WorkCyte phase II will benefit from lessons learned

While the four-year process of implementing Workday Student and Receivables will be complex, the second phase of the WorkCyte initiative has many advantages over the first phase, vice president and chief information officer Kristen Constant told the Professional and Scientific Council at its July 1 meeting.

Constant outlined some of those advantages:

  • Additional staff will be hired to backfill some of the usual duties of ISU employees working on phase II.
  • University staff -- instead of consultants -- will oversee the project's communications and change management.
  • Project leaders are seeking employee input and establishing reporting needs earlier in the implementation process. Co-lead Steve Mickelson said 180 people have participated in faculty and staff focus groups, which will continue this fall.
  • Phase II benefits from ground covered during ISU's first adoption of an enterprise software product, when Workday for human resources, payroll and finance launched in 2019. That project gave information technology services (ITS) staff experience working with an enterprise program and informed the decision to use Workday's recommended timeline -- including staggered go-live dates for five different stages.
  • Unlike the first Workday project, implementing Workday Student and Receivables won't require a concurrent transition to a new accounting system and service delivery model.
  • Because of the pandemic, faculty and staff now have much more experience working in a "distributed workforce" environment than they did in 2019.

"The big difference between the two is this is our second rodeo. We know a lot more than we did the first time around. We're putting those lessons learned into practice," Constant said.

As the implementation of Workday Student and Receivables begins, improvements continue on the Workday software already in use on campus. Constant said based on service evaluations and focus group feedback, ITS plans to hire two additional staff for training and communications.

"What we found is that in many cases the challenges of using Workday and service delivery teams to the best effect were related to knowing what to do and how to accomplish certain tasks," she said.

Flex work plan on track

The council's meeting was held on the first day that ISU employees who had been working remotely during the pandemic were required to be back in their on-site workspaces. About one-third of faculty and staff worked remotely throughout the pandemic, one-third worked on campus and one-third worked on campus intermittently, said Andrea Little, university human resources (UHR) associate director for employee and labor relations.

A new program that would allow ongoing flexible work arrangements for staff in some cases is still on track to be finalized in October, Little said. Until then, supervisors should not create new ongoing flexible work arrangements. However, supervisors still can provide staff the same short-term flexibility they would have before the pandemic, including incidental work from home, as long as employees still fulfill their job responsibilities.

Constant said ITS is currently running a pilot project that allows staff to continue to work from the office or remotely. Evaluating the ITS pilot will help guide campuswide consideration of flexible work guidelines.

Impact of new law

An FAQ on Iowa's new law relating to racism and sexism training provides guidance from university counsel and the provost's office on how ISU training and teaching may be affected, provost and senior vice president Jonathan Wickert told the council. Workshops on the topic will be held with deans, department chairs, faculty and staff in the coming weeks, he said. 

Passed by the state Legislature in March, House File 802 prohibits public universities such as Iowa State from conducting mandatory employee or student trainings that teach, advocate, act upon, or promote 10 specific concepts defined in the law. The FAQ includes guidance on how to evaluate trainings, programs, events and course material to ensure compliance. Iowa State remains committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, Wickert said.  

"We believe the law will affect only a small number of programs, but it's very important for decision-makers to be aware of the law so we can make good choices and reduce our risk of violating the letter or intent of the law," he said. 

Faculty Senate president Andrea Wheeler told the council a senate committee will begin work this fall on revising the new learning outcomes for U.S. diversity courses approved by the senate in May to ensure they follow state law and have a clear plan for implementation. 

Ransomware protection growing

As ransomware attacks grow more common, ITS is bolstering its defenses against the threat, in consultation with vendor partners and relevant agencies, Constant said.

"We have had to ratchet up our response, both in preventative measures and in how rapidly we respond to things," she said.