We had this big conglomeration of technology that was basically failing. Our core financial system was implemented in 1993. We couldn’t take capital operations and management any further with the technology we had in place. We needed to be where we truly wanted to be—responsive and responsible for billions of dollars in assets.
Why did you choose Workday specifically?
Walkingshaw: There were three factors that went into our decision-making.
One was having a common database. There are a lot of vendors that offer different systems under the same brand. For example, they have this one module—an old piece of technology—that was once called “x” but is now being added to newer technology. But it’s still not a common database or data structure. Having a common database was important to us because we saw the power of that with the software we had used to manage our physical infrastructure assets.
We also knew that user experience was really important. And the user experience in Workday is exceptional.
And the third factor was the delivery assurance program, which was critical because I’m going to have this constant lifeline. Workday can make sure we’re using it right. They’re going to protect us from ourselves in a way. We’ve seen it so many times when we do all this custom configuration. Things really become out of whack, and we end up doing a bunch of rework. Going into this project, we’ve used the phrase “business process realignment,” as we need to change how we do things—not expect the system to do the same things that we do today. We’re not implementing a new system to build the same button.
How do you successfully manage change to get people to buy in to Workday?
Leek: Our team focused on communication and training for this project. Besides email, the city had no unified way of communicating with every employee until Workday solved that. Employees can now access Workday from any device, any time and anywhere.
We also had to make sure people wanted to use Workday, so we built a whole network of change champions that relayed information back to their teams. We have 18 unique departments with different shifts, jobs, and computer access. With some departments, half their workforce doesn’t sit in front of a computer every day. We needed to reinforce why Workday was important to the city—we’re trying to combine decades old systems into one to make their job easier.
The training lead team has done an incredible job of making training accessible for our 3,000 employees. People felt confident and were able to log on the second Workday went live. A huge piece of change management is ensuring people feel secure and understand that this change is only going to impact their job for the better.
Buehler: We’ve had previous enterprisewide software implementations that haven’t been as successful as Workday has been. That’s because, before, we looked at software as a purely technical matter. All we cared about was the technical functionality. We didn’t think about adoption and how to get people excited.
This time, we focused on change management from the beginning. Our first step in late winter of 2020 was training the core project team. We collaborated with our end users—immediately addressing any resistance—to make sure we addressed what they needed from an ERP [enterprise resource planning] system.
We met with department directors, the human resources team, and the finance team, and learned what does and doesn’t work for them. What are they hoping for from this new system? What problems did they have in the past not only with software but also with change in the city? It was really about communication and a lot of facilitation, too.
Walkingshaw: We did a lot of that work before we selected a vendor. We really communicated why we needed to do this, although the need was fairly well known. We brought people along in the decision-making process. It wasn’t: “Here you go, this is what you get.”
Can you share a quick success story?
Walkingshaw: We’re only 10 days into using Workday, but we’ve already had successes. One example is compensation adjustments. If we want to give someone a merit increase, we have a salary action request form.
I’ve asked a handful of folks in leadership positions what was the fastest salary action request they could process, and it was five weeks. And that’s if you really were successful and you were really diligent.
Now we’ve improved considerably. In one example, we started the request on Tuesday at 11:40 a.m. and it was approved at 1:01 p.m. that same day. We went from five weeks to give a merit increase to one hour, 21 minutes, and 36 seconds.
We had a vacancy on our team, so I needed to complete the termination and prepare for the recruitment. Before, that would have taken three or four different pieces of software and taken over two weeks to process, if we really would have pressed. But now, by the end of the day, that termination sequence had been completed. As soon as that termination sequence was completed, people were able to apply for the posted job because we had the requisition ready to go.
Any advice for other government leaders looking to go through this type of transformation and integrate new tech?
Buehler: Think about your employees as clients. Don’t try to steamroll them. Get them excited about the transformation. Make sure that they’re part of the integration as they’re the key to adoption. Make sure they’re included from the beginning because you’re going to have pockets of resistance. We’ve been through this many times before. We’ve implemented software on a technical level before, but then people went back to using their spreadsheets.
What will happen next in 2023 and beyond for governments in general and Salt Lake City specifically?
Walkingshaw: Software as a service is the direction cities and governments are going. We’re all moving to that kind of software. The implementation process for SaaS is far different than the implementation process of building complex configurations in-house.
What you’re seeing here in Salt Lake City is not going to be unique in a few years. And when Salt Lake City takes on other big enterprise projects, we will follow a similar model. We’ve learned that there has to be someone that supports the technologists’ ability to be successful and helps them communicate and bridge facilitation between teams.
Leek: Connectivity will improve. Our departments had static org charts before, but with Workday we have a dynamic flow of the entire city now: who reports to who, who’s on what team. It’s been an amazing opportunity to work with folks from around the city and to see how we’re collectively working together to make Salt Lake City a great place to live, work, and play. We’re working on the same goal, and we all want easier processes and to save some time. It’s exciting to realize that while we’re all doing different things, we all have a more unified way of getting things done.