Cloud Computing

Healthy Infrastructure

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center replaces an outdated HCM and ERP system with an Oracle cloud solution that will carry it into the future.

by Tara Swords

February 2017

Day-to-day concerns can be stressful in any industry, and it’s easy to forget that most of us aren’t making life-and-death decisions on the job. But some of us are. At Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the organization’s leaders—and most of its employees—spend their days making critical decisions that do affect the health of the nearly 400,000 patients who walk through their doors every year. The healthcare system comprises three hospitals and 286 clinics and employs more than 14,000 people—and it requires a big IT department to keep the business running smoothly.


Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Industry: Healthcare

Employees: 14,000

Revenue: US$2.4 billion

Dee Emon

Vice President and CIO

Length of tenure: Three years

Education: MS in business and management, Cardinal Stritch University; BS in nursing, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh; Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification, Villanova University

Personal quote/mantra: “The path to becoming more effective resides in constantly challenging ourselves to simplify.”


Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is also an academic medical center with a major focus on innovation. It leads the way in breakthrough regenerative technologies such as 3-D–printed organs and cells. In fact, a recent innovation at the center led to the creation of 3-D printing of skin for burn victims based on each patient’s own skin cells, and a walk through one of its labs reveals ears, kidneys, bones, and various organs growing in dishes. The organization even invests in early-stage health technology startups to help move life-saving ideas from concept to reality and get them to market faster.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Launch the Slideshow

“When you have all of these capabilities integrated into one healthcare system, it makes us one of the most unique models for academic medical centers in the country and creates competitive advantages from the innovation,” says Chad A. Eckes, executive vice president of corporate services and chief financial officer at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

After the creation of the joint operating company in 2008 by Wake Forest School of Medicine and North Carolina Baptist Hospital, the leaders at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center decided to merge and centralize the corporate services departments, including information technology. And over the last eight years, the department has evolved into the role of strategic business partner with the clinical and academic enterprises, says Dee Emon, the organization’s vice president and CIO.

“We proactively partner with our internal customers to ensure that IT is strategically aligning business processes and technology,” Emon says. “When we know the business’ goals and direction, we can ensure that the technology we use will enable them to hit their strategic goals.”

Within the last few years, it became clear that one part of the IT infrastructure was no longer an enabler: an old PeopleSoft deployment. For 20 years, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center relied on a PeopleSoft solution for human resources, finance, learning management, and campus solutions. Over time, the users and IT department customized the solutions so heavily that the maintenance and support became cost-prohibitive. The customizations were also perpetuating business processes that were obsolete and not in line with industry best practices.

“When you customize based on one workflow and then do that over and over and over again, eventually you end up with a ‘spaghetti’ infrastructure that is no longer what you intended it to be, and it’s no longer intuitive to the people who use it,” Emon says. “To undo all of that and smooth it back out would require a Herculean effort.”

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Number of employees at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Number of patients treated at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center each year

In other words, if the organization were to upgrade to Release 9.2 of Oracle’s PeopleSoft applications, it would have to treat the upgrade as a new implementation. Or it could consider a move to the cloud—which Emon believed would allow adoption of industry best-practice workflows on a next-generation platform.

So Emon and her team—working with New Resources Consulting, an Oracle Platinum Partner—found a solution that would address Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s needs and fit Emon’s vision of a cloud-enabled future: Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud (Oracle HCM Cloud).

The Cloud Question

Before selecting Oracle HCM Cloud, Emon, Eckes, and other decision-makers spent a lot of time addressing a key question: was the cloud really the way to go?

The big benefits of the cloud were clear: regular upgrades without any in-house effort and less investment in on-premises hardware. Plus, in Eckes’ view, on-premises software deployments tend to inhibit agility.

