The Ufirst Project

Project Updates

[Video] Getting Ready for Workday: An Overview

Ufirst project timeline
Basic timeline of the Ufirst Project


For the past several weeks, we’ve been taking our show on the road – meeting with various groups across Grounds, providing an overview of the Ufirst project, where we’ve been, and where we’re heading as we progress toward the much-anticipated launch of Workday.

If you haven’t been among the hundreds that have attended these informative presentations, we’ve created a video that covers the information so you can also benefit from the insights provided.

The video covers the following topics:

  • What is Ufirst?
  • What is the Workday rollout timeline?
  • When will you begin using Workday?
  • What training will be available?
  • How do you get help after go-live?
  • Next steps
  • Workday special topics

After you’ve watched the video, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at – and make sure to check the website frequently for updates!

Stay informed

Workday Is Coming!

Awareness Campaign Calendar

With go-live on the horizon, it's critical to ensure that our colleagues across Grounds are aware of everything they need to know – from Workday basics to questions about training and support.

Beginning next week, we will reach out and engage our community in a number of different ways. There will be demonstrations at individual schools and units across the University, online demonstrations and special features, plus multiple opportunities for faculty, staff, and team members to win prizes with informational scavenger hunts and other activities. 

We will publish new content regularly on the Ufirst website and blog, and related information will be distributed via email and Twitter. We'll focus on a central theme each week (basic navigation, time and absence, recruiting, etc.), capping each period with a quick "Sue Says!" video, featuring our own resident guru, Sue Simpkins, providing insight on key topics.

Workday Logo

Stay tuned for more details:

End-to-End Testing – A Team Effort Made Round One a Soup-to-nuts Success!

E2E testing pie chart

Testing individual tasks is one thing, but building a rigorous testing plan that proves that integrations and data handoffs function as intended is another thing entirely. That’s what End-to-End (E2E) testing is all about – simulating complex, multi-step processes to assure there are no unforeseen problems. Running these tests now allows us to catch issues well ahead of go-live, eliminating them going forward, so we can provide a smooth transition in January.

Round One is done, thanks to a team effort 

The first round of E2E testing concluded on August 3, and we sincerely appreciate the time all participants took out of their busy schedules to make it happen. From sponsors, team leaders, and coordinators to the tech team, payroll team, training team, and stellar support staff that made the whole process run smoothly, this was truly a team effort!

E2E testing progress charts

E2E Round One by the numbers:

  • Days of testing: 20 (7/9-8/3)
  • Number of testers: 121, representing all three entities at the University, plus the HR organization and key partners outside HR
  • Tasks completed: 2,276, with just 31 under review and 131 deferred

What’s next?

Overall, Round One results are very positive with just a few issues that need to be addressed, as expected. The tech team has been working on resolutions and preparing for Round Two, August 13-24. This will be the final round of End-to-End testing, and its completion is a key component of our 4th project milestone: “P4 Build and End-to-End Testing Complete.” Thanks again to all who participated. More updates to come!

Quotes on E2E testing

The Art and Value of Usability Testing

Still image from usability testing video

Still image from usability testing video

Workday go-live is steadily approaching. In preparation for that critical transition, a wide array of testing and training efforts are being implemented. One of the most crucial is usability testing. Our recent round of usability testing was specifically designed to observe managers from across all three entities on Grounds – Academic, University Physicians Group (UPG), and UVA Medical Center. 

So, what exactly is usability testing? 

At its core, the goal of usability testing is to observe – to provide everyday tasks for users to try while providing only as much guidance as necessary. This is in keeping with usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, who said, “… pay attention to what users do, not what they say.” He also famously said, “Designers are not users.” In other words, the intuition of even the most experienced people on the implementation team can’t anticipate real life issues that may arise in the use of the processes and interfaces they create. This makes observations of real users all the more valuable.

Usability testing quotes

To that end, users from each test group were assigned a variety of Workday tasks and asked to execute these on their own – using their desktop computers for some and the Workday smartphone app for others. Sessions were recorded for later analysis, with guidance only provided if the user could not complete the task unaided. In the small percentage of cases where redirection was necessary, just enough information was provided to get them back on track. The test monitor then noted where the difficulty started and incorporated that into the final report.

Examples of some of the tasks managers were asked to complete:

  • Find a colleague in Workday
  • Enroll in a training class
  • Add a dependent (including uploading documentation)
  • Approve a time off request
  • View payslip

Key findings:

  • All of the participants were successful – needing no assistance to perform the majority of tasks they were assigned.
  • At the conclusion of testing, all of the participants rated their confidence in their ability to perform all tasks at 4 or higher on a 5-point scale – and 4.6 or higher for 75% of those tasks.
  • There are clear training and self-help solutions for the tasks that users found challenging.

So, what did we learn from this round of usability testing?

One of the most important takeaways from any type of testing (particularly usability testing), is that there is no such thing as failure, unless there is a failure to learn from the experience. Fortunately, because Workday is already a thoroughly tested platform, the majority of our test scenarios were completed successfully. That said, any time a user encountered a challenge – either due to unfamiliarity with terminology or navigation – it provided a window into real world experience. This will allow us to make adjustments to the platform, where possible, and provide guidance during training, or in self-help materials, to head off these challenges for the remainder of the user population. 

