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Micah Fairchild Payroll Software: A Strategic Implementation Guide

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 By Micah Fairchild

Payroll Software Implementation Critical For Application Success

The grandfather of all enterprise software applications, payroll’s roots go all the way back to 1954 with General Electric; and ever since payroll has held a place among the business world’s critical software solutions. Even research firm Gartner recognizes this, with their own Thomas Otter remarking in one of the prolific company’s publications that, “Payroll is the oldest form of technology”. Still, even though payroll may well be the most seasoned application on the market, that doesn’t mean that this type of software hasn’t seen advances or been affected by the shifting sands of the market. Indeed, now with advanced payroll technologies displaying ever greater flexibility in the areas of deployment, automation, and mobility, an increasing number of organizations are re-thinking their strategies to keep payroll “in-house” rather than succumb to the rising tide of outsourcing. But that strategy is not without its failure points; and issues such as hardware botches, unacceptable data cleansing, deeper integration problems, and even user adoption difficulties have plagued even the most tested vendor solutions. As such, the process of payroll software implementation must not be taken lightly; and the same rigor that was applied in selecting a payroll solution must also go into how that chosen system is put into place.

Payroll Implementation Strategy #1: Training

It may seem to be a given that users will need to be trained on how to use your newly-minted payroll application, but as Sage’s “How to Implement an HR and Payroll System” indicates, payroll system training is one of those areas where cutting corners cannot be afforded. In fact, when viewed through the lens of return-on-investment (ROI), it’s easy to see that the faster users become acquainted and proficient with the new payroll software solution, the faster that ROI can be achieved. Take care though about how those trainings are implemented. Sure, course-based and other face-to-face trainings are optimal to begin with (if but for no other reason than the initial tax on resources will be lessened), but end-users will likely also need tutorials and ready-reference guides such as manuals to be able to quickly research issues or troubleshoot on their own as well. Not only that, but online how-to guides based on FAQs and on-going help desk support should also be considered part and parcel with this strategy. Remember, no two learners absorb information in the same way, so a mix and match approach is invariably called for when developing material for these system trainings.

Payroll Implementation Strategy #2: Engagement & Motivation

Jumping off our prior point on training, it’s important for recent buyers to understand that, irrespective of the business application selected, one of the central strategies for any implementation activity is stakeholder engagement. And key to that engagement is a strategy of understanding what motivates users to utilize the system. For instance, business leaders may be looking for cost-cutting measures. On the other hand, Human Resources and Finance staff may be seeking payroll integration features or collaboration points. And different still, employees and managers may have self-service expectations that the system needs to accommodate. As such, a comprehensive communication strategy via system functionality briefings, software update communiques, frequently asked questions, and the like needs to be implemented in concert with the new payroll offering.

Payroll Implementation Strategy #3: Testing

Payroll is one of those mission-critical enterprise processes that has to be run right every time; with hardly any margin of error to be found. As such, in order to avoid even the slightest imperfection, rigorous testing, validation, and parallel running are going to be a necessity so as to ensure that first time use is successful. And if your new payroll application employs the use of modern technologies such as SaaS (that replaces an older legacy payroll solution), those testing efforts should be doubled. In fact, as McGladrey’s David Funk postulates, “Several periods of parallel payroll processing are typically necessary before you are confident the new payroll system is ready to be deployed”. And that’s just to work the system’s kinks out. Also falling into this category is the testing that has to happen with live users prior to roll-out thanks to the multiple system maintenance that has to occur and the preparation hat payroll administrators have to take on.

Payroll Implementation Bottom Line

Adding to the above strategies, much like we mused in our point on system training, few areas of implementation success are quite as salient or understood as keeping the payroll software project on budget; it’s an obvious win, but also an absolute must. Still, as Andy Kyte from research firm Gartner, tells it, “We're spending more than ever on technology, but we're not paying attention to where that money goes”. To counteract that trend, each of the above strategies has been selected because they impact that bottom-line. What’s interesting though, is that no matter how much effort you put in to these tactics, the work will largely go unnoticed. That, in a nutshell is the crux of the issue with payroll. As a fundamental element of the employment transaction, smooth and efficient payroll operations are simply taken for granted. But given the fact that payroll affects every employee within the company, failures on the other hand will be quickly realized. Which option do you want to be dealing with? End

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Now with advanced payroll technologies displaying ever greater flexibility in the areas of deployment, automation, and mobility, an increasing number of organizations are re-thinking their strategies to keep payroll “in-house” rather than succumb to the rising tide of outsourcing."



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