Hot Topic: Fourth Digit of Subcode

As part of the move to Workday, we are standardizing FRS subcodes and eliminating the fourth digit. This is consistent with leading practices for modern financial systems and prevents misalignment between responsibility and expense purpose. The fourth digit does not provide the ability to look across an attribute system-wide and can create confusion and inaccuracy in entry when overlapping use exists between divisions or departments.

In most modern accounting systems, the ledger account represents the nature of the transaction.  For example, it may denote whether the transaction relates to the purchase of office supplies versus recording salaries and wages.  Accountability is generally represented by a different field such as a cost center, or in our case a Financial Activity Object (FAO).  In FRS, we have at times used the fourth digit of the subcode to represent who is accountable for the transaction, not the nature of the transaction.  With the transition to Workday, we are implementing the best practices below:

  • Keeping Spend/Revenue Categories to denote the nature of the transaction and using the FAO to show accountability for the spend or revenue
  • Not duplicating the organization’s existing systems ancillary to Workday
  • Using Workday’s other worktags to filter the data within an FAO and Spend/Revenue category

We understand that subcodes are used for different purposes and are therefore providing some alternative options.  The options are a progression with ‘yes’ answers to a question stopping the progression and resulting in the answer to the fourth digit accommodation in Workday.

1. Is the information from the use of the fourth digit found in another University system?
If so, you should use the feeder system that provides the same detail tracked through the fourth digit. Within Workday, feeder system entries are identified by what is called the “Journal Source” field.  Many feeder systems contain more detail than what is passed over to Workday, and those systems can provide additional detail when needed.  For instance, to investigate which individuals are being charged to a specific FAO, you can access that data in the Cumulative Salary (CUMSAL) reports in COGNOS.  Likewise, for student-related information, detail exists in ISIS or in the data warehouse.

2. Can the information from the use of the fourth digit be found in a Workday worktag?
This could be a different FAO, a supplier, or a customer in Workday.  For example, you may use a different FAO in Workday for activity previously tracked through the fourth digit.  This option works well in cases where there are existing operating programs that distinguish between the costs or revenue items that previously required separation via the fourth digit.  Workday provides substantial ad hoc reporting tools that will allow the user to utilize the entire financial data model as well as other data elements (vendor, journal source, etc.). Source documents (such as invoice or journal entry request and backup materials) that we will be attaching to transactions will also be available for additional research.  In most cases, this will provide more detail than FRS did even with the fourth digit.

3. Is the information from the use of the fourth digit relatively modest and unbudgeted?
You may track the detail captured by the fourth digit offline in Excel or through the attribute field in URGems. Either of these is a good option for a local need that is modest in scale and for data that is regularly manipulated or reported in a variety of ways for ad hoc requests.

If none of these solutions will fit your needs then you may request either a new FAO (for accountability purposes) or a new Spend/Revenue category (for situations where the nature of the transaction is not currently being tracked by an existing Spend/Revenue category):

  • Requesting a new FAO in Workday: This could either be an Operating Program or a Project depending on your requirements and contingent upon meeting set criteria. A new operating program requires a sustaining entity that lives for multiple years, has an annual budget and includes $200,000 of spend or more. A project requires start and end dates and $50,000 of spend or more. The spend thresholds are general guidelines and requests will be evaluated on a case by case basis. Requests for a new FAO in Workday should be made to the Divisional Finance Director.  This option works well where there is a need to track all cost categories in a program by an additional responsibility center such as ‘by physician’ or by ‘research faculty’.
  • Requesting a new Spend or Revenue category through your Divisional Finance Director: These requests will be reviewed and approved by the Data Governance Committee. As a general guideline, the spend or revenue required must exceed an annual threshold of $200,000. This will be one of the more complex options and will be subject to scrutiny as we are substantially strengthening the controls associated with account setup.

We appreciate your support as we transition to a more uniform chart of accounts which will allow for consistent reporting capabilities across the University. Please use the Contact Us form to submit any questions or feedback you may have.