In short, usability testing provides us with essential insights to support a successful transition in January. There are several rounds (and types) of testing still to come, as well as extensive training opportunities, informational sessions, and materials. We will keep you well informed with future posts and other communications.

Behind the Scenes in Payroll: Testing 1, 2, 3

Payroll testing image

Payroll team members deep in the testing process.

Payroll staff, technical trainers, and subject matter experts were busy testing Workday in June to make sure both the team and the system are ready to pay everyone at UVA correctly and on time when the system goes live in January.

The team of 15 Payroll staff performed "cross-sequential" testing and training, which means they focused on a diverse cross-section of workers and their payroll results over the course of a year. With this type of testing, the team was able to confirm the various types of earnings, deductions, and taxes as they calculated and accrued toward limits in an environment that mimicked the natural payroll cycles, spanning 26 bi-weekly and 12 monthly pay periods. They worked with a test population that represented the Academic Division, Medical Center, and University Physicians Group.

Paul Grisdale

Paul Grisdale
Director of Payroll Services

Paul Grisdale, Director of Payroll Services, says the intense testing caught key system changes that otherwise would not have been captured prior to go-live and provided interactive, hands-on training, maximizing operational readiness. 

"We've developed payroll processing checklists and control sheets across all three entities," he noted. 

Although the three-week testing period was long and sometimes arduous, it aided the team's comfort in navigating the system and boosted their knowledge of Workday, says Grisdale. It helped that the trainers and subject matter experts collaborated to make fun activities like Workday scavenger hunts, Workday Payroll Relays, and "Who Wants to Be a Payroll Partner?" (based on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?").

LeTrecia Mathis, a member of the UVA Finance Payroll Services team, said “I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to interact more and get to know my new co-workers. I enjoyed the ‘fun’ put into learning!” 

We appreciate this newly-formed team's concerted efforts to make sure everyone gets paid correctly when Workday goes live. If you see a Payroll team member around, give them a high five, because they're working hard for all of us!

[Video] HR Business Partners, Explained


What can an HR Business Partner do for you?
Learn how HR Business Partners will provide dedicated support for your school or unit's unique HR needs in this video:

video with audio description and text transcript

Testing: Our Key to Success


What is testing?

The Ufirst Project team is working with Subject Matter Resources (SMRs) across Grounds to test 10,000+ scenarios in Workday, ensuring that the system functions as designed and meets UVA’s requirements.

Why is it important?

Testing provides an opportunity to inspect the functionality and usability of Workday, as well as the interactions with all UVA systems in different browsers and on different devices. As a result, when you use Workday, you will run into fewer issues. The team will also develop support materials based on questions that occur during testing.  

How does it work?

To begin, the team creates scenarios and subtasks by module which are then uploaded into an issue-tracking tool. Next, testers work through each scenario to complete subtasks and achieve a defined, expected result. If the tester cannot achieve the expected result, the team corrects the configuration and sends the task back to be retested. Retesting will continue until the defined task is completed successfully.

What is the purpose of each type of testing and who are the testers?

Graphic of testing types and details

Launching the Solution Center

Infographic showing stats on the numbers of customers the Solution Center has served.


Hear from Marcus Hamilton, HR Analyst, Quality & Innovation, about what it took to launch the new UVA HR Solution Center.


What goals did you have and did you meet them?

At launch, our primary goals were to have established performance baselines and maintain service levels while expanding our support to the entire organization. Now faculty, staff, and team members are going to one place instead of two: one team, one place to call, one way to get your problem resolved. Making that transition seamless is difficult, but the team worked tirelessly to make it happen. I’m happy to say they succeeded.

Post launch, our goal was to identify quick wins and longer term continuous improvement opportunities. We have learned a great deal in a short time, and we have already instituted changes in staff scheduling and training resources, for example, based on that data.


How did you come together as a team?

We focused on sharing knowledge. We all came from different backgrounds and thankfully everyone was willing to freely share their knowledge and to make each other comfortable to seek clarification if needed. That openness has led to close bonds that make providing good service easier and dare I say, more fun.


Best part of being the first for the HR transformation?

We definitely developed a sense of camaraderie as we as ventured out first. It gave us a heightened sense of purpose and commitment to making sure it went smoothly so we could serve as proof that it could be done well. And since we had the benefit of going first, we are ready to support the other HR teams as they stand up.



What are you most proud?

I’m most proud of the team’s willingness to take on so many changes at once and still maintain—and in many cases improve—service.


What I am most excited about?

I am excited for the new technology we have in place, which allows us to interact with customers across channels in an integrated way and gather data to drive continuous improvement. We have been able to quickly implement process improvements with a richer and more immediate feedback loop that allows us to serve our customers better every day. It also allows us to report out on the team’s amazing work!


What’s next for the team?

Supporting the launch of the remaining UVAHR teams, continuing our ongoing improvement efforts, and preparing to provide post-Workday-go-live support.


