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Higher Ed ERP Software Implementations Offer Unique Real-World Lessons

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When higher ed institutions choose Workday software to help with finance and human capital management, there's more to the job than "online, on time." Methodology matters. Three recent Workday implementations offer key lessons learned.

Faced with the urgent need to transform their institutions, higher education officials often find themselves wrestling with difficulty of aligning technological innovation with workforce considerations. Transformation needs to be comprehensive—changing software platforms is only part of the process. Institutions need to take a parallel, equal, and well-considered approach to evaluating and improving their structure and operations. Systems and people must work together. Three recent large-scale Deloitte-led Workday implementations at higher education institutions—at an Ivy League institution, a leading private research university, and at a state university system—provide several important real-world insights.

1. Change management is critical. But a technology transformation should be a comprehensive transformation.

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 may have to keep adjusting each of those areas to align with the others.

For example, the Ivy League implementation followed a training structure that was multilayered and comprehensive. This was a program to help more than 6,000 users hit the ground running with a new way of doing their jobs. Training took various forms, from auditorium and instructor-led sessions to web learning, print guides, and simulations.

In Deloitte's work with the large state system, a dedicated program of organizational change was built in alongside the architecture, configuration, test, and deployment tasks that most people would associate with a software migration.

2. Build objectives around what the platform will accomplish, not what it will be or look like.

In Deloitte's work with the Ivy League institution, the Workday program sponsors agreed upon had five key strategic objectives. None of these addressed system architecture, data models, or other technical specs—though all those things remained important. Instead, objectives defined what it would be like for people at the university to live with the system once it was in place:

  • Simplify and standardize processes
  • Make it easy to get work done and harder to make mistakes
  • Establish an accurate, trusted, and timely reporting environment
  • Minimize administrative overhead for faculty and end users
  • Lower operating costs and improve effectiveness

Similarly, the project mandate at the large state system went beyond technical specs, and even beyond operational goals, to include high-level goals such as "do no harm" and "keep moving forward."

3. There is no such thing as a standard Workday implementation—in part because there is no such thing as a standard institution.

As with many institutes of higher learning, the research university relied on Workday to handle a broad scope of functions. In that case, there was a clear order of priorities, reflected in the "Financials First" implementation plan that had general ledger, accounts payable, post-award grants, banking, and settlement functions take precedence over a separate, later phase. This phase will apply Workday Student to additional needs like academics, student records and registration, curriculum management, and academic advising.

4. Common practices on integrated systems are better than inconsistent practices on disparate systems.

That doesn't feel like much of an insight, until you approach a large university in its "status quo ante"—in which practices and platforms are likely to be a patchwork that reflects decades of decentralized development. It may be easy to accept institutional structures as they are and dive straight into making the new technology serve that reality. It's more complex, but ultimately more rewarding, to think through the functional and organizational possibilities first, and then design an implementation that combines technology with a broader agenda of change management.

This understanding helped shape the guiding principles of the Workday Student implementation at the research university, which embraced five different admissions systems, a core student information system, three supplementary records systems, and three separate financial aid systems.

These real-world, diverse examples show that implementing, replacing, or migrating a software system is always a process. It is important for an institution and its implementation provider to build in the change management, organizational design, human capital, and learning capabilities that are so vital to effective rollouts. It can be difficult to tackle a technology platform migration or implementation without built-on, Day 1 alignment with these "soft" areas. It can be just as difficult to try to coordinate all those vectors of change using an array of different partners. Deloitte's interdisciplinary, global breadth means higher ed institutions don't have to.

For more information about real world lessons from higher education software implementations, please stop by Deloitte's booth #1058 at the 2018 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Denver.

Read the full perspective and view the full infographic that outlines these lessons learned.

About Deloitte

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee ("DTTL"), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as "Deloitte Global") does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the "Deloitte" name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

Kathy Karich is Principal at Deloitte Consulting.

© 2018 Deloitte Development LLC.