Last week, Ravi Ravishanker, chief information officer (CIO) and associate provost, and Carol Shanmugaratnam, registrar and assistant dean, presented an update at Senate on the ongoing transition from Banner Self Service, a web-based application that serves as a central system for basic College functions, to Workday, a platform that has been gradually introduced in the last couple of years. Banner is set to be fully replaced by July 2019, marking two-thirds completion of the project, according to Ravishanker and Shanmugaratnam at the Senate presentation. The transition seeks to address problems that have arisen due to Banner’s now 30-year-old software, as well as improve and augment services used by students, faculty and staff.
According to Ravishanker, the desire to transition away from Banner emerged over eight years ago, when he first joined the Wellesley staff and noticed problems with the system. As the College has relied on Banner for hiring faculty and staff, facilitating registration, tracking gifts and acting as a database for all financial transactions, Ravishanker describes it as the “central thing for everything.” But the longstanding reliance on the system has proved cumbersome to a College administration wishing to streamline their processes. “Because it’s so old, it’s harder to adapt to newer needs,” Ravishanker explains. “[Banner] is designed for transactions, making it very good for taking in information, but not designed for reporting it out. Their underlying database structure is not written for slicing and dicing the data.”
For Shanmugaratnam, the lead functional person associated with the project, the shift would fundamentally change how the College functions in terms of record-keeping and providing online services. “Over time, [the transition will] provide us with the opportunity to do things on one system rather than a multi-system configuration,” she explains. In the current configuration, numerous satellite systems have emerged to ensure all necessary services are covered. Shanmugaratnam provided the example of declaring majors and minors, for one: in the process of major/minor declaration, one would go to the ‘Administrivia’ section in the MyWellesley portal and open a small, custom-built application to complete the task. The information is then sent to Banner. Thus both the student and faculty member would have no interface with the Banner system at all. “In the Workday world, we want to see a process where eventually you click on a button that says ‘change my program’ and your advisor would approve your major in Workday,” Shanmugaratnam says.
But the transition is not without its difficulties. “It is a lengthy and complex process because we are trying to take student records not just from today but also from the past as well into a new system. Some of the challenges are understanding where the data that we have will go when it gets to Workday. Things like major/minor will be straightforward, but even things like what semester you are in school — the place where it’s kept in Banner is different from in Workday. It’s called a mapping process. Just deciding where your data will end up when you bring it into Workday, that’s one of the big pieces of work,” Shanmugaratnam explains.
Ravishanker explains further: “We want to make sure that the information between these satellite systems and Banner are consistent. There’s so many such changes between two systems that integration has been a major pain point for us.”
The timeline for the final stages of the project is designed to be easiest on students, who will use Workday for updating their info, looking up their academic records and perhaps most importantly, registering for classes. Fall 2019 will be the first time continuing students — meaning current first-years, sophomores and juniors — will use Workday for their class schedules, but only in the context of the add and drop period. Importantly, registration for Fall 2019 for continuing students will continue with Banner. Registration for the following spring semester (Spring 2020) will be the first time everyone will use Workday to register for classes. Current seniors will not use Workday, unless they are employees of the College, and incoming first-years will be introduced to Workday when they register for seminars and writing courses over the summer.
The transition project team has already begun implementing Workday in various part of College life. In the past couple of years, students hired by the College record their timesheets and are paid through the platform, but Ravishanker ensures that students unfamiliar with Workday will have the opportunity to participate in in-person and online trainings prior to registration.
Beryce Garcia ’20, an executive senator present at the meeting, added that consolidation could be good or bad. “I think it’s nice to have one website where I can just do everything. But from a technical point of view, I wonder if there could be problems in the future. More specifically, say it’s registration season, but it’s also time for Wellesley employees to put in their hours. Will the website be able to handle that? Will it crash? Given that it is Workday though, the answer is probably no, but you never know,” she explains. She admits that “while Banner may not have been aesthetic and may look outdated, I think the interface is pretty simple and straightforward. But then again I’ve had Banner crash on me quite a few times now.”
Both Ravishanker and Shanmugaratnam expressed a sense of hope with the completion of the transition. “We are doing this for the future, and the process is pretty intense. A lot of staff members are involved and are putting in lots and lots of extra hours to try to make this work with the hope that it’ll be beneficial to the faculty, staff and students. Hopefully after moving to Workday, a lot of the information will be visible to students and that it is the current and accurate info and that the students will benefit from more of the features. We are trying to see how to make it easier to understand,” Ravishanker shares.
“It’s exciting. There’s a real opportunity for things to improve. We’re quite certain that this is a positive experience for students; we’re working hard to making this a positive experience. You have a lot to look forward to. Keep an eye and an ear out, because we’ll be talking a lot about Workday student during the spring term,” Shanmugaratnam advises.