UVA HR & Ufirst Win Prestigious Award

Michael Latsko, accepting the CUPA HR Excellence Award from CUPA-HR Southern Region president Leanne Fuller of Auburn University

Michael Latsko, accepting the CUPA HR Excellence Award from CUPA-HR Southern Region president Leanne Fuller of Auburn University

2018 Southern Region HR Excellence Award

We are excited to announce that UVA Human Resources has received the 2018 Southern Region HR Excellence Award in recognition of its transformative human resources work in higher education, specifically for the Ufirst project.

The nomination included an in-depth look at the Ufirst project including why the change was needed, how the new ideas were innovative, implementation strategies, and evidence of success with a focus on organizational change. 

The Ufirst project was launched to manage the complex transformation of UVA HR, and to implement a better employment experience across the entirety of the University – the Academic Division, Medical Center, and University Physicians Group. The project also enhances UVA’s ability to recruit, hire, retain and develop top talent in support of excellence in education, research, patient care, and public service.

The award was presented at the Southern Region Symposium of the College & University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA), the nation’s premier higher education HR association. The symposium was held in Charleston, SC in early March. 

Because we won the regional award, our nomination is now submitted to the national awards committee for consideration for the national CUPA-HR Excellence Award (that conference is in October in Indianapolis).

Thanks to the generous support of CUPA-HR sponsors, CUPA-HR made a contribution of $1,000 to UVA’s Faculty and Staff Undergraduate Scholarship.

Sean Jackson, Ufirst Project Executive Director said, “This recognition is well-deserved and I remain grateful for the dedication, thoughtfulness, and hard work of the entire Ufirst team.”

Kelley Stuck, Vice President for Human Resources said, “We consider it an honor to be recognized for the outstanding work of the Ufirst team, and all members of the UVA HR community, who have worked extremely hard to make the HR transformation project successful. Everyone should be proud of their contributions.” Congratulations!

Michael Latsko, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives said, “As an Ufirst project ‘alum’ and a UVA HR team member, it was a true privilege to accept the award on behalf of my colleagues and teammates at the CUPA-VA Southern Region conference. To have our collective work noticed and appreciated in this way should make every one of us very proud. The notoriety also fostered lots of interesting conversations with other higher education colleagues at the conference.  I definitely got the sense that UVA is leading the way in many areas of higher education HR as well as transformation, change and project management.”


“This award honors transformative HR work in higher education, recognizing individuals or teams who have provided HR leadership resulting in significant and ongoing organizational change within their institutions.”

Update on Ufirst, UVA’S HR and Payroll Transformation


Dear colleagues:

Thank you for your continued input and efforts in support of the Ufirst project and the transformation of Human Resources and Payroll at UVA. As you know, the Board of Visitors approved the Ufirst project in June 2016, sharing our collective desire for an HR and Payroll transformation that supports every school, the Medical Center, UPG, and our operational units.

The rollout of the redesigned service delivery model is going well and is proceeding as planned this spring. However, after careful consideration and in consultation with Vice President for Human Resources Kelley Stuck and Ufirst Project Executive Director Sean Jackson, we have made the decision to reschedule the launch of the supporting technology, Workday, from July 2018 to January 2019.

As we have emphasized from the beginning of this project, service and quality are our most important objectives. We knew this would be a particularly challenging project, given our aggressive timeline and the complexities of integrating data and functionality across our Academic Division and Health System. To ensure a smooth transition, the project team planned for several rounds of review and testing. During the most recent testing phase, the team discovered issues with how the Workday system processes benefit deductions and integrates those deductions with the Payroll module. This is a significant issue which must be addressed to ensure that our employees will be paid correctly when we launch. The rescheduled launch date of January 2019 will allow the team to finalize the necessary changes, complete testing, and be confident in the accuracy of the payroll and benefits deductions.

The Ufirst project team will update the published communications and training schedules for Workday and will continue to engage and educate University faculty, staff, and team members throughout the coming months. Other important elements of the HR and Payroll transformation will continue to move forward as planned. Our progress to date, has been substantial:

  • Our new HR Organization is well-positioned with HR professionals of the highest caliber prepared to deliver services both in the new model and during this period of transition.

  • HR Business Partners have been selected and trained. They are transitioning to schools and units, supporting strategic human resource priorities and ensuring that HR service expectations are being met.

  • The HR Solution Center launched in December 2017, achieving and maintaining extraordinarily high satisfaction ratings (4.5+ out of 5).

  • The Payroll transformation is proceeding with new streamlined processes designed and configured in Workday to support the new Payroll organization.

  • We have built over 300 HR and Payroll processes and a new HR service delivery structure to which resources are now aligned.

  • Employee data has been integrated into a single data source to support the new service delivery model.

  • We have successfully tested the processes for recruitment, hiring, set up of compensation, and learning program enrollment in the Workday environment.

The Ufirst project represents a significant step forward for the University and plays a critical role in our ability to attract and retain exceptional faculty, staff, and team members committed to teaching, research, and patient care. We are confident that the revised schedule will allow us to get it done right.

Thank you for your continuing support of this important initiative. If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Sean Jackson at .


Patrick D. Hogan, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

Thomas C. Katsouleas, Executive Vice President & Provost

Richard P. Shannon, MD, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs


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