Five Lessons Learned from Deploying Workday Financial Management

On July 8, Brown University went live on Workday Financial Management and Grants Management. This is a big deal for us, and I think it will be helpful to share with others both the impact of having this unified data and some lessons learned from our deployment.

On July 8, Brown University went live on Workday Financial Management and Grants Management. We have been using Workday Human Capital Management for our 11,000 workers for the past year, so for the first time in our university’s history all of our human resources, payroll, and financial data are in one place. This is a big deal for us, and I think it will be helpful to share with others both the impact of having this unified data and some lessons learned from our deployment.

The Impact
Our launch included Workday accounting and financial reporting, expenses, procurement, grants management, and more. This project has provided us the opportunity to replace Brown’s very old chart of accounts with a modern, simplified account structure and standardized coding for financial transactions. We didn’t need to make heavy investments in a new on-premise IT infrastructure for financials and we don’t have to manage the system; Workday does all that for us. That includes securing our data and delivering updates with new features, functionality, and compliance support.

With this deployment, we have achieved a new and better way to view and manage our financial information. We’re able to streamline business processes, provide greater transparency, and more easily access data for planning, reporting, and analysis. This becomes even more impactful by having all of our financial, HR, and payroll data in the same cloud-based system. That means one system of record for this information with no disparity in data, making it possible to align our strategies and resources campus-wide with the right information for decision making. This unique unified approach is what attracted us to Workday from the beginning, and we’re excited about where it is going to take us. Think about the industry standard alternative for operational insight and analysis, which is to pull data residing in disparate systems and combine it for analysis in a separate data warehouse. That approach just isn’t feasible for universities and the budget pressures we all face in today’s economic environment.

Some of the benefits of our deployment were immediate. Most significant is the increased speed of expenses, procurement, and supplier invoice functions from start to completion. Faculty and staff are very pleased with the turnaround time on reimbursement of their expenses, and the ability to track where a request lies in the process. They can scan receipts and documents from their mobile devices into Workday alongside their expense reports and view the progress of expenses throughout the approval process. We have Workday Grants Management in place for capturing and reporting grants-related expenditures, and are now in the early stages of rolling out additional capabilities in Workday 20.

We’ve also experienced some interesting and positive changes in our culture as a result of the deployment. Our HR, payroll, and finance teams are now partnering and collaborating much more closely than ever before. A unified system makes our teams better aligned, so we can better understand our costs across the university, identify redundancies, improve the overall efficiency of how we operate, and be more strategic. The Worktags function in Workday is already proving extremely helpful, as it lets us tag things such as expense reports, invoices, and suppliers with various attributes so that we can later “slice-and-dice” data for analysis based on what we specifically want to understand.

Lessons Learned
We are the first institution of higher education to complete its rollout of Workday Financial Management and Grants Management, and I’m happy to report things went smoothly. As additional organizations (whether higher ed or business) consider Workday Financial Management or are already planning their deployments, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the lessons learned. This is by no means a comprehensive list and doesn’t include technical tips, but instead covers some high-level thoughts and recommendations:

  1. Take ownership of your financial data model. You have been given the opportunity to streamline and improve your accounting processes with this deployment. Own and define your chart of accounts as part of this planning so that it’s based on the specific needs of your organization now and in the future. Learn about Workday’s Worktags and determine how to optimally deploy them to your benefit.
  2. Develop strong project governance. Budget and develop resource plans to staff the project, and empower a small group to make timely, critical decisions. Establish a lead for each functional and technical area and empower her or him to make decisions.
  3. Embrace new and better ways. Just because your organization always did something one way doesn’t mean it has to do it the same way with the new deployment. Embrace Workday’s report-writing capabilities rather than feeling as if you have to recreate all your legacy reports, for example.
  4. Attend Workday Rising. I’ve learned so much from attending Workday’s annual user conference the past two years. Since all customers are on the same version of Workday, we’re all speaking the same “language.” I’m very excited Workday Rising starts today, and hope to meet many of your there!
  5. Join Workday Community. This password-protected online community, open only to Workday customers, provides a wealth of information from those who’ve been there and done that. It’s a place to communicate and collaborate with other Workday users, and gain access to Workday’s own experts. And as a member of the Community, you get to vote on features for upcoming updates in the Workday Brainstorm, which already includes thousands of ideas from customers.

I hope by sharing our experiences, you’ve gained a better understanding of the decisions we’ve made at Brown to improve and advance our university with a unified administrative system. Now I’m off to Workday Rising 2013 and look forward to seeing both familiar and new faces!

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