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Implementing Workday in higher education
Real-world lessons from Workday implementations
When higher education institutions choose Workday to help with finance and human capital management, there's more to the job than "online, on time." The Workday implementation methodology matters. Here are key lessons from Workday implementations at three colleges and universities.
Aligning systems and people
Colleges and universities are unlike other ecosystems in government or business. More importantly, they're unlike each other—different in mission, in size, and in need. What happens when products like Workday go to school? Implementing management software in this special environment yields insights about change, culture, and the ways "hard" technology and "soft" human considerations need to work in tandem.
Perhaps the most critical of these insights is that a technology transformation must be a comprehensive transformation. Changing software platforms can accomplish only so much if an institution doesn't take an equal, parallel, simultaneous approach to evaluating and improving its structure and operations—and to aligning systems and people so they work in harmony.
This is a journey. Think of "online, on time" as critical signposts—but not as destinations. The full measure of effectiveness may be not how great a splash the new software makes, but how quickly people can forget about the tools and look past them to the mission.
In recent months, Deloitte Higher Education had the opportunity to bring various Workday configurations to three prominent institutions: An Ivy League university, a leading private research university, and a large state university system. Each has thousands of employees, thousands of students, and a host of complex technology needs.
But some emphasized finance, while others made human capital the priority. Each had a different approach to the pace and phasing of the implementation. And each school found it took more than software to bring about the changes it sought.
Real-world considerations when implementing Workday in higher education
- Change management is critical
A technology transformation affects much more than the technology organization. In higher education, plan on practices, people, technology, and the institution itself all evolving together, in tandem. Otherwise, leaders will have to keep adjusting each of those areas to align with the others.
- Build objectives around what the platform will accomplish, not what it will be or look like
These large projects began with agreed-upon strategic objectives—none of which had to do with specs or architecture. Rather, the bold strokes were all about what it would be like for people at the university to live with the system once it was in place.
- There is no such thing as a standard Workday implementation—in part because there is no such thing as a standard institution
At one school, "financials first" was the plan. But the large state system wanted a coordinated "big bang" approach. From accounting to human resource (HR) to academic support, every higher education implementation will have a different path to follow based on the institution's defined needs.
- Common practices on integrated systems are better than inconsistent practices on disparate systems
Most large university environments are patchworks—operationally, academically, and physically. This isn't a standard that software should aspire to. If you think through the possibilities first, it's possible to design an implementation that puts the technology at the service of a broader agenda of change management.
How Deloitte can help
With more than 1,000 certified professionals on its teams and more than 4,500 integrations to its credit, Deloitte's is one of the largest Workday implementers in the world in addition to its nine years as a Workday Global Alliance Partner. In higher education, Deloitte's Workday practice has accumulated credentials that speak to the confidence institutions can have in us: We completed the first higher education single deployment go-live of Workday human capital management (HCM)-Payroll and Financials, we accomplished the largest Workday HCM-Payroll Cloud implementation in the higher education sector, and we are the only alliance approved to prime Workday planning, learning, and student.