives share learnings from the company’s digital transformation journey during Workday’s Conversations for a Changing World event.
H&R Block has long been known as a tax preparation company, but it aims to become a digital-first company. Robynne Sisco, co-president and CFO of Workday, talked with H&R Block’s Tony Bowen, CFO, and Alan Lowden, senior vice president and CIO, about the organization’s digital transformation during Workday’s Conversations for a Changing World, a digital event.
H&R Block’s digital transformation, which began back in 2017, will ensure that its 12 million customers who enter a physical branch location will have the opportunity to interact with the company 100% digitally. “It’s a big shift for our company, and we have to make sure we have the right technology and operational foundation in place,” said Bowen.
Before it could deliver a new digital experience, H&R Block had to tackle some key challenges. “First, we spent too much time and money maintaining old technology,” Lowden said. In fact, the company’s legacy tech ate up a whopping 89% of its technology spend just to maintain the status quo, he said. The second issue: slow delivery resulting from outdated technology and process.
In brief, H&R Block had to rethink all aspects of its technology. This encompassed more than just the company’s tech stack, but how the company worked, how and where it sourced talent, and how it built a culture of innovation.
- With the ambitious goal of transforming its technology, H&R Block launched three key initiatives:
- Migrating its computing to the cloud while modernizing its architecture.
- Building a cloud-native tax platform to replace the aging legacy tax systems it had maintained for decades.
- Embracing DevOps, continuous integration, and continuous deployment.
- While improving its customer experience, H&R Block leaders knew they also had to enhance the employee experience. “That’s where Workday came in,” Lowden said.
In 2019, H&R Block partnered with Workday to upgrade its financial and human capital management systems, which simplified and streamlined its corporate systems and operations. The systems now help H&R Block onboard and offboard about 80,000 employees each year. “We wanted to choose the best-in-class system,” Bowen said. H&R Block later added Workday Adaptive Planning as part of the Workday platform.
“Selecting the right partners to help you along the way is a critical component of making sure you deliver on time and on budget and get the success you set out to achieve,” Bowen stated.
With its now-streamlined data architecture, H&R Block can leverage its tremendous amount of customer data. “Customers expect you to know them at a deep level,” explained Bowen. “Having data organized in the right way to deliver incredible experiences is almost table stakes today.”
The H&R Block executives provided valuable advice for other organizations looking to embark on similar journeys:
- Begin with business strategy. “You have to know where you’re going and what you’re trying to deliver,” Bowen shared. That clarity is especially critical with the large, multiyear investments of technology projects.
- Insist on what Lowden calls “ruthless prioritization”: Ensure any initiatives link directly to the business strategy and the desired outcomes.
- Focus on talent and culture. “It’s very difficult to change culture and mindset, so highlight the behaviors you value,” Lowden said.
Interested in watching this conversation or hearing from more change makers and leaders? Log in or register to watch full sessions on demand from Conversations for a Changing World.