Leaders present improvement plans for Workday, service teams

In a presentation last week to the Professional and Scientific Council, top administrators overseeing the shift to Workday and service delivery teams outlined plans for improving the systems.

Iowa State overhauled how it handles finance, payroll and human resources transactions this summer, launching on July 1 new software for business processes (Workday) and a reorganization of the staff who do most HR and finance work (improved service delivery). The more centralized HR and finance teams -- as well as information technology (IT) staff -- also began using a common ticketing platform (ServiceNow) to respond to service requests.

Given the breadth of the changes, which involved transferring more than 600,000 records from legacy systems, much has gone right with the transition, said interim senior vice president for operations and finance Pam Cain.

"We implemented all these things all at the same time, a big bang. But guess what? Nothing blew up. Some of our patience did, I know that. But nothing in the systems," she said.

For instance, Cain pointed out, fewer than 50 of roughly 10,000 university employees saw their paychecks delayed. That effort took time, though. Interim vice president of university human resources Kristi Darr said that in July, her staff was focused predominantly on ensuring payroll went as smoothly as it did.

Cain, Darr and interim vice president and chief information officer Kristen Constant discussed at the council's Sept. 5 meeting what progress they're seeking this fall on a variety of issues related to Workday and service teams. The work to improve the systems is ongoing, with dozens of fixes daily, Darr said, and she expects it'll be a continual process.

"What we're committed to is incremental change," Darr said.


Service requests for HR (HR_delivery@iastate.edu) and finance (finance_delivery@iastate.edu) automatically route to the service delivery team assigned to the sender's unit. Those emails and IT requests sent to solution@iastate.edu are tracked and managed with ServiceNow, a third-party ticketing program.

It's clear from feedback that some faculty and staff think the ticket system is impersonal and too slow, Darr said. She said HR service teams are working on improving their response times, which is more difficult as increasingly individualized concerns emerge.

"Those first few weeks, we felt like we could troubleshoot something fairly quickly. They're more complicated now. I had someone troubleshoot one ticket for eight hours yesterday," she said.

Regardless, Darr said HR specialists will aim to acknowledge and assign every request for service within one day. When possible, they will contact by phone people who submit a ticket, she said.

"We want to put the human back into these connections," she said.

On the finance side, specialists are experiencing heavy workloads, some with a queue of more than 1,000 pending tickets at times, Cain said. Leaders are looking for ways to balance those demands among service teams.

"We need to be a little more flexible," Cain said.  

Some changes have improved ServiceNow already. All service requests receive an automatically generated email response, which at first included a priority designation. But since Iowa State was not using the priority feature, all requests were marked as a "low" priority. Constant said that field has been removed from the auto-response emails.

Additional features of ServiceNow will be put in place in the future, possibly including priority-setting that may help triage lengthy inboxes.

"We'll use more of it. We can do better," Constant said.


Cain and Darr both said specialists on their service teams need more guidance. Finance managers are meeting individually with team members to evaluate training needs in Workday and customer service, Cain said. Darr said planned post-launch training should begin soon and will help specialists find answers more readily. 

"I've been really impressed by their curiosity and eagerness to learn," Darr said of HR specialists.

Service teams aren't alone in needing additional instruction. Unit-level staff who support the hiring and management of student employees and graduate assistants will receive additional training and assistance, Darr said. Transitioning student employee personnel data to Workday often was cumbersome, she said.

There are more job aids coming, the step-by-step tips for specific tasks. HR and finance teams are developing job aids geared toward particular employee types, including ones designed for faculty. Constant said IT also is working on embedding links to job aids in Workday so users can easily access available and relevant help.  


The new workflow that comes with a reorganized staff working in an unfamiliar software platform -- at the same as the university's accounting moves from cash-based to the accrual method -- needs some significant recalibration, the administrators said.

A big piece of that is figuring out what data and reports people need and making sure that information is available. Workday assigns security roles to positions, which determines what they can access. Cain said security roles already have been refined in some cases, such as when job duties require access to compensation details, but more work remains on that front. Darr said HR leaders also are evaluating security roles and access.

Cain said some finance specialists have been hired since go-live to beef up service teams with heavy workloads, and leaders are studying how to streamline approval chains and possibly tweak service team structures and office locations. Currently, there's too much redundancy in how some processes are routed, she said, which bloats the workload for finance teams.

To more clearly define roles on and outside of service teams, Cain said finance leaders are mapping out business processes again from end-to-end, looking for efficiencies.

Employees can help lighten the finance workload -- and save time themselves -- by including receipts for their purchase cards when submitting expenses, Cain said.

Feedback and communication

Strengthening lines of communication and feedback mechanisms is another priority.

Recently, users who submitted an IT service request started receiving a feedback solicitation after the request is resolved, with a smiley-face rating scale and a box for writing additional comments, Constant said. The automatic review email will soon extend to resolved HR and finance issues, too.

The WorkCyte leadership team created a new email account, WorkCyte_feedback@iastate.edu, for collecting general comments -- not requests for immediate service -- about Workday and service delivery, including concerns and issues but also any notes of appreciation.

Constant said HR, finance and IT teams collaborate closely and pool the questions they receive in service tickets to make sure they're on the same page and aren't repeating work. Progress on some of the more common issues reported are shared on the WorkCyte website.

Employees who feel their service requests aren't remedied by front-line specialists should keep in mind that the HR and finance service organizations have multiple levels of management, Darr said. She urged faculty and staff to escalate any unresolved issues.

"We appreciate folks reaching out. Pick up the phone and let us know," she said.

In other business

Council members approved their strategic initiatives for 2019-20, after a first reading at their August meeting. The priorities include improving employee engagement, strengthening advocacy, making pay and benefits more competitive, and creating a more supportive and welcoming work environment.