Brown University, an Ivy League institution located in Providence, Rhode Island, was founded in 1764. While Brown is the seventh oldest college in the country, it's recognized for a unique and modern curriculum and learning philosophy. The Brown community includes approximately 8,400 students, 700 faculty, and 3,000 staff members.
As an employer, Brown supports a large and diverse workforce. However, its mainframe-based Human Resources, Payroll, and Financial systems fall short in meeting modern needs and goals for attracting, managing, and retaining its workforce, and for aligning and tracking spending to university objectives and goals.
"The current system doesn't tell us a lot about our employees, be they faculty or staff, and very few people have access to the system," explains Karen Davis, Vice President for Human Resources at Brown. "When we hire talented people, it's important that we're able to give them the tools that they need to do the work of this great university. It's been very challenging for all of us to work without good data and without easy access to the various functions that come along with a modern-day system."
Like other universities, Brown faces significant budget pressures, which have intensified in recent years due to the difficult economy. In early 2011, Brown University chose Workday, a unified administrative system that includes Human Capital Management, Payroll, and Financial Management applications and is delivered on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Workday's lower-cost, subscription-based SaaS delivery model played a significant part in Brown's decision to choose Workday over other solutions that required high up-front licensing, substantial maintenance costs, and more resources to manage and maintain.
"We were thinking that we would have to spend a lot more—in terms of the carrying cost of a new financial and HR system—with an on-premises solution than we're anticipating with the Workday SaaS product," says
Elizabeth "Beppie" Huidekoper, Brown's Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration. "Our ability to re-allocate resources that would've been required [for a traditional ERP solution] in IT, Payroll, and HR to other areas is a huge benefit to Brown," she adds.
In addition, the unification of HCM, Payroll, and Financial Management will allow Brown to share information across departments in a way that's never been possible. This new flow of data is expected to improve the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of business processes and how people work together.
"More than fifty percent of our budget is tied to personnel-related costs," notes Don Schanck, Assistant Vice President and University Controller at Brown. "It's important to identify staff and dollars associated in different organizational areas. The ability to easily get at that information, to tie it to planning and strategic objectives at the university, will certainly improve using the Workday system."
In 2008, Brown had budgeted for the implementation of traditional on-site software for HR, Payroll, and Financials, but those plans were deferred after the Wall Street financial crisis hit and the country slipped into a recession. "Now, having selected Workday three years later, I think this was all meant to be," Huidekoper says. "We have been enormously fortunate to be able to skip almost two generations of systems in the ERP software industry, and take advantage of Workday."
Michael Pickett, Vice President for Computing and Information Services and CIO at Brown, first learned about Workday in early 2011. He was intrigued that Workday had been founded by software industry luminary Dave Duffield; that other top-rate universities were either considering or already implementing Workday; and that Workday used a cloud-computing model.
"Brown had recently implemented Google Apps for Education due to a similar kind of situation: We had a very old infrastructure that would have taken a lot of infusion of new cash to bring it up to spec [to support traditional productivity applications]. We were keeping our eyes open for making a generational leap, and we did that with Google Apps. With that experience under our belt, we thought, well, maybe we can continue to be adventurous and consider something like Workday for our administrative needs."
Pickett had some concerns about SaaS, including privacy and control of data and business continuity. There were also cultural considerations typical of a traditional Ivy League school founded on the principles of critical thought. "You have to prove or disprove," Pickett says. "So if a vendor says, 'Cloud-based services are much more secure and robust in case there is a disaster,' you don't take those claims at face value. You make certain that people and the processes and the legal and contractual agreements are in place and that you have developed a level of trust with the provider.
Pickett and his team had intense discussions with Workday about how it encrypts data, the security of its networks and firewalls, and how it protects data from outside intrusion. "Because security is so important to Workday and its customers, and because of Workday's track record in this area and the types of technologists it has [hired], we feel like the risk is controlled," Pickett says.
"We are very satisfied with what we've learned about the security of our data with Workday," Davis says. "We have gone over that with a fine-tooth comb through a variety of resources, including our own security experts here at Brown in our IT organization, our general counsel, talking to other users of the system, and the use of consultants."
A clear advantage of SaaS over traditional software, Pickett says, is that Brown's IT staff doesn't have to maintain or customize SaaS. "If we had installed the standard '90s architecture ERP, we would have needed additional staff to support it," Pickett says.
Meanwhile, the use of SaaS— first with Google Apps and now Workday—is allowing Brown to free up IT resources for strategic university projects, such as a new mobile Web site for Brown that runs natively on any mobile device and will "open up a new way for how we communicate and how we do our work for teaching and learning and research at Brown," Pickett says. "We created this mobile app using resources that no longer need to be applied to older technologies, and can now be used for challenging things that will help to distinguish Brown in new ways."