“After you do the initial installation, it becomes very difficult to keep up with annual releases,” Eckes says. “The practical reality is that most organizations push their ERP [enterprise resource planning] upgrades off to every two or three years because they’re costly, risky projects. To minimize the risk of the upgrade, you normally do a ‘like for like’ upgrade of current functionality. As a result, you never achieve the benefits of the R&D that you pay for in the annual maintenance and support payment. Cloud technology eliminates the large upgrade projects and allows you to more easily adopt new features.”

Eckes calculated the cost of keeping the HR system on premises—the software, the team to maintain it, and the constant new investments in storage hardware. He found that Oracle HCM Cloud would cost about the same, but it would reduce risk and give the organization access to the constant innovation that Oracle puts into its cloud products.

The only remaining concern was security. But after a careful evaluation process, Emon was confident that the cloud was the right decision.

“We vetted Oracle’s security very thoroughly,” Emon says. “Oracle has a robust security structure, and we became comfortable very quickly that Oracle was going to have what we needed to protect our data.”

Streamlining Talent Acquisition

Scheduled to come online in late 2017, the Oracle HCM Cloud solution will address the organization’s HR challenges throughout the entire lifecycle of an employee. From allocating budget for a position to seeking candidates, from hiring to onboarding, from issuing payroll to helping employees develop and grow their careers, Oracle HCM Cloud will make every process more automated, streamlined, and easier to report on.

“Today, we don’t have really good reporting in PeopleSoft,” Emon says. “Just ensuring that all of your full-time employees are tied to a position number in the system is really hard today. We’re going to have so much more information that we can work with.”

For Eckes, a big benefit will be talent acquisition and management.

We vetted Oracle’s security very thoroughly. Oracle has a robust security structure, and we became comfortable very quickly that Oracle was going to have what we needed to protect our data.”–Dee Emon, Vice President and CIO, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

“Right now it’s difficult to mine the data to find where all of our talent is in the organization,” Eckes says. “We’ll be able to manage the talent acquisition process better, know what our pipelines look like, identify key talent within the enterprise, identify successors, align development plans, and identify diversity and inclusion opportunities.”

A More Strategic HR Department

There’s another advantage to adopting Oracle HCM Cloud: the ability of the HR department to shift its own focus.

Historically, HR—in any organization—has been a highly transactional department. It hires, pays, releases, and retires people. But for the past several years, enterprise HR departments have been working to move away from that old model. Today, the focus is on HR as a strategic entity. The department doesn’t just hire people; rather, its staff partners with the business to find the optimal candidates and sell them on the position. HR doesn’t just pay employees; it works with employees to help them set goals, grow their careers, and develop personally.

“HR is not just supposed to facilitate an evaluation each year or get people paid,” Emon says. “The strategy is for HR to be the human-centric part of the organization that helps keep employees at the top of their game.”

As Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center embarks on this major implementation, Emon says employees aren’t expressing the typical apprehension that comes with a big technology overhaul. Instead, they already see the value and are excited about it.

“We’re not trying to prod people and push them to adopt this. They’re pulling on it and saying, ‘We want this, we need this, this is going to be great, and we want to help move the project forward.’”

Eckes attributes part of that enthusiasm to the careful change-management planning that he and the team involved in the implementation started at the beginning of the project.

“We started our change management before we even started formal work on the project itself,” he says. “We even chose to add six months to the proposed timeline, even though Oracle said we could get it done faster, because we knew that we wanted to spend extra time on change management, which would determine success or failure.”

In the end, Eckes recommends that others in a similar position embrace the cloud—and remain focused on what made the cloud so attractive in the first place.

“You have to be crystal clear in your guiding principles,” Eckes says. “You have to hold the organization accountable to the guiding principles and the changes that have been strategically decided upon. Every company incorrectly thinks it’s unique, but the reality is that most of the time, the out-of-the-box, industry best-practice workflows meet your needs. You have to say, ‘We’re not going to customize again—we’re going to use the system as it was designed, and we’re changing our processes.’”

Action Items
  • Chief Caregiving Officer
  • Try It: Oracle Cloud HCM Demo
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