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Workday Implementation – A Phased Approach

by | Mar 13, 2019

Home » Workday » Workday Implementation – A Phased Approach

We’ve written about implementing Workday before—if you’ve not downloaded our Workday Implementation Project Team Guide, be sure to check that out—but now it’s time to address a question we’ve heard from a number of our clients regarding implementation strategy, specifically, a phased approach. Let’s take a closer look at some strategies for companies implementing Workday without doing it all at once.

Phase 1: Where Does Payroll Fit in the Picture?

One of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to a phased approach for Workday implementation is to figure out where payroll fits into the picture. For example, some companies split the first phase of their implementation into three periods: first, the HCM modules that inform payroll; second, a stabilization period of 3-4 months to work out the kinks with those modules; and finally, implementing payroll itself.

One advantage to this kind of phased approach is the ability to stabilize those payroll-adjacent modules. The downside is the need to do dual data entry for ALL changes—staffing/job changes/reporting structure/cost center, hires/terminations, benefit election changes, demographic information (address, legal name, etc.), compensation, and so forth—in two systems of truth: Workday and the legacy feeder system into the old payroll.

That’s why we recommend including payroll in the rest of Phase 1. Doing so ensures you won’t have to do double the work to get all the information where it needs to be and lessens the chance of an error when someone puts Data A in one system of truth but Data B in another.

What HCM Modules Inform Payroll?

There are a wide variety of Workday modules that can inform payroll, but a few you need to consider include Time Tracking (TT) and Absence, and Workday Absence Management (ABS). Time Tracking (TT) and Absence may be implemented from Workday itself, or as integrations to and from a feeder best-of-breed system, depending on how complex your requirements are.

  • Hospitals, for example, have complex scheduling requirements, and Workday Time Tracking allows employees to record their time worked, but it doesn’t handle complex future scheduling.

ABS is used to record paid and unpaid time that is not worked, and includes complex calculations for Earned Time Off (ETO), or Paid Time Off (PTO) with Sick Time Earned. This also includes the calculations for FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) eligibility and remaining job-protection but unpaid hours that will factor in already used FMLA time.

What If We’re Not Moving to Workday Payroll?

If you aren’t moving to Workday Payroll, you will need integrations to feed information to your legacy payroll system—which cannot be delayed to Phase 2—including:

  • Demographic/staffing/comp payroll changes in pay rate
  • Start/term dates
  • Job changes
  • Managerial changes
  • Cost center changes
  • LOA status changes

Then there will likely be a separate integration strictly for hourly workers’ reported time versus the hourly and salaried workers’ use of PTO. Also, if there are union contracts or many types of shift differential time codes, the SoW should reflect this—they can make the Time Tracking buildout much longer.

Phase 2: What’s Left to Do?

After you’ve implemented all the HCM modules that inform Payroll calculations (as well as Workday Payroll itself, if you’ve chosen that route), it’s time to implement all your other modules. This can include Performance Management (PM), Recruiting (job requisition and posting through offer acceptance), Succession Planning, Advanced Compensation (annual merit reviews and annual bonuses, which can include stock awards), and more.

In essence, Phase 2 functions tend to be those which are more strategic in the HR space and are implemented following the “nuts and bolts” of just getting HR transactions into Workday. Phase 2 might also take the form of going to Workday Financials. While it’s certainly possible to launch Workday Financials with only the bare skeleton of an HCM (who is an employee, who does that the employee report to, for which cost center, etc.), it’s a very backward way of deploying Financials. NOTE: We strongly recommend not doing it this way. 


Implementing Workday is an incredibly complex process. There’s the question of whether to pursue a phased approach and where payroll should be involved in that process (and whether you need to include Workday Payroll at all). There are certainly a lot of moving pieces.

That’s why it pays to have experts on your side before tackling a project like this one, which is where we come in. Surety Systems has a host of senior-level Workday consultants ready to help you with all your Project Management or Implementation Support needs. If you’re ready to implement Workday, contact us today.

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