Josh Edwards: Building bridges between people and systems

A successful transition to Workday Student involves integrating Workday with WashU’s other core student systems, like Canvas, Slate and PowerFAIDS, to share data and complete academic processes. To manage work, the Student Sunrise project is partnering with system owners from WashU’s schools and units and with WashU IT Enterprise Applications (EA), the group that supports central systems shared by many schools and departments.   

Josh Edwards, senior director, Enterprise Applications, plays a key role in this work as the Student Sunrise technology transformation lead. Josh guides the strategy for how to help schools and units manage changes to their technical environment resulting from the transition to Workday Student. The focus relates to system integrations and refactoring*.  

Josh is a familiar face to many at WashU, but he’s also no stranger to the complexity of WashU’s IT environment. Since 2002, he’s been a member of the EA team, joining shortly after graduating from WashU with a BS in computer science. (He also earned his MBA from WashU in 2016.) The strong relationships Josh has built with campus partners make him a great fit for his current role.  

The conversation below between Josh and Josie Robinson, Student Sunrise student intern (East Asian Languages and Culture, Arts & Sciences, Spring 2023, minor in Psychology), outlines the strategic partnership between Student Sunrise, EA and the campus community that is foundational to successfully delivering Workday Student at WashU.  

Josh Edwards, Student Sunrise Technology Transformation Lead

JR: Why were you interested in serving in this role, and what makes you a good fit? 

JE: What excited me about this role is that it allows me to participate in Sunrise, which is this transformational activity, while also staying connected with Enterprise Applications and the school IT departments to help them through our transition to Workday Student. It’s the kind of role that I’ve held previously, but we’ve further defined the role thanks to some of the lessons learned from WashU’s Workday HCM/FIN implementation. From the start, the Student Sunrise project was intentional about recognizing the impact on other systems because of the Workday Student implementation. And it’s been exciting for me to be able to participate in the process from the beginning.

JR: What are some of the biggest challenges to campus now that the systems integrations work is ramping up? 

JE: To answer this question, I think it would be helpful to provide some background information. Before I was engaged in the project, Sunrise had assessed the overall impact at the system level. So, before they got to the integrations stage, they started at the highest level, understanding, “What systems are impacted and how?” That was a lesson learned from the Workday HCM/FIN implementation, where we only jumped in at the integration level without understanding the big picture first. 

Even though we have this system-level perspective, one of the challenges is that Sunrise and Workday approach this work one integration at a time. This makes sense, from a project perspective. On the other hand, Enterprise Applications and our campus partners want to think holistically about their systems, which may involve one or more integrations, plus changes within that system.

So, there’s a natural tension, and I think Sunrise and WashU IT are continuing to improve how we handle that tension. We’re flagging systems that are the most connected, and we’re trying to treat those in a more deliberate way at the system level.  

JR: How will EA’s involvement at the beginning of the integrations process help inform the remaining integrations work within the schools and units?  

JE: Within Sunrise and Enterprise Applications, we’re really trying to focus on continuous improvement because we haven’t even started talking about every system yet. That was intentional. We’ve staggered the integration design conversations over a series of waves, and we have a structure in place to try to learn and improve as we move through those waves. We’re continually asking, “What did we learn from this? How can we improve the next time we have the next system or the next integration design conversation?” This is extremely important in a project this big and this long.  

JR: How will EA’s involvement in the project contribute to the ultimate success of Workday Student at go-live? What do you hope to see? 

JE: It’s a partnership between campus partners, including Enterprise Applications, WashU IT, schools, departments and other groups that own systems to make sure that the whole ecosystem is ready for go-live and beyond. We’ll continue to build on that partnership throughout the project. We need to ensure that our teams are all communicating so that all our systems can communicate. 

Since there are dependencies between the systems, there’s a deliberate emphasis on the importance of the entire ecosystem with Workday at the center. But all our systems need to be updated and ready to support the changes that are happening both through the Office of the University Registrar and because of Workday Student. For example, we will need to make changes to Canvas so that it can accurately transfer grades into Workday Student. This directly affects the campus experience. 

JR: How is Sunrise fostering the open atmosphere and conversations that need to take place with our campus partners? 

JE: We’re trying to be intentional, on all sides, about sharing information and learning things. With a project this big, with the many changes that are going on, it can be hard. This is a hard project! There are going to be times when a team misses something, or the questions asked are coming at the wrong time. This can be frustrating, whatever side you’re on. We’re focusing on how we can continuously improve to reduce when that happens and how we can prepare our teams, our systems and our processes to handle these situations when they come up. 

I think that the challenge, or the opportunity, is how we all can continue to remember the Sunrise project’s guiding principles that assume positive intent in our conversations and collaboration. We’re all working towards a common vision. 

*Refactoring: Updating an existing system to send or receive data from Workday Student. Refactoring may include changing a system’s business logic; changing a system’s technical design; and/or adding, removing or merging database fields or tables.

Learn more about how the Student Sunrise project is transforming WashU’s student information ecosystem.