Friday, August 6, 2021

To Sandbox or not to Sandbox?

It’s a question that comes up frequently as we move toward go-live in July of 2022: Will we have a practice tenant of Workday to learn in?

The possibility of a practice tenant, or “sandbox” as many call it, has been a subject of much interest since the beginning of Finance Strategic Transformation. It’s an attractive idea: people want access to a practice environment so they can get into the system and see how things work. They want to see their data in the system and get an idea of how they will do their daily work once the system is live. That’s totally understandable.

UVA’s implementation of Workday Financials will not have a true sandbox experience, but the course of the FST project between now and go-live will have many opportunities for you to satisfy your need to get comfortable with the system.

Mixing Metaphors:  an airplane IN a sandbox

Why no Sandbox? 

We’ve been big on metaphors during this project (remember James’ homebuilding analogy?), so let’s think about this in those terms. Imagine sitting on the runway in an airplane*, with the keys in your hand (don’t worry, it’s a small airplane!). The pilot hops out, patting the seat they’ve vacated, telling you to go ahead and take it for a spin.

That could be a great opportunity to learn how the controls work and how to taxi down the runway, even if you don’t actually take off . . . unless you’ve never had any lessons on piloting an airplane. If you’re totally new to being in the driver’s seat of an aircraft, it likely won’t be anything but a letdown, if not actually frustrating. You might be able to punch some buttons, but very little of note will actually happen.

The same goes with a sandbox of the Workday Tenant before we have training. Giving people access to an unfamiliar environment before they’ve been shown how things work invites frustration. You could be trying to do something very basic in the test environment that, without some training, could seem difficult or opaque (a lot like starting the airplane could seem impossible just because you don’t know the correct sequence of buttons to push after you turn the key).

Moving away from our metaphor for a moment, let’s go a step further with sandbox difficulties: other institutions who have tried doing a practice tenant have found issues in deciding how much data gets loaded into the sandbox. For the sandbox to be useful, a hefty amount of data has to be loaded into it, but obviously, it can’t be the data for the entire institution at that point. The limited data set is limited in its usefulness, especially at UVA, where the way we do business can be quite different from school to school and unit to unit. A subset of data in a UVA practice tenant simply wouldn’t be meaningful to most people.

Another consideration is time and effort, and where it makes most sense to place those. Ten months from go-live and eight months from training delivery, our teams are focused on getting the final version of UVA’s tenant of Workday Financials across the finish line. We’re choosing to give all of our time and effort to that goal, instead of standing up a practice tenant and supporting it.

Without a sandbox, how do we get comfortable with the system?

There are a few ways we’ll ensure the system and our stakeholders are ready to roll on day one:

  • The first one is actually already done (hooray for a box you can check right off the top!): our Customer Confirmation Sessions. In CCS#1 and #2, about seven to eight hundred stakeholders have gotten to see basic business processes in our Workday Financials tenant, and they’ve given feedback that we’ve acted on to improve each build. (Check out CCS#2 materials and videos in the online community)
  • The second way is testing. In September, we’ll officially move out of Configuration & Prototype and into the Testing phase of the project. The FST team will be doing End-to-End testing (“end-to-end” means following a business process from its initiation until completion- such as following the entire procurement process from setting up a vendor to receiving and invoicing) until January 14 of 2022. Representatives from some schools and units will participate in this phase. We’ll refine the tenant based on this testing and then invite a wider group of representatives from the University to participate in user experience testing (think of this like sitting in the pilot’s seat of that plane while the pilot walks you through the process). Read more about testing in the blog.
  • The most important one is training. Training starts in the spring of 2022. Our training curriculum will be the result of months (years, really) of intensive work done by the training team, documenting change impacts, mapping roles, and working with both stakeholders and our project team. In our airplane metaphor, this is when we start flight school. We’ll have the months between spring and summer to explore in the system, learn how to do our work, and see our own data in a new environment.  Want to know more about Workday Financials training?  Start with this post in the blog

We feel confident that the plan between now and July of 2022 gives us plenty of runway (groan, sorry about overusing the metaphor) to get comfortable with Workday. We still want to hear your questions and concerns, though, so please reach out with your thoughts.


*note: the author knows nothing about flying, so if there are any pilots reading this, scoffing at my understanding of how you start or control a plane, please be gentle

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