Customized workbooks will deliver research financial reports to faculty

Faculty frustrated by the search demands in Workday for financial reports related to their research, take note. A months-long effort to develop customized report sets -- called workbooks -- for every ISU faculty member enters a final phase next month. During individual conversations with faculty, a grant specialist (who works with sponsored funds) and finance specialist (unsponsored funds) will explain the report options, and faculty will select what they need in their custom workbook. Finance service delivery leaders will meet with academic fiscal officers next week to discuss scheduling those conversations.

Once the workbooks are set up, the specialists will schedule an update for each workbook with that individual's data set as often as requested: weekly, monthly or quarterly. Faculty will access and read their workbook in Workday's Drive option. They'll also have the option to download it as an Excel or PDF document.

Associate vice president for finance and support services Heather Paris, who's part of the operations and finance/information technology team collaborating on the project, calls the workbook a "one-stop shop delivered to faculty with the reporting they need -- across all funding sources -- to make decisions."

Finance service delivery specialists will begin contacting faculty in September. With about 60 specialists and an estimated 1,500 researchers, Paris estimated that task will take most of fall semester.

"We see this as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between faculty and the finance delivery specialists they work with, who can be a great source of information and assistance for them," she said.

Faculty input from the beginning

The project team worked with the Faculty Senate's executive board as it developed the workbook template in June. To test and further refine the template, the team then worked with the senate's research planning and policy committee to hold outreach sessions with faculty from each college; those are wrapping up this week.

That collaboration was critical to the process, Paris said.

"Faculty members have given us good feedback about what we can do to improve it further. But they love that they have all the data in one place, it includes all sources of funding, they can take it into Excel and they can filter it to see it in different views," she said. "It includes balance information as well as transaction detail if they want to get into the weeds.

"We can set up a workbook specific to the needs of a co-principal investigator versus a lead PI. We can include the worktags (account numbers) they need. It's really about what best meets their needs."

Game changer

A critical piece in Iowa State's search for improved faculty reporting came in May. Workday rolled out an enhancement to its Worksheet spreadsheet function that allows users to select composite -- or multiple-sourced -- reports from live data in Workday. Paris said Iowa State and other clients had been asking for this capability via Workday Community, a forum for Workday clients.

"That was a game changer for us," she said. "We knew faculty were frustrated about the time they were spending locating financial information, and that was the catalyst that allowed us to create a reporting solution for them that isn't a self-service model."

Condensed version of reports

Over the summer, Paris said the project team also looked at ways to improve the five Worksheet reports available for a faculty workbook. Based on faculty feedback that some reports simply contain too much information, the team created condensed versions for four of them. For example, the number of columns in a report is reduced by about half, focusing on the information faculty said they need. And tweaks to the format help with a consistent look from one report to the next. The five Iowa State reports available for a faculty workbook are listed below; condensed versions exist for the first four:

  • Driver Worktag Balance for PI/Faculty
  • Transaction Detail for PI/Faculty
  • Labor Summary for PI/Faculty
  • SPA PI Unspent Report
  • Faculty Startup Budget