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5 key considerations to Release Management success

Tips that can help both functional business owners and IT admins and leaders avoid the most common pitfalls when managing Workday feature releases.

As we are all eagerly anticipating the turning of the calendar and a fresh start to a new year, we will realize the next Workday Feature Release is just around the corner.  Now is as good a time as ever to dust off your release management best practices ensuring you take advantage of not only the mandatory but optional features and get the most out of your Workday investment.

Here are some top tips that can help both functional business owners and IT admins and leaders avoid the most common pitfalls when managing Workday feature releases.

1. Planning

Every spring and fall, Workday Release Features are delivered, allowing you the opportunity to take advantage of many new features and functionality. It’s a good idea to develop a project plan, establish timelines and start securing additional resources that may be needed to support the feature releases in areas like user acceptance testing. This is essential if the updates occur during business-critical periods such as annual enrollment, performance or merit cycles. Don’t get caught underestimating the overall project management time and coordination efforts to review release notes, complete impact analysis on enhancements, properly test updates, and execute a thorough change management and communication plan.

Make sure your subject matter experts (SMEs) are actively involved in the release management team. Trust us, they’re important to the overall success. They’re responsible for thoroughly reviewing mandatory features (within their areas of expertise) to identify potential impact. Their participation in regression testing is a good way to avoid downstream impacts too. 

Without the proper planning, resources and tools available to support this twice a year effort, the task at times can seem daunting and often times organizations just do the bear minimum, failing to take advantage of the newest optional features and functionality or properly regression testing their current set up.  This can leave you at risk for falling behind in uptaking features or introducing issues into your tenant.

2. Information is key to success

You have access to a great resource, the Workday Release Center, located in the Release Information drop-down menu on the Workday Community home page, the Center is updated for each release. It covers all release-related communications and materials. We understand reviewing this information and then determining the impacts to your specific business is a lot to tackle in a small window of time. We encourage you to identify resources to be focused on this activity and have them available the week the ‘What’s New Release’ notes are released. Take the time to plan in advance as it is a lot of information to digest and you don’t want to overlook key features or fail to communicate to stakeholders due to lack of time to review.

Resources available to you include:

  • Welcome to Workday—highlighting key enhancements and adoption tools
  • Feature release guidebook—release planning resources
  • Solution catalog—best practice tips submitted by community members
  • Product dashboards—aggregate information for specific features, functions and products
  • Documentation—the Workday Administrator Guide, Workday’s official documentation site
  • Uptaking features in weekly service update—instructions for the review and uptake of new features
  • Service update notes—new enhancements by product area
  • Features still in the works—enhancements soon to be delivered
  • What’s new videos—feature details by product management
  • Customer alerts—official notifications about verified issues
  • Ideas delivered—client-submitted ideas that have been incorporated into the release
  • Ideas available in preview—client submitted ideas available in preview
  • Trending questions—frequently asked questions about the current release

3. Test and then test again

Save time and reduce your risk by identifying baseline test scenarios for each feature release ahead of time, rather than step-by-step test scripts. This allows you to reuse the test plans and cases and helps ensure crucial scenarios are functioning correctly. It’s a good idea to use test plans from past implementations or major Workday initiatives to identify critical or common scenarios to include in new-feature release testing.

It can take a lot of preparation, we know. So, at the very least, focus your new release planning and testing efforts on:

  • Running and reviewing output from critical integrations
  • Validating existing system data
  • Testing critical business processes and critical custom reports

With a Workday update, it’s not only important to understand and test all the new functionality, but also assess impacts to current functionality. This can be accomplished with regression testing of current key processes and functionality. Workday provides resources to help build the planning and testing framework needed to ensure a successful release. potential impacts within their domain and build the test plan accordingly.   Utilizing an automated regression tool can be a great asset to reduce testing time and improve quantity of test scenarios executed,

Also, if you are using Workday Payroll, we recommend a payroll be processed to ensure results are as expected.   

4.  Communicating to embrace change

All of your end users need to key know what’s happening in Workday and how changes impact their work activities.  Keeping them posted with clear messaging and providing updates on changes will not only help avoid confusion but also give line of sight to all the great new features and functionality that are being provided with each release.  Make sure to get credit for the work being put into the Feature Releases by communicating them to your stakeholders!

5. Mandatories first, optional features later

Walk before you run. Wait a few weeks after the release has been in production before implementing optional features. But don’t forgot to revisit them!  This way, you can really gather intelligence to focus on exactly what is needed to improve the functionality of daily activities for your end users and processes affected by the feature changes.

When in doubt, ask a partner for support!

Alight has rolled out a new ongoing service to support our clients to ensure they stay up to date with their ongoing release management needs.  Focusing not only on ensuring staying on top of the impact analysis and regression testing required with the mandatory features, but also providing change management tools, weekly release notes, and support of optional features, Alight’s Release Updater allows you to make release management a year round focus.

Alight Release Updater

Enables you to keep up with the latest functionality while ensuring stability of your business processes and set up.

High-level recommended timeline

We recommend assigning the following roles:

Release manager/lead—responsible for the overall release project, completing the initial impact review and ensuring testing is completed. 

  • A certified partner can also fill this role. This would allow your team  to focus on testing and completing  a detailed review.

Testing manager/lead—responsible  for ensuring that all regression testing  is completed.

Subject matter experts—responsible for the detailed review of mandatory features within their area of expertise  to ensure all potential impacts are identified. They may also complete regression testing.

Six weeks out Five weeks out Three weeks out One week out One week post go-live monitor
prep for release identify scope configure and test client sign off post go-live monitor
Kick off project Review release notes Complete required tenant configuration Complete final testing
Identify resources Review impacts of mandatory changes against client-specific tenant configuration Complete testing and resolve defects and issues Communicate to users
Identify any optional features recommended for later adoption Update training materials and documentation Conduct training
Review session with client stakeholders
Present required tenant updates

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