Three universities enable IT transformation with Workday Student

October 15, 2019




How Three Unique Higher Education Institutions Collaborated to Successfully Deploy Workday Student

September 9, 2019

By: Jonathan Zaretsky – Workday Student Deployment Strategist, Alchemy









How Three Unique Higher Education Institutions Collaborated to Successfully Deploy Workday Student

September 9, 2019

By: Jonathan Zaretsky – Workday Student Deployment Strategist, Alchemy










“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

- Hellen Keller

The Mission

In the spirit of the above quote, Alchemy embarked on our first Workday Student deployment concurrently at three institutions. Our intent was to bring teams from different organizations together to create synergy and collaborate around the commonalities of deploying Workday Student.

As a Workday partner that specializes in Workday for Higher Education, we’ve built our company around the expertise necessary to deploy Workday Student. Recognizing that large parts of a Workday Student deployment are repeatable at every institution, we set out to create a collaboration environment in which schools involved in Workday deployments could exchange ideas and best practices to aid themselves and the greater Workday Student community. 

“We really liked what we heard from Alchemy. They brought in staff with deep knowledge of Workday Student. They built tools for data conversion that could be shared across deployments. But most importantly, the parts of the deployment that were common to all three of us were abstracted out and deployed at once, followed by the institution-specific portions. Having the same deployment partner also meant that we all benefited from everyone’s experiences, solutions, and workarounds.” 

Ravi Ravishanker

Chief Information Officer and Associate Provost, Wellesley College

The Schools

We were in initial deployment discussions with Wellesley College when Bentley University also became interested in a Workday Student deployment. Knowing that a diverse set of needs would drive innovation and ideation, we rounded out this blossoming effort by adding California College of the Arts (CCA) into the mix.

From the start, the similarities in these three schools’ Workday projects were apparent. Each institution was deploying Workday Student Admissions, Workday Student Records, Workday Student Financial Aid, and Workday Student Financials.

Wellesley College

Private four-year institution located in Wellesley, MA

Undergraduates: 2,500

Prior system: Banner

Integrations: 30 in-scope

Key Business Drivers:

  • Modernize the ERP System and bring efficiencies, transparency, and clarity to processes
  • Integrate disparate systems to allow for ease in reporting and collecting usual information
  • Enhance student experience

Bentley University

Private four-year undergraduate and graduate institution located in Waltham, MA

Undergraduates: 4,200

Graduates: 1,100

Prior system: Banner

Integrations: 28 in-scope

Key Business Drivers:

  • Move away from manual, paper intensive custom processes to higher ed best practices
  • Enhance student experience from application through graduation
  • Cloud-first strategy
California College of the Arts

Private Architecture, Art, Design, and Writing school located in Oakland and San Francisco, CA

Undergraduates: 1,500

Prior system: Colleague

Integrations: 40 in-scope

Key Business Drivers:

  • Enhance student experience from application through graduation – student journey
  • Move from transactional to strategic and data driven processes
  • Reduce yearly operating expenses by sun-setting redundant applications

The Approach

The differentiated approach of bringing three schools together to collaborate on a large IT transformation was inspired by Alchemy founder and chief executive officer Mike Duffield, who had previous experience in software solutions development while at Workday. His premise was that by offloading the common denominators of the three Workday Student deployments to Alchemy, such as federal financial aid, fee types, listing of institutions and secondary schools, and integrations with in-common third party vendors, the program participants could focus on their individual institutions’ distinctions and unique requirements.

A major part of the collaborative effort started with the design phase of the project, where all three institutions built one foundational tenant in Workday with the help of Alchemy. This partnership allowed each institution to gain a jumpstart on their projects by combining their collective forces.

Each institution then took this initial tenant and proceeded independently with its deployment. During this time, they shared reports, and processes, and even challenged themselves to adopt new practices demonstrated by their peers.

The collective effort was supported by project teams from each institution and one consistent Alchemy team, the latter of which enabled knowledge transfer and kept the project on track. This approach allowed each of the institutions to realize its goals while infusing each project with its own culture and core values.

“During a project of this size, it’s easy to get wrapped up with internal thinking. Taking a step back and talking with colleagues from other schools helped us see different ways of doing things that we might have otherwise overlooked. Finally, sharing information provided fuel for some healthy and humorous competition between Ravi (of Wellesley) and Bob (of Bentley)!”

Anne Pugliese

Director of Data Management and Application Services, Bentley University

“The project leadership team met regularly to exchange ideas, but Alchemy was really the connective tissue that identified commonalities and worked across the three schools to ensure our mutual success.” 

Michelle Ziegmann

Senior Director for Customer Solutions, California College of the Arts

The Student Ambassadors

As a part of each institution’s transformation to Workday Student, certain objectives drove the impetus for change. Of the various business outcomes that Bentley University, CCA, and Wellesley College were working to achieve, all three named “enhancing student experience” as central to their core mission.

“Meeting our students where they are—instead of expecting our students to ‘learn’ our systems and processes—drove us to look for innovative and leading student system solutions.”

Scott Cline, Ed.D.

Vice President of Enrollment Management, California College of the Arts

The notion that student engagement happens not just with deploying a student information system but through working with the system itself is fundamental to Alchemy’s methodology. Through a program called OnCampus, Alchemy provides training on the Workday system for students who want to work with their campus to support the transition to Workday. These student ambassadors become knowledgeable in the Workday environment and help lead their peers toward a successful deployment.

The ability to engage with students and receive their input during the transformation journey has empowered institutions in a way that goes beyond their initial expectations. 

“During the Fall ’18 semester, three Bentley University students completed Alchemy’s OnCampus program. Since then, they have been an integral part of Bentley’s Workday Student deployment, providing assistance with testing and creating job aids. Their enthusiasm and unique student perspective combined with deep knowledge of Workday gained through the OnCampus program have proven invaluable to Bentley’s successful launch.”

Anne Pugliese

Director of Data Management and Application Services, Bentley University

The Results

The simultaneous deployment of Workday Student at three institutions with a project team led by Alchemy was monumental.

With the go-lives of Bentley University, CCA, and Wellesley College, Workday now has three new production customers using Workday Student Admissions, Workday Student Records, Workday Student Financial Aid, and Workday Student Financials. Congratulations to these pioneer institutions on their successful transitions to Workday Student!


What advice would you give to other institutions looking at Workday Student?

“Just do it! If your campus culture is one that wants to improve and follow best practices, deploying Workday Student will make that happen.”

Bob Wittstein

Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Bentley University

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