When it comes to building products, listening to our customers and understanding their needs is the key to creating something that will truly change the way they work. When we set out to build Workday Student three years ago, we knew the place to start was on campus. So we partnered with over 40 forward-thinking universities around the country, gathering feedback from administrators, faculty members, and students to understand the dynamic ecosystem that enables the higher education process to work.
In celebration of the general availability of Workday Student next week, we sat down with Patti Barney, vice president of information technology, and Caleb Cornelius, associate vice president of student business services at Broward College, to talk about their journey as early design partners for Workday Student.
Why did you agree to participate in the Design Partner program?
Cornelius: There really hasn’t been a major revamp to any student information system in the last 20 to 30 years, and certainly no attempt at unifying all the different processes. On the other hand, higher education has changed dramatically in that same time period, and so have the needs of our students, staff, and the communities we serve. Whether it’s cash flow analysis, financial forecasting, or even curriculum management, self-service is in high demand. We saw an opportunity to change when we started seeing benefits from our deployments of Workday Financial Management and Workday Human Capital Management in 2013.
What challenges was Broward experiencing with its previous student system?
Barney: We were running a homegrown legacy product that had a lot of capabilities but no business process framework, built-in analytics, or really anything that allowed us to be nimble and agile. There was little self-service, so everything was paper-based, making any transaction incredibly time consuming for both students and administrators. A good example of that is enrollment at the beginning of each year. We’d have students standing in line, waiting for clerks to make copies of documents just to prove residency. And on the back end, it took an army of programmers to get the simplest of adjustments made. With all of our processes that inefficient, we knew it was time for a change.
“We believe Workday Student will totally change the way we work with our students.”—Patti Barney, Broward College
How did you work with Workday and other higher education institutions to build Workday Student?
Cornelius: At a simple level, we would have bi-weekly meetings with other schools where a Workday project manager would present us with a discussion topic to think about as a group. We would then each go back to our schools and source the information needed to solve that problem from various subject matter experts. It was an amazing opportunity for all of us to see how other institutions approached things. Not only did we challenge Workday with building a system that met everyone’s needs, but as design partners, we challenged each other to try new approaches to issues we all faced, from how to better engage with students to more efficient ways of taking attendance in class.
Barney: We also thought a lot as a group about how to bring the student perspective into these meetings. As an administrator, you think you know how students want to interact with their programs, but we learned that wasn’t always the case. Workday shared a lot of user experience stats with us that indicated there are many different needs among our diverse student body. This is how we landed on the engagement framework in Workday Student that allows students to make their own decisions about how they want to interact with the system and communicate with us.
“I’m most excited about the predictive analytics in Workday Student.”—Caleb Cornelius, Broward College
What changes do you anticipate at your institution once Workday Student is fully deployed?
Barney: We believe Workday Student will totally change the way we work with our students. The interface is completely self-service, mobile, and intuitive, so everything a student needs will be accessible at all times. From an administrative point of view, many pain points will be eliminated. Our office will have the ability to see when a process is stuck, and will have more access to data so they can deal with it in an efficient manner. Our faculty will able to easily enter grades, approve curriculum, and make changes to programs. Creating class schedules will become a more collaborative process, allowing us to better deliver the kinds of classes students want to take.
Cornelius: I’m most excited about the predictive analytics in Workday Student. With this kind of data, we can look at the student holistically, meaning not only classes and grades, but outside activities and appointments with tutors. This can help us plan ahead and anticipate things like a student falling into a bad financial situation or to intervene with a student who’s struggling from missing multiple classes.
What advice would you give another institution that might be considering a new student system?
Barney: Don’t get something that simply replaces what you already have. Think about what you truly need, like agility, flexibility, and a system that doesn’t keep you tethered to your IT team. Buy-in and 100 percent support from the decision-makers at your institution are also vital. My role in this design process has been to ensure the highest levels of our organization are involved and dedicated to this partnership, from design partner meetings to participating in user tests. You need them there throughout the process so that when the time comes to deploy, it’s a smooth, quick, and positive experience.