The Latest on Ohio State’s Workday Student Deployment

Principal Analyst

Top of Mind: What Went Wrong with Ohio State’s Workday Student Implementation?
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is an opinion piece informed by research. Contributors participated under the condition of anonymity.

The Ohio State University is one of the most watched institutions in the U.S. because of its current Workday project. OSU is deploying Workday Financial Management and Human Capital Management (HCM) and has plans to deploy Workday Student.

OSU is a member of the Big 10, an R1 university, and an AAU institution, among other prestigious affiliations. The university is a long-time Oracle PeopleSoft customer for a multitude of products, including finance, HR/payroll, and student information systems. The decision to move to Workday Financial Management, Workday HCM, and Workday Student was significant for OSU, Oracle, and Workday. OSU was an early adopter of the PeopleSoft solutions for higher education. In fact, OSU was one of PeopleSoft’s first customers for PeopleSoft Campus Solutions in the mid-1990s. Once Oracle acquired PeopleSoft, OSU became an important and strategic customer for Oracle. The win for Workday means that Workday has an opportunity to deliver its new cloud solution to one of Oracle’s most coveted higher education customers.

The significance of the opportunity seems clear to Workday and to OSU. Workday openly talks about the win as well as the company’s intention to deliver Workday Student to meet the needs of OSU. Workday has been candid in open forums that the company plans to deliver functionality to meet the requirements of OSU. Tambellini believes that OSU is the bellwether R1.

OSU had a firm timeline to deploy Workday’s Financial Management, HCM, and Student solutions, but on August 19, 2019, they announced that the Workday Student project timeline could not be met. The finance and HCM projects continue and are on schedule, but the Workday Student project is paused while OSU determines the next steps. There was no prior indication from OSU or Workday that the Student project was not on track, and the announcement was made with no advance communication.

Every large project faces difficulties. The market may never fully know what happened or why Workday Student was not delivered to OSU on the timeline as anticipated. The pause causes concerns for other institutions, deployment partners, and vendors.

It could be explained as Workday being unable to meet OSU’s requirements in the agreed-upon timeline.

Tambellini assumes—based on public presentations, conversations, and open information—that the timeline for OSU to deploy Workday Student was agreed upon with Workday. The implication is that Workday understood what functionality would be required to meet minimum go-live requirements. With such high expectations at Workday, at OSU, and in the market, it is unimaginable that Workday entered lightly into what could turn out to be a self-defeating contract for itself.

From the time it launched its Student solution, Workday has said that the company is building the Student solution to meet the needs of R1 institutions. The anticipated delivery of core functionality for R1s was to come in 2020. Tambellini is aware of one R1 university going live on some components of Workday Student in 2020, but our research shows that their requirements are not as complex OSU’s. The timeframe for a more complex R1 to be using Workday Student as a replacement for a legacy SIS is unknown.

OSU indicates that it is committed to Workday for the Student solution. The project will be on pause at least until the Workday Student solution meets minimum requirements for OSU to go live. Tambellini imagines that OSU and Workday have been focused on identifying gaps and requirements for Workday to deliver for OSU to go live.

OSU has a long history of partnering with vendors on initiatives. In the mid-1990s, OSU was an early adopter of PeopleSoft solutions. Over the years, OSU was one of PeopleSoft’s most highly valued customer advisors.

OSU has been willing to take risks for the sake of enabling change in higher education technology and has benefitted from pricing concessions as well as early product input. The Workday Student project is the type of project that is familiar to OSU. The risks and potential rewards are high.

OSU obviously determined that pausing the Workday Student deployment would be the best option for the university. It appears that OSU is unable to justify keeping the project team fully engaged on a project that is not on a timeline for deployment A public memo explaining the decision to stakeholders does not include any information regarding a new potential timeline. The reader might consider what was left unsaid.

OSU is committed to transparency and has proactively published considerable information about the project. Workday has also spoken about the OSU selection and the company’s commitment to delivering a Student solution for complex R1s. Tambellini receives numerous inquiries each week regarding the viability of Oracle versus Workday Student in higher education. As more public, four-year institutions consider the future of their finance, HCM, and student systems, Workday is under the spotlight. It was the first public company to announce that it would deliver a cloud Student solution for higher education. Less complex institutions such as Indian River State College and Wellesley are live on Workday Student.

Workday is using modern development techniques, has modern tools, has top talent in sales and marketing focused on higher education. The decision at OSU to pause the Workday Student deployment is certainly disappointing. Like many others, Tambellini is closely watching and hoping—for the sake of all institutions—that the deployment can be “un-paused” and get back on schedule quickly.

Workday confirms that to deliver enhancements required by R1s, the company will continue to add functionality to the existing products. The roadmap for Workday Student has been developed for the next several releases, and based on Tambellini interaction with Workday, we do not expect the roadmap to change. Tambellini would like to see Workday accelerate its roadmap for R1 institutions.

What happens next? Institutions such as the University of British Columbia are deploying Workday Student and are managing expectations and timelines. The University of Rochester has worked out a plan with Workday that allows the institution to proceed. There’s no question in our minds that Workday needs to accelerate development and delivery of functionality for R1s. Tambellini is closely watching these developments and asking: Will Workday invest in developing Student fast enough to prove that the solution is viable for complex R1s? Will Workday deliver a Student solution that OSU believes it can implement? Will Oracle Student Cloud be ready for complex R1s before Workday Student is ready for complex R1s?

What questions do you have? Let’s continue the conversation. Share your thoughts with me on Twitter or LinkedIn or privately in email.

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Principal Analyst
Vicki Tambellini, CEO and founder of the Tambellini Group, has more than 30 years of experience and is an award-winning software company executive, author, blogger, consultant, guest-speaker, and entrepreneur. She has received numerous awards and honors from companies including PeopleSoft, Oracle, and NCR. Vicki has been a guest speaker at SACUBO, the Oracle HEUG, ELearning! Summit Events, Smart Woman’s Network, Richmond Venture Forum, and numerous private venues. Vicki founded Tambellini Group in 2001.

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