Iowa State officials have selected Workday, an international enterprise software firm, to help the university transform its aging human resources, finance and student records operations into a seamless, cloud-based system.
Chief financial officer Miles Lackey said Workday's enterprise resource planning system and student information software applications will bring many business functions -- accounting, billing, budgeting, employee recruiting, performance management, admissions, transcripts, grades and more -- into one integrated system.
There are many benefits to unifying applications, Lackey said. Streamlined business processes, more collaboration across units and instant access to reports and data will make the university more efficient in its everyday activities and more insightful about planning.
Workday employs "mobile-first" software -- that is, software that is written specifically for mobile devices, then adapted for desktop machines. The result is a smoother mobile experience, said chief information officer Jim Kurtenbach.
With the software, for example, students might review class schedules or transcripts, advisers might use analytics to trace students' progress or office managers might review the office budget -- all from their smartphones or laptops.
Associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Arne Hallam noted that the mobile-first software "will make it more convenient for Iowa State faculty and staff to check on things, like recruiting and financial balances on grants, at any time and from any device."
University registrar Laura Doering added the software is easy to use.
"There are no instruction manuals because you don't really need them," she said. "The application is very intuitive. And if you make an error, the application immediately lets you know so you can correct it."
No more version confusion
Doering applauded Workday's system of updating its software every six months.
"You don't have to worry about what version of the software you're on," she said. "Everyone will always be working on the same version. The upgrades are done on weekends and while they may not be as easy as installing a new app on your phone, I anticipate the process being easier than a typical software upgrade."
Another plus, according to Doering, is Workday's systematic process of soliciting feedback. Workday hosts a virtual community of customers, partners and employees who submit, discuss and vote on ideas. Often, the enhancements become a part of the six-month updates.
Student president eyes easier registration
ISU student government body president Cole Staudt got a look at mockups of student modules that may one day make class registration a cinch. Under the system, students would be able to create two- to four-year course plans and register for all their classes each semester with a single button push.
"It looks and feels really good and is easy to navigate," Staudt said.
A year-long vetting process involving hundreds of ISU employees and discussions with vendors went into the selection of Workday, Lackey said. Many months of work remain before the new system is fully functional. Moving all of Iowa State's mainframe business applications to cloud-based systems may take two to three years.
In January, staff in finance and human resources units will begin working with Workday officials to configure the new system to fit university needs and start training. This early phase will take six to eight months. After that, the plan is to phase in human resources applications first, then finance and student information.
Other Workday clients
Workday's client list includes such universities as Brown, Carnegie Mellon, Arizona State, Louisiana State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Maryland, Maine, Penn State, Wellesley and Yale. The firm is headquartered in Pleasanton, California.