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Workday Delivers Higher Ed ERP in the Cloud

Workday, which offers software-as-a-service programs for human resources, payroll, and finance--has just announced versions of its services specifically for colleges and universities. Some combination of those applications is already being adopted by several notable universities, including Cornell, Brown, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California.

The new higher ed offerings include:

  • Workday Human Capital Management to handle human resources, leave management, benefits administration, and talent management. Self-service functions address on-boarding, performance, compensation, worker development, and succession planning.
  • Workday Payroll, which accommodates academic and fiscal year payroll calendars, multiple jobs, contract pay, labor distribution, and cost allocations.
  • Workday Financial Management, with functionality for core accounting, budgeting and planning, asset management, procurement, expenses, endowment accounting, and projects and grants management.
  • Workday Cloud Connect, which has 160 pre-built application program interfaces to tie Workday's software with other software that's likely to exist in the campus environment.

Being able to integrate HR functions with payroll was an important consideration at Cornell U in Ithaca, NY. "We don't run like a corporation. Our innovations come from the faculty and the collaborations that occur across disciplines. We need administrative systems that recognize this, that can adapt very quickly and don't get in the faculty's way," said Mary Opperman, vice president of human resources. "There was a need to streamline administrative functions in order to free up resources to put towards the university's core missions. We are very decentralized, and we recognize that we do things in different ways for very important reasons. We need flexibility that matches our academic enterprise. Workday allows us to do that."

Opperman said having payroll combined with the human capital system was important to the university since the combined services will better address the quick pace of hiring that goes on when large research awards are granted. "It's important that the systems be linked so we can get that award up and running very, very fast," she explained.

Likewise, it's expected to eliminate the need for business offices to maintain "shadow systems," which they've set up to handle tasks not provided by the existing legacy applications.

The new system, named Georgetown Management System, or GMS, will replace the university's current implementations of Genesys, PeopleSoft, and Access+, the latter a homegrown system. The initial phase of the Workday implementation is expected to go live during the first quarter of 2012.

Brown U in Providence, RI will adopt Workday's HR and payroll services first, then its finance and reporting applications. Along the way it will also implement Workday's identity management system, although the company allows a customer to use another third-party system for authentication. The new services will integrate with Brown's SunGard Higher Education Banner student system.

According to a statement on its Web site, the university is making the move to SaaS "because our current systems are very old with increasing difficulty for meeting new business and compliance requirements.... HR/Payroll is in the worst shape, 'maxed out,' and at risk of failure." The institution noted that Workday was a "good fit with Brown's needs and very user friendly." It has determined that the cloud solution is about a third less costly to implement and operate than "traditional" ERP systems.

Prior to approval, Brown CIO Michael Pickett expressed concern about security aspects of the new services. "If a vendor says, 'Cloud-based services are much more secure and robust in case there is a disaster,' you don't take those claims at face value. You make certain that people and the processes and the legal and contractual agreements are in place and that you have developed a level of trust with the provider," said Pickett, who is also the university's vice president for computing and information services.

Pickett and his team met with Workday staff to understand how the service encrypts data, how it secures its networks and firewalls, and how it protects data from outside intrusion. "Because security is so important to Workday and its customers, and because of Workday's track record in this area and the types of technologists it has [hired], we feel like the risk is controlled," he said. "We are very satisfied with what we've learned about the security of our data with Workday. We have gone over that with a fine-tooth comb through a variety of resources, including our own security experts here at Brown in our IT organization, our general counsel, talking to other users of the system, and the use of consultants."

Brown, which expects to receive significant discounts on subscription fees and implementation services, said it--along with other early adopters--has been offered seats on the vendor's advisory board to help influence future design. The planned go-live date for the first new services at Brown is July 1, 2012.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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