Wake Forest University Takes Studied Approach to Technology Makeover

When you were in school, did you ever attempt to write a paper without doing the research first? You probably found it to be a painful process, because trying to reach conclusions without enough facts doesn’t make for a good paper, or a good grade.

Mur Muchane, CIO at Wake Forest University, took this lesson to heart. When thinking about selecting the right finance and HR system for the school, Muchane teamed up with campus colleagues and first conducted a thorough assessment of the university’s entire technology infrastructure. Then, armed with facts, and supported by the executive vice president and the provost, he and his campus colleagues were able to build consensus and select a provider based on both the current and future needs of the university. We sat down with Muchane to discuss the challenges he faced, and the benefits of undertaking a project this way. 

Can you tell us about how Wake Forest conducted an intensive IT audit to start this process?  

Mur Muchane

There was so much to tackle before embarking on the vendor selection experience. We wanted to make sure we did a thorough vetting process of the current state of our university technology so we could go through the selection process with confidence.

We decided to break the audit into three phases: the assessment phase, the planning and roadmap-building phase, and the selection phase. In the assessment phase, we surveyed our campus on what was working, what wasn’t, and where there was room for improvement.

Using the great feedback we received from students, faculty and staff, we then organized our roadmap into four key areas: teaching and research excellence, operational excellence and student success, infrastructure and support for innovation, and organizational capabilities (IT on campus). Then, armed with facts, the campus community was able to select providers (including Workday) as part of a significant update to the school’s IT infrastructure.

What did you learn from doing it this way?

 A huge benefit of doing this major audit was being able to fully develop a vision of what we wanted before actually bringing anyone on campus. By the time we started evaluating vendors, we knew what the selection criteria would be, and it turns out that Workday aligned beautifully with our vision.

During the institution-wide technology planning process, however, we did see some internal concerns at first. The cloud can seem threatening in an environment that seeks to evolve from a primarily on-premise model of managing technology to a cloud-first strategy. To allay concerns, we built a structured process that enabled individuals at every level, from staff to executives, to contribute ideas and influence decisions. This inclusion and transparency demonstrated the impact a unified cloud financial and HCM platform could bring to the university.

How have you seen technology evolve in higher education over the last few years?

Higher Education as a whole faces the challenge of affordability. With the median household income around $50,000 per year, access to highly ranked national institutions like Wake Forest is increasingly difficult for many families. The question we face is how to make education accessible, and Wake Forest is committed to helping families pay for college. Part of the way we make this happen is by controlling costs. New technologies like Workday empower operational efficiencies, which in turn allow the reallocation of resources to enhance the institutional support of the core mission.

The maturity of cloud technology also presents opportunities for us to reimagine, enrich, and explore varied pedagogies and student learning styles to supplement and enhance the University’s distinctive, highly personal faculty and student interactions.

Do you have any advice for others looking at a technology replacement?

My advice for anyone dealing with change management would be to engage the campus community; Wake Forest prides itself on this, so it was very important to us that any major change be informed by broad campus input.

My other piece of advice would be to work with central IT early on. In our case, IT was part of the process from the very beginning, which helped ensure strong collaboration and a successful project.