Workday is live: The road to a new enterprise system

January 3, 2024 (Volume 47, Number 9)
Article by Michele Coffill

Workday is here.

For most faculty and staff, that means it's time to continue learning and navigating this new application that replaces multiple business systems.

For Information Technology staff members and other stakeholders like Business and Finance, Payroll and Human Resources, this day represents the culmination of more than three years of discussing and planning for a new enterprise platform, then communicating and training more than 3,000 employees to use it.

Ben Rapin, associate vice president for IT and chief technology officer, said several factors converged at the same time to make what he called "a herculean effort" to shift from Banner to Workday. But mostly, he said, it was an increasingly urgent need to replace what was becoming an outdated system.

Banner, operated by software company Ellucian, was not keeping pace with what university leaders needed it to do, Rapin said.

"It was not getting to cloud fast enough," Rapin said. "There were times when there would be new financial aid regulations or new tax regulations and we would have to take the whole system down to make those modifications."

And there were all those other systems: Concur, PageUp, Ultratime, OnBase and more.

"We would get feedback from people who were having to navigate seven, eight, nine different systems, and moving data from one to another," Rapin said. 

Discussions about moving to a new system that would serve as one source for all personal, financial and operational data began in 2020. Rapin said it didn't take long to find Workday. "It's the No. 1 system used by Fortune 500 companies and the industry standard for payroll and human resources," he said.

With input and agreement from many campus divisions and departments, Rapin said a contract was signed with Workday in 2022, knowing a student platform from the company would come later. Workday Student will be fully implemented during the 2026-2027 academic year; staff deeply involved in the project will begin engaging with that platform soon.

"This was never only an IT initiative, it was a university initiative," he said. "We invited every department that used Banner and they joined us for countless Workday demonstrations. Then we brought in the Provost's Office, then Records and Financial Aid. They were attending demonstrations for student usage at the same time."

Mychal Coleman, associate vice president for Human Resources, said his department walked in step with IT and others from the beginning of this initiative.

“From the beginning stages of the Workday implementation, we understood this program would revolutionize our capacity in HR and for our campus partners," Coleman said. "It was easy to engage in this project knowing this single platform would allow us to make more informed decisions from our data, provide autonomy to departments, and ultimately support the changing needs of our faculty, staff and student employees.”

Interest and enthusiasm for a new platform spread quickly. IT created a group of change agents, tasked with advocating for Workday and communicating its changes to colleagues, and super users, or early adopters.

"It's been great watching the enthusiasm. There are more than 100 people on campus who wanted to be involved very early on," Rapin said. "And that's Grand Valley, that's the can-do mindset of this university. This project only magnified that."

Now with a live platform, Rapin said communication about Workday has shifted to support. The Workday website features common questions and answers, thanks to a team of people from IT, Human Resources and Business/Finance. Rapin said although Workday is up and running, the next two months of implementation will be critical as staff identifies and corrects any problems with the transition.

Rapin expressed his appreciation for the countless hours of work on this project by colleagues in IT and many other departments. 

"There was so much information in Banner to move over and for everyone to meet this timeline; it's been incredible to watch this evolve and come together," he said.

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This article was last edited on January 3, 2024 at 10:46 a.m.

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