Cyclones graduate from green screens to the cloud.

Iowa State University connects finance, HR and IT with an adaptable administrative model that boosts efficiency and metrics.


Increases insights and control over cost centres

Saves time with flexible, holistic digital workflows

Reduces the average time needed to hire new staff by almost half

Implements new processes weeks to months faster

Shared and applied knowledge leads to solutions that make the world a better place. This principle guides the mission of Iowa State University (ISU) and propels its innovation. Not only is ISU the birthplace of the world’s first electronic digital computer and high-resolution virtual reality lab, but it also ranks among the top 100 worldwide universities for U.S. patents. 

For decades, ISU kept its administrative budgets modest by using mainframe-based applications and paper-based workflows. However, the school recognised that instead of saving money, its legacy systems and operating models were beginning to hinder goals and drive up costs. Any minor reporting or application change involved finding a programmer with scarce COBOL skills. And because people don’t want to learn end-of-life technologies, hiring was a challenge. 

Additionally, the siloed systems reinforced department-focused strategies and change resistance. Kristen Constant, chief information officer at ISU, says, “Our industry is always trying to do more with less, but over the past few years, we’ve seen agility become another critical requirement. Today, student and department needs change so quickly that to be strategic and efficient, we had to adopt a collaborative operational model that was easy to update.”

Workday allows us to easily adjust the system to support how we want to operate.

Chief Information Officer

Cyclones build momentum with one cloud.

The university spent more than a year evaluating IT solutions and chose Workday Financial Management, Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) and Workday Adaptive Planning. “Workday provides a seamless, cloud-based foundation for university operations”, says Constant. “And unlike our previous systems that were rigid, Workday allows us to easily adjust the system to support how we want to operate.”

We were able to quickly recalibrate our finance and HR operations . . .  with Workday.

Vice President of University Human Resources

The big bang.

Rather than slowly rolling out its new solution, ISU opted to make a clean switch to its new holistic shared services model and deploy Workday Financial Management and Workday HCM at the same time. Pam Cain, senior vice president of Operations and Finance at ISU, says, “All processes touch each other, so deploying everything in one big bang was right for us.”

To establish a cohesive set of requirements, each department had a deployment planning team with a representative from finance, HR and IT. Cain explains, “We utilised the capabilities within Workday to effectively set up workflows coordinating our new finance and HR business processes with our new shared services structures.”

I cannot even estimate the extra weeks and months it would have taken us to make the necessary budget adjustments . . . without our new system.

Senior Vice President of Operations and Finance

A lesson in clickable adaptability.

Now that digital workflows are easy to adjust, ISU is quickly adapting how people work so it can better support emerging needs and strategies. Changes made by the finance team include the addition of more than 44,000 new COVID-19-related expenses. Cain explains, “In the two months before the pandemic, we had started deploying a new budget system with Workday Adaptive Planning. It automates manual processes for hundreds of budgets and enables the required checks and balances and reporting. I cannot even estimate the extra weeks and months it would have taken us to make the necessary budget adjustments during the pandemic without our new system.”

Commenting on HR’s agility during the pandemic, Kristi Darr, vice president of University HR at ISU, says, “We were able to quickly recalibrate our finance and HR operations because of the reporting capabilities we’ve added with Workday. We immediately tracked new types of expenses with worktags, changed how we handle employee leave to accommodate new COVID requirements, and streamlined how we manage remote workers.”

Stay on course with easy adjustments.

ISU continues to refine other processes, such as the addition of new approvals to certain workflows and the removal of unnecessary steps in procurement processes. “All of these changes would have taken many times the number of hours to accomplish with legacy systems”, concludes Cain. “Being able to quickly adjust our digital workflows as we improve our understanding and collaboration between finance, HR and IT helps us advance our shared service model.”

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