A story of resilience
How the University of Virginia transformed budgeting and planning in the face of a global pandemic: A Workday Alliance case study
In March 2020, when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were starting to be realized, the University of Virginia (UVA) had just concluded planning and budgeting for the 2020-21 academic year. Suddenly, uncertainty about future enrollment and expenses had to be addressed, and budgets needed to be recast. Time was a luxury the university couldn’t afford. The urgent need for a modern budget planning and analysis capability was set in sharp relief. UVAFinance quickly moved to prioritize the rollout of Workday Adaptive Planning with the help of Deloitte.
Building a financial platform for tomorrow
UVA’s leadership is committed to driving initiatives that grow and strengthen the institution for the future. But achieving this important goal can be difficult when a critical business function like finance relies on outdated legacy systems. That’s why, in recent years, the university has embarked on a long-range mission to transform its finance capabilities in order to create a strong foundation of financial systems, processes and human expertise dedicated to advancing the university’s academic mission through its strategic plan. Having already implemented Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) to support human resources processes, UVA recognized the power of a fully integrated, cloud-based solution. That experience helped influence the selection of Workday Financials (WD FINS) as the technology platform that would propel the university’s finance strategic transformation journey. And UVA turned to Deloitte to help make its vision a reality.
A turn in the road: Budgeting and planning
Then, in June 2018, Workday announced that it had acquired Adaptive Insights, a leading provider of cloud-based business planning and budgeting. The solution was then rebranded as Workday Adaptive Planning. The enhanced capabilities this acquisition provided to the WD FINS platform were appealing to UVA, which had some especially acute challenges associated with its planning and budgeting processes.
The university comprises thirteen colleges and dozens of other operational units. Like most higher education institutions, the academic year budgeting process begins nearly a full year in advance. Each school considers enrollment projections, then prepares a budget that itemizes corresponding revenues and expenses. While UVAFinance supported a budgeting tool for the full university, each school usually reverted to its own set of spreadsheets and “shadow” systems. As a result, college- and unit-level budgets were presented to UVAFinance with inconsistent assumptions and varying levels of granularity. Consolidating them to create a university-wide budget was a cumbersome, time-consuming process. Recognizing an opportunity to tackle this challenge, the team decided to launch a pilot of the Workday Adaptive Planning solution that would include a limited number of schools within the university. The lessons learned from the pilot would also enable UVA to evaluate the best path forward for an enterprise-level planning and budgeting solution.
Responding to a new challenge
The pilot was a success. And then, COVID-19 appeared on the scene.
In March 2020, when the effects of the pandemic were starting to be realized, the university had just concluded planning and budgeting for the 2020-21 academic year. Suddenly, uncertainty about future enrollment and expenses had to be addressed, and budgets needed to be recast. Time was a luxury the university couldn’t afford. The urgent need for a modern budget planning and analysis capability was set in sharp relief. UVAFinance quickly moved to prioritize the rollout of Workday Adaptive Planning across UVA’s remaining schools and units, except for the School of Medicine. Deloitte helped UVA roll out Workday Adaptive Planning as the university needed to consider multiple budget scenarios and make more informed decisions for the 2020-21 academic year and beyond. Data was extracted from Workday HCM to facilitate bottom-up compensation budgeting by position, enabling unprecedented accuracy in planning staff and faculty expenditures—which accounted for about 55 percent of total university expenses in fiscal year 2020.
Working together, the UVA-Deloitte team built financial models, processes, dashboards, and reports that helped the university respond to the impacts of COVID-19 and present a range of “what if” scenarios.
While the finance transformation story at the University of Virginia is still unfolding, UVAFinance is now approaching the budgeting and planning process with a new level of sophistication and confidence. Deloitte helped tailor the implementation of Workday Adaptive Planning to suit UVA’s unique circumstances. As a result, the CFO and her team see the potential to shorten the budgeting cycle and provide greater predictability for units in the process. The planning solution also offers added insight that can help optimize liquidity and capital management. The implementation also reinforced a valuable lesson to keep in mind when undertaking any transformation: start by evaluating key processes and reimagining them. Often, it’s the process that causes the most pain—not the technology. By re-assessing the full operating model (people, process, technology) in tandem, organizations can achieve real transformation.
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