More than 800 staff (including ‘Gurus’) help launch Workday Financials

On July 5, the university recently launched Workday Financials, a change that affects 15,000 users and more than 160 administrative systems across the campus.
Staff members of the Yale Department of Human Resources.

Staff members from across campus have been trained to serve as Local Workday Gurus to assist users of Workday Financials. They include (from left) Stephanie Signore, finance & administrative manager, oncology; Alicia Chasse, financial assistant, academic services; Suseela Jayaram, financial assistant, surgery; Robin Winfield, financial analyst, surgery; Dina Lanteri, operations manager, cardiology; and Bob Hughes, operations manager, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library. (Photo by William Sacco)

As technology advances, mobile device use increases, and institutional needs shift, Yale has been adapting to meet these challenges. The university recently instituted a sweeping change that has affected 15,000 users and more than 160 administrative systems across the campus.

When Workday Financials launched on July 5, many key functions of the university moved to the new platform, including expense reimbursement, purchasing, grants management, financial management, and financial reporting. The launch was the second phase of a multiyear program to replace outdated Oracle administrative software with a modern integrated solution. In 2015, the program team rolled out human resources, academic, and payroll Workday modules.

“Yale’s implementation of Workday is the most robust and comprehensive in higher education today,” said Nancy Creel-Gross, associate vice president for human resources operations and Workday@Yale. “We knew an implementation at this scale would require equally robust training, support, and communication efforts.”

To help Yale staff and faculty make the smoothest possible transition, the Workday@Yale program established a “Change Network” of more than 375 administrators and staff members who disseminate information about Workday Financials and provide support before and after launch. New in this phase of the Workday implementation is the team of trained Local Workday Gurus, Yale staff members who offer business process support to those who use Workday Financials.

Sarath Kraus, the Change Network lead and a project manager at Yale, believes the creation of the Gurus will help the adoption of this major change. “People can feel siloed and isolated when a new technology disrupts their routine,” she said. “The Gurus are a way of connecting people to the Workday project and each other. All different levels are involved — administrative assistants, financial assistants, operations managers, accountants.”

Program coordinator Alina Colossale and administrative assistant Kathy Swanson explore Workday’s desktop and mobile applications. (Photo by JoAnn Wilcox)

Building optimism and anticipation was also a goal. “We want to get them excited, and to have them spread that excitement,” Kraus said.

Enhancements the new financial system brings include the ability to make purchases and submit expenses in one system; to submit receipts anytime, anywhere using the Workday mobile application; and to access real-time financial reports and information.

“There’s definitely a buzz,” said Keith McGibbon, a Guru who is manager of the Business Office Operation Support Team (BOOST) program for the Yale School of Medicine. “People are curious about the new system and what it can do. It’s going to be great when people are actually immersed in Workday doing the work.”

Being a Guru has been a growth experience for McGibbon, who said he sharpened his teaching and public speaking skills by volunteering to lead training classes. “It’s exciting and energizing to collaborate across departments and meet people you otherwise wouldn’t have met.”

Darlene Jones, a Guru who serves as operations manager for the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (FES), said the Guru program will help her school adjust to the new system. She and her colleagues have set up their own clinics to help staff members set up their Workday inboxes and get used to new processes. “We thought it really important to be proactive. There will be some people who aren’t comfortable, but we’re here to walk them through it. The system itself is not hard to use,” she said. 

In addition to developing the Local Workday Guru team, preparations for the rollout of Workday Financials included organizing auditorium sessions, instructor-led training, and clinics; creating training guides, reference materials, and web-based instruction; and establishing a new Finance Support Center to address user questions.

All told, more than 800 Yale staff members — including technical and functional experts, trainers, change specialists, project managers, and leaders — have helped the Workday Financials implementation reach its objectives of simplified and standardized processes, minimized administrative overhead, lower costs, and improved reporting.

“We’ve just launched, and we’re looking forward to making continual improvements to Workday in support of Yale’s important mission to advance, disseminate, and preserve knowledge,” said Stephen Murphy, vice president for finance and chief financial officer. “I’m grateful for everyone who is making this happen — the outstanding project team that has been working on this for several years, the Gurus, the Change Network, and also all the users of Workday@Yale who are taking the time to learn this new tool.”

For more information, visit the Workday@Yale website.

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Julienne Hadley:, 203-436-9713