On the administrative side, Brown's IT staff can now focus on how systems work together, to bring data together in new ways for faculty and staff, rather than being "down in the heart of the coal room, shoveling coal to make the steam engine run," Pickett says. "This is much more creative work, and this is much more, in some ways, groundbreaking work. These efforts will make Brown a more interesting and effective institution, made possible when we are no longer directing our valuable yet scarce IT resources towards keeping the engines running."
Workday also will help support new programs and initiatives at Brown. The university is looking to expand continuing education and online course programs, for example, and will need new types of staff for programs that attract new types of students. Brown is looking to Workday to help it staff up quickly with people best suited for the new jobs. "We are used to having very long lead times, and needing very long lead times, to make that kind of a change," Davis says. "Knowing that we're going to have a system that can keep up with the pace of change [the new programs] represent is a big relief."
Workday also represents the first time Brown will be able to offer employees a fully self-service HR system. Employees will view their benefits, expenses, time-off balances, mailing addresses, and more from a single system, and will be able to easily update that information without relying on the burdensome, paper-based system they have today. Workday, meanwhile, will provide managers with a clear view and details about their employees, allowing them to make better-informed decisions about hiring and reallocations, and tools for succession planning and employee career development.
Workday solutions include state-of-the-art reporting tools and built-in actionable analytics. Davis says, "We've had a chance to look at some of the analytic capabilities in Workday, and we can't wait to be able to take advantage of them. It's not just that that analytic capability is there; it is presented in a really user-friendly way. It is easy to get the data that you want out of Workday, and to configure and develop reports to support decision-making and strategic planning."
"I'm also hoping for community buy-in to the importance of data and the importance of a modern infrastructure to support the work we do," Davis says. "I think the minute we get it, people will understand what they've been missing."
Davis says Workday's modern interface and the ability to access the system from a mobile device or computer outside the university will appeal to Brown's changing workforce.
"Younger members of our workforce are coming from sophisticated employers or universities where they've had the equivalent of employee self-service and where they've used social media," Davis says. "Thinking about that from an employee's perspective is really important for all of us as we face increased pressure to recruit the best and the brightest faculty and staff."
A huge relief for Brown, Davis says, will be a standardized payroll system that will replace a number of disparate computer and paper-based processes—and reduce a considerable amount of manual work. "There are a lot of people at Brown today who spend a lot of time, energy, and, quite frankly, talent trying to tally things up to result in a standardized payroll, a standardized report, a standardized set of data for decision making," Davis says. "I'd really rather spend those people resources on using that data to make decisions."
Workday will allow Brown to match financial resources with organizational structures more easily. "It will help us in analyzing and reviewing resource allocation and deciding which objectives are critical to the institution," Schanck says. "The unification of HR and finance facilitate getting at that real-time information, something that we haven't had in our systems."
Like other universities, Brown University receives government and private sector funding for many programs, and has compliance requirements unique to higher education. Workday's "worktags" and the ability to set up internal controls, will ensure that funding and other types of financial transactions can be properly identified, routed, tracked, and audited, and go through the proper review and approval processes, Schanck says.
"I'm very excited about the prospect of introducing standard, improved business processes to the university community," Schanck says. "It's something that people have wanted for quite some time. Whether it's entering payroll and timesheets, travel expense reports, or employee reimbursements, Workday is going to help tremendously in improving those processes. It's going to be a real timesaver to university offices, administrators, faculty, and staff."
Before choosing Workday, Brown University talked to universities that are already customers of Workday. Brown personnel from all involved departments—IT, HR, and Finance—are excited by what they view as rapidly growing community for Workday in higher education. Customers can share ideas and work with Workday to continually build new features and functionality into the product that meet their unique needs as educational institutions.
"Dave Duffield is committed to the higher education market," Schanck says. "We had a number of discussions about the product, where it's going, and how he feels about higher education. He's had a number of past successes in innovating products for higher education, and he's committed to making Workday work for higher ed."
Davis is impressed by Workday's responsiveness. "Workday listens," she says. "I know current customers would tell you, as they've told me and my colleagues here at Brown, how good and responsive Workday has been" to suggestions and requests for features and functionality.
"The relationships we've been able to enjoy with the people at Workday have been terrific," Huidekoper says. "It feels fresh, it feels new, it feels exciting."
Huidekoper points to some of the words Brown team members have been using to describe the Workday project: "Excited," "It's about time," "Freeing," and "Optimistic" are among them, she says. "You don't hear that often on a team that's about to implement a large ERP system," Huidekoper says. "That has to do with the relationship that we've had so far with Workday."
This kit contains three datasheets. Workday Higher Education, HCM for Higher Education, and Payroll for Higher Education
Georgetown University, Cornell University and Brown University, are actively partnering with Workday to move their on-premise administrative systems into the cloud.