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Final component makes Workday count for UMMC students

Published on Monday, July 19, 2021

By: Bruce Coleman

When Division of Information Systems leaders introduced a brand-new institutional Enterprise Resource Planning system to be integrated at the University of Mississippi Medical Center beginning in June 2019, the announcement represented a milestone for the institution.

Workday would become the largest and most comprehensive ERP in UMMC’s rich technological history. With the recent deployment of Workday Student, the final phase of the Medical Center’s overall Workday implementation strategy, the two-year transition from the old systems is now complete.

Logan Smith, senior information technology communications analyst, said the Medical Center is one of the first academic health professions educational institutions in the country to fully implement Workday. It is an accomplishment worth celebrating - as much for the coordinated effort among Division of Information Systems personnel, institutional leadership, faculty and staff volunteers and representatives of business partner Accenture as for the vast improvements in everyday functionality and services Workday provides.

Al Faulk, senior director of information technology, said the conversion to Workday began with human resources, payroll and finances in 2019, pivoted to supply chain management, student recruiting and admissions in 2020. The change concluded with student records, curriculum management, financial aid and student financials this summer. The project was completed on time and within the budget approved at the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

“Workday Student is live right now and new and incoming scholars have a brand new product with which to interact administratively with their respective schools at UMMC,” said Heidi Shoemake, director of academic technology and communications and student lead for the Workday conversion. “Now we are working on the migration of historical student data, which will be available within a couple of months. When that is done, the entire Workday migration will be complete.

“Workday Student brings together a number of previously segmented applications and encompasses a number of different modules that include student recruiting and admissions, student records, curriculum management, academic advising, student finance and financial aid. As an organization, that really gives us the opportunity to increase transparency and provides greater access to valuable data.”

Shoemake said from an end-user perspective, Workday Student provides a much better user experience.

“Users can access their records from any type of mobile device,” she said. “Now they are able to log into Workday Student on their device, access their academic or financial records and make any updates, if required.”

For example, she said students now have the capability of logging into their respective Workday Student profiles to fulfill departmental requests; view their student tuition and fees and make a payment; look up their grades; find out which courses are needed to graduate; and register for classes when registration is open - all from their smartphones.

Shoemake said the overall goal of Workday Student is to provide a positive experience for students and the entire academic community at UMMC.

“We really wanted a platform that was modern and had the flexibility to continue to grow as higher education changes,” she said. “Covid was a perfect example of the need for the system to be adaptable to unforeseen changes.”

Such a comprehensive transition required a high degree of planning, a tremendous amount of coordination and a heavy dose of training. Each aspect of the migration strategy was daunting in its own right, but throw in the pitfalls of a global pandemic, and the degree of difficulty for implementing the system within the defined parameters skyrocketed.

“March 2020 would have been the month we would have had in-person training classes, bringing in people to sit in a classroom with their peers, have lectures and do hands-on work,” Faulk said. “Our Command Center model had a bunch of people in a large conference room with phones ready to take calls.

“All of a sudden, everything changed.”

The pandemic required all in-person training and assistance to shift to a virtual environment, a disruption, as it turned out, that Workday Implementation Team members were already prepared to navigate.

“We thought there was a potential that the COVID-19 pandemic could occur, so we talked about what methods, what software we would use, just in case,” said Julie Green, information technology program manager for training and communications in DIS. “We thought it through and knew what kind of path we wanted to take to get people registered and trained.

“I think everything went well. I was really proud of our team.”

Faulk said DIS personnel worked overtime to create online training content, produce a virtual classroom experience that rivaled in-person instruction, and provide remote support for the Workday Command Center. The department set up web conferencing capability, routed telephone calls to individuals working from home and provided assistance to Workday analysts, functional leads and Accenture representatives to ensure the scheduled migrations were completed on time.

“I missed having everybody in the Command Center,” Faulk said. “That’s always a fun time. But I’m extremely proud of the work we were able to do.

“The situation required a lot of adapting but I was lucky to have a lot of creative individuals on the team who were able to make it happen, and UMMC definitely benefitted from that.”

The overall Workday application itself is packed with advantages. As a cloud-based system, Faulk said Workday doesn’t require the institution to purchase additional hardware, servers or storage just to keep the system running.

“All of our data is in one of the Workday data centers, so we don’t have to manage the hardware,” he said.      

Twice a year, Workday automatically pushes out a system-wide update, so every customer is always using the most up-to-date version of the application.

“I think it’s a big deal to have a company that is committed to listening to its customers and developing enhancements to make sure the application is working well,” Green said.

The final piece to the transition process - converting the institution’s historical student data into Workday so transcripts can be made available - is expected to be completed by the end of September.

“The next phase will be how we make Workday better,” Faulk said. “How to get information in the right hands so our leaders can make decisions more quickly. We will keep making improvements because it’s a system that works, and we’re looking forward to making tweaks that will improve the user experience.”

Throughout the transition, DIS has continued to communicate with end-users about how they can get the most out of their Workday experience, from the digital “What’s Up with Workday” newsletter and an Instagram page at @disatummc to the convenient announcements within the application itself.

“We knew we were enacting a lot of change in a short amount of time,” Faulk said. “We needed to be out front, methodical with our communication strategy and consistently get feedback about how well we were communicating. We need to talk to our end users and engage our change ambassadors: ‘Here are the messages we have sent out, are the messages landing? What’s the best way we can stay in contact?’

“We were very intentional in the way we wanted to deliver the content. We’ve used social media, email, videos and digital signage across campus.”

Faulk said UMMC can be proud of its new system.

“There should be tremendous pride in the system that we have, in what we were able to accomplish,” he said. “The change we were able to bring to the organization is impressive. It’s not just a hospital system, it’s used around the globe - probably by every major name you can think of.

“The work doesn’t stop just because we’ve brought this last piece live. We’re going to continue to work on it and continue to make it better.”