Monday, June 28, 2021

You’ve Got That Right: FST Workflow Controls and Approvals Update

Contributed by Augie Maurelli

While the implementation of Workday Financials is an essential component of finance transformation, there’s more to the FST project than that. It’s also about continuous improvement and changing the way we work, both in the tool and outside our technology platform.

UVA financial leaders see this time as an opportunity to move toward a more holistic approach to approvals that is consistent with leading practices. This means an emphasis on getting things right on the front-end, using real-time transaction approvals when appropriate. Doing so would be a culture shift from the current heavy reliance on detailed post-transaction reconciliation, voluminous cost transfer activity, and detailed monitoring. 

While this change in emphasis may take some getting used to, the benefits far outweigh any short-term impacts to our business processes and their owners.

Front-end approvals, when warranted, enhance future-state operations in a couple of ways:
  • Improve transaction accuracy from the onset through enhanced internal controls, reducing the need for corrections after money has already gone out the door
  • Eliminate potential business risks, in doing so, and aid in policy adherence
  • Provide access to more accurate real-time financial data within the system, which leads to better reporting and overall data integrity
  • Reduce the time and effort required for lengthy detailed month-end reconciliation and additional monitoring activity
The fate of Recon@ as an attestation tool also plays into the approvals transformation and overall controls framework. The intention is to migrate post-transaction review and attestation to another tool, ideally within Workday. Such a transformation means that the FST team must ensure all of the approvals, controls, reconciliations, and policies are aligned and designed for accurate and effective business processing. 

The decision about Recon@’s fate won’t be finalized until the team is confident that we improve our current state holistically. Here are just some examples of how we might be able to improve our operations by replacing the Recon@ functionality with improved methods:
  • Create Workday/UBI reports that enable financial staff and principal investigators to review their accounts’ status periodically, and determine a method of attestation
  • Streamline the financial confirmation process for financial managers to certify role assignments periodically and financial reporting
  • Reduce post-transactional review to be for only certain types of high-risk transactions or those that may not require upfront approvals
  • Update policies/procedures that refer to post-transaction review to reflect new procedures to better align with leading practices
  • Review a sample of transactions for compliance as part of central quality assurance processes
As these considerations illustrate, the net work should be less—however, it’s a shift in mindset and expectations as you move to change in philosophy. Wise CEO Dinesh Paliwal once said, “Every good business story has a conflict and triumph at the core and a turning point where a transformation takes place." This change in mindset and practices is UVA’s turning point.

To make this work in the future state, a minimum of three new proposed departmental roles would be created to monitor and approve transactions in real-time: Cost Center Manager, Project Manager, and Grant Manager. These roles would be used instead of the current Fiscal Contact, who is doing detailed reconciliation and corrections. These broad-based roles provide the general framework to build out and refine our approvals processes and ultimately align with the overall controls framework at UVA.See the image below for more detail (click to enlarge).

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