Vice Chancellor of Business Services, Debra Fitzsimons, seemed to be the point person in this quest.
The upshot: in January of 2014—i.e., nearly a year and a half ago—the SOCCCD entered into an agreement with WORKDAY—i.e., Workday Human Resource Management, which offers consulting and software. The selection of Workday was a bit risky, for the company had little experience with educational institutions, at least on the financial side (as their name implies, they focus on HR, not finances). But they offered us a special deal plus lots of techno razzmatazz and big promises.
“Hooray,” people said, at least for a while. (Well, some of us quietly worried that we've heard all this before: the new system is the big fix! You won't believe how intuitive and clever it is!) As you know, Workday training sessions have commenced, district-wide, producing tacit waves of consternation and worry. (Faculty have told me that they have found the software difficult to work with. I've simply avoided it.)
So, as we can all see, the Workday train is slowly building up a head of districtular steam. But is it the Big Fuckup Express?
In the course of the review, it became clear that the district’s contracting processes in particular are ineffective and cumbersome, and, as was discovered some time after January, 2014, Workday offered no fix at all. Hence, Fitz and her crew decided to update its contract management tools and procedures—i.e., to purchase yet another system for the contract process. Fitz commenced a search for a system (software) that, in her words,
should also allow for contract templates library, electronic signatures, ability to search text within contracts, document version control, ability to manage versioning and routing to legal counsel, ability to route email notifications and reminders on contract status, ability to store a library of standard contracts and contract clauses, and be integrated into Workday, among other things.Thus it was that, in late January, 2015, the district advertised for proposals from firms to provide “Contract Management System and Related Services.” By early February, the district received four proposals. After a review of the proposals, the RFP committee recommended the software of SciQuest, Inc.
Why SciQuest? Because it “will be able to be integrated with Workday’s HR/Financial System Software.”
That brings us to May. Item 6.13 of the May 18 board meeting was this:
SOCCCD: Contract Management Software System Project, Approval of Agreement for Contract Management System Project, SciQuest, Inc.Strata Information Group, I think) to vet the four proposals. Didn’t we have the expertise within the district to do that? Fitz answered that the district was “strapped”—for time, I guess—since it was preoccupied with “the Workday contract,” a big project. Strata helped with the logistics, organizing the vendors’ presentations, etc., she said. Lang seemed to like that answer. He then asked why, contrary to usual practice, this contract used SciQuest’s agreement (some kind of standardized form), not ours. Fitz answered that the contract passed muster with the district’s lawyers, plus we got everything we wanted in the agreement.
Approve the contract for the Contract Management Software System with SciQuest, Inc. for a five year term effective May 19, 2015.
But Lang didn't ask the obvious question: didn't we already take care of this with Workday? Is belatedly hiring a firm like SciQuest part of the original plan?
Fitzsimon’s oddly anxious demeanor piqued my curiosity, and so I’ve asked around about this Workday/SciQuest business. So, here’s what I've got:
According to people I’ve spoken with—and they do seem to know what they're talking about—there is a sizeable FUBAR afoot. It has a greater part and a lesser part. First and foremost, Workday is turning out to be a pig in a poke. Second, and predictably, Fitzsimons seeks to draw attention away from the fact that Workday lacks “contract management,” thus necessitating the SciQuest contract. Fitz and Co. really screwed the pooch and they don’t want the trustees to understand that.
That’s the story, anyway. It sounds mighty plausible. It's all very high-handed and arrogant, of course. A special kind of fucked up.
I attended the May meeting, and I’ve reviewed the relevant streaming video, and I don’t think that this (alleged) state of affairs—namely, that contracting with SciQuest is an expensive patch on the inadequate Workday—was in any sense communicated to, or understood by, our trustees. At the meeting, trustees seemed satisfied with the request—as though taking on this further third-party contract was always part of the plan, and so they approved Item 6.13, giving SciQuest a five-year, $330,223 contract. They were as pleased as punch.
Again, the core problem here is that, as it turns out, Workday doesn’t work. It lacks contract management; sources, including faculty and classified, tell me that even HR can't make it work. Faculty (some, anyway) hate it. Payroll, too, does not mesh with Workday and benefits are a mess. Workday can’t deal with the complexity of our district—its different employee types, different employment contracts, the variety of ways that faculty are paid and the fact that employees often are paid for less than the full year. Classified overtime is a big problem: Workday can’t handle it at all.
The fundamental problem is that Workday was originally designed for private industry, not educational institutions and government accounting. It is “cloud” based, but the SOCCCD is not. Workday, it seems, simply cannot be “customized” for our district. It can't be made to work.
How did this happen? I’m told that the committee members that chose Workday were dazzled by fancy new technological fixes and did not give enough weight to the mundane but crucial input, of which much was provided, of the people in the trenches.
But there's more. According to my sources, despite Workday's utter inadequacy, the district is going forward with it, full steam ahead. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess. All efforts to slow things down or develop workarounds are being rejected. Workday is ours and we will like it.
It's quite a mess, a real morale buster.
Do the trustees know about any of this? Apparently not.
So, is it true that Fitz and crew are hiding a fubar? Is the choice of Workday the unmitigated fiasco described above?
Tell us what you know. I've always liked Debra F. I don't want her to turn out to be just one more arrogant administrator. And I don't want to have to learn another lousy, soul-sucking program.