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4 Major Workday Implementation Mistakes to Avoid

Mar 26, 2020

Whether you’re talking about a Workday implementation or upgrading to any other kind of new technology, we all know that making major changes to the way your company does business leads to disruptions. It’s just the nature of the beast. However, you may not know that starting an implementation without the right team and strategy in place can quickly turn from “disruption” into “a nightmare scenario.”

We’ve heard all the horror stories here at Surety Systems, and our experienced Workday consultants have helped repair the aftermath from more than a few Workday implementations gone wrong. To ensure that you don’t run into any of those big issues yourself, we’re sharing a few of the biggest mistakes we see companies make when implementing Workday, as well as how to avoid them. No matter the size of your company or the industry you operate in, here’s what you shouldn’t do during your Workday implementation.

1) Not Assembling the Right Team

Successfully implementing Workday requires following a specific methodology and achieving a set of milestones, and you’re going to need a team of experts to pull that off. Internal expertise in your current system, business processes, and goals for the platform are all vital, of course, but knowledgeable implementation partners can offer valuable insights into Workday’s nuances and stage requirements that simply can’t be done without.

One big mistake we see companies make far too often is not bringing on the right number of project managers (PM) to help keep the project on track, and especially important is making sure to include an unbiased, external client-side PM on the team. Someone with experience managing Workday deployments is not only there to ask those uncomfortable questions your own team may need to think about, but also acts as a series of checks and balances when it comes to holding your implementation partner accountable. (And if you need more information about other Project Manager roles you’ll need for a successful Workday implementation, have we got an article for you…)

2) Forgetting to Consider Integrations

Integrations can be the highest risk of failure when it comes to this type of project. Remember, Workday is not an island—you’ll need to plan how it’s going to integrate with whatever third-party systems and data are important to your business.

Some of the things to consider when planning for integrations include:  

  • Providing the right estimates on what it’s going to take to get the implementations done.
  • Making sure you have good relationships with third-party vendors you’re going to be integrating with (such as benefits providers, for example). Third-party vendors may not be operating on the same timeline as your project, so having good working relationships is key.

This is where bringing in an external PM during “Phase Zero” (also known as the “pre-planning” stage) will save you a ton of headaches. This PM can help you get out notifications via email or physical letters to these third-party vendors to inform them about the project. We find that many clients don’t think about needing to get in touch with their vendors during this stage of the planning process, but a good project manager will have on this task their checklist. 

While your external client-side PM won’t be hands-on configuring your integrations, they will have expertise on how things work inside of Workday, and that knowledge will help them ensure that your implementation partner is setting up your solution correctly across the organization. 

3) Not Cleaning Up Your Data

As the old saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out,” and that adage is especially important to keep in mind when you’re implementing Workday. A solution can only be as good as the data you put into it, so it’s critical to have clean data before implementing your new technology. (Think of it as clearing out the clutter from your old house before moving into your nice new one.)

An external PM can be a great help during this part of the process. Nobody will know your data better than your own internal team, of course, but an external client-side PM provides you with a fresh set of eyes to better identify what data needs to be cleaned up in the first place. (For example, if you want to change job titles, you’ll need to do this before you start the implementation.) 

Secondly, a good PM will help you form a realistic timeline for cleaning your data. We’ve seen a number of projects get delayed due to a client’s decision to clean up their data at the same time as they’re doing data conversion. Two birds with one stone, right? Unfortunately, the reality is that this strategy causes far more problems than it solves. Taking the time to clean your data before loading it into Workday will make the whole implementation process smoother and faster, and your external PM will help you stay the course when it comes to this strategy.

4) Underestimating Implementation Time

One of the biggest mistakes we see organizations make when implementing Workday for the first time is underestimating the amount of time they’ll need to complete the process. It is possible to successfully implement your solution on time, but only if you have the right resources and planning in place, and you’ve done so from early on in the project.

PMs are vital in this part of the project. For example, many partners will provide a customer with a heat map. This document shows the customer’s level of effort needed across the entire timeline of the project. And it’s usually an eye-opener for the customer. It shows who, when, and how long each person is needed on the project. A PM can review the document and make recommendations such as adjusting the timeline, limiting the scope of the work, or adding additional resources based on their experience helping other companies achieve Workday implementation success.

And don’t forget to get everyone involved early in the project! Even the best team will need time to tweak a Workday implementation so that the solution fits the needs of your organization. Even if you bring on a group of Workday all-stars, bringing on the right people at the wrong time won’t do you much good.


At the end of the day, you can’t rush an implementation. But the key to success is planning ahead and having a Workday dream team in place. That’s where we come in. With one of our senior-level Workday consultants as your external project manager and partner, you can get to a successful go-live without the roadblocks.

Our experienced consultants have seen many of the most common Workday implementation mistakes (and tons of others we didn’t list here), which means they can help you avoid them. Put their knowledge to work for you and your organization—contact us today to get started.

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