By Eric Gray, Vice President of Services Engineering

When your team’s mission is to build tools that “reduce complexity, improve efficiency, and drive re-use,” you must be willing to think outside the box. The Services Engineering team came to Alchemy with a history of building deployment tools and technology, but we wanted to improve on what we knew. So, we approached our mission by focusing on three key areas:

  1. Workday pre-configured content, initially around Workday Student
  2. Data conversion processes that minimize impact to customers’ teams
  3. Tooling to streamline the migration of Workday configuration artifacts and customer data management

We have been reaching deep into each of these areas for six months now, and the hard work and resourcefulness of the team is indeed challenging industry expectations.

Pre-Configured Content

Every software implementation involves strategic and tactical components. What if you could dramatically reduce the tactical components by working with customers to identify commonalities? What do they do the same? Could we build that commonality in a Workday tenant and deliver it to all our customers? If so, we could presumably free up time to focus on addressing more strategic items and each university’s “secret sauce” for what makes them unique and special.

In Part 1 of this blog series, you’ll read about how Alchemy worked with Design Partners to develop exactly this—a preconfigured Workday Student tenant.

With this as our first step, we will continue to improve efficiency with pre-built content that we will re-use across our customers for all Workday solutions.

Data Conversion

A data conversion process typically happens once in a career (every 20 to 30 years). While data is critical to implementing a new system, the process of moving data from one system to another adds very little to anyone’s knowledge or skillset.

To make the process more efficient and less burdensome, we looked at how to pull data directly out of a customer’s legacy system, bypassing time consuming (and multiple) data feeds and cleanups. This process has proven to be quicker and less confusing than managing flat files on a sFTP site and manually creating iLoad files to be loaded into Workday one at a time.  As an added benefit, customer teams can spend more time learning and using Workday than figuring out how their legacy system worked and stored data.

At present, we’ve identified three legacy systems from which our customers typically migrate, and we’re in the process of building “maps” to pull data out of these legacy systems and load into Workday. We can also take in data from file formats if customers aren’t migrating from one of the three identified legacy systems, but we will still use our tooling to load into Workday.

Tooling

Tooling is where everything comes together. We can migrate configuration from one tenant to another and load customer data from one easy interface and process. Additionally, Alchemy’s proprietary tooling, coined “Mission Control”, provides the ability to load and merge Alchemy content into a customer’s existing Workday tenant (instead of overlaying it on a currently configured tenant). We’ve built a process to dynamically change some of the key structures while moving data into the tenant that allows us to merge, enrich, and extend what a customer has already built. Of course, we can also build into a vacant tenant for those customers just starting their Workday journey.

This capability has key implications for Alchemy’s customers:

  1. Provides flexibility to choose what products to deploy and when.
  2. Load just the content that is required for the current scope of deployment, not all content that is available.
  3. Customers can go through the process multiple times (loading pre-configured content for the next product deployments) to take advantage of new preconfigured content, updated Workday functionality, and lessons learned from other deployments that will continuously be built into the Alchemy Foundry.

Next up: scalability. Workday’s object model provides many benefits but creates some challenges around dependencies as you load objects (instances) or conversion data into a tenant. Alchemy looked to find a way to make migration and conversion processes more efficient and multi-threaded. To accomplish this, we built dependency trees at an object level. We leverage this capability to identify when a migration or a load can occur for the instances of that object, and we have multiple threads ready and waiting to run objects that have met their dependency requirements.

We’ve tested up to 20 simultaneous processes but have to be careful to not overwhelm the Workday tenant. In a recent build utilizing 10 concurrent processes, we integrated Alchemy’s Workday Student content into a customer’s existing HCM and FIN tenant in only 22 minutes.  We can tune this and migrate or load data as fast as the tenant can consume it.

Implementation Upshot

While the Alchemy team has made great strides in the last six months, we’re looking forward to pushing the boundaries even further. We are focused on working with new Design Partners to further enrich our pre-configured content to include Workday HCM, Financials, and Payroll. On the conversion side, we’re building out the maps to legacy systems and continuing to push the envelope on what Mission Control does.

Just like Workday has strived for near zero down time, our goal is to execute customer tenant builds in hours, not weeks. After only six months into this revolution, we feel our solid tooling foundation, innovative teams, and passion for customer success puts us well on our way to achieving this goal.

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