Payroll Software Consultants: An Attribute Checklist
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By Dave Foxall
A Payroll Software Consultant’s Necessary Attributes for Success
The selection and implementation of new payroll software has always been a time-consuming exercise. In fact, back in 2007, a Sage Abra white paper (Top 10 Considerations When Changing Payroll Software) noted, “It’s important to keep in mind the amount of manpower typically required during a software implementation. Don’t underestimate the amount of time and resources you’ll need to ensure a quick and accurate transition from one payroll system to another.” No doubt this obvious truth contributes to the increase in outsourcing of the whole payroll function; however, for those organizations wishing to retain in-house management and control of payroll, an increasingly common solution to the new software issue is to simply hire external help. After all, even if your in-house people can be spared to manage the project, the chances of any of them having been involved in more than one or two payroll software projects (if any) is remote; whereas it’s reasonable to expect a specialist to have conducted dozens of such projects.
Once selected, most vendors or value-added resellers (VARs) will offer assistance with implementation; but for guidance that includes the selection process there exist consultancies specializing in impartial advice on sourcing the best fit solution for your business needs (and subsequently then taking you through the implementation stage). While we have already covered those details of selecting a payroll software consultant elsewhere, the fact of the matter is that once the consultant is in place, what performance measures are in place to indicate how good of a job they’re doing? Although in reality those metrics will likely vary in detail from customer to customer, we’ve identified 7 broad performance indicators that can be used to assess your payroll consultant and ensure that your project is on the right path. While some of these attributes may seem basic, the fact is that they’re critical nonetheless; ignore at your own risk.
Payroll Software Consultant Success Signal #1: Professional
As with any other member of the team, unless there’s an excellent, one-off reason, you can expect a consultant to turn up on time, fit into your working environment and demonstrate a balanced and professional attitude.
Payroll Software Consultant Success Signal #2: Clear on Requirements
You may already have a detailed RFP (request for proposals) outlining your software requirements or it may be part of the consultant’s role to help you develop one. Either way, your consultant should ask whatever questions they need to in order to be crystal-clear on your needs, both for the project and the consultant’s role.
Part of the clarification process is agreeing on a reasonable (and deliverable) timescale, including key milestone deliverables and dates at which project progress will be discussed.
Payroll Software Consultant Success Signal #4: Fixes Bugs
In the ideal world, there will be no bugs to fix, problems to solve or indeed any difficulties whatsoever. In the real world however, the consultant – as your hired expert help – should step up to help you address and minimize the impact of the inevitable bumps in the road.
Payroll Software Consultant Success Signal #5: Open About Problems
Sometimes the initial scope and responsibility of the project was flawed; and subsequent factors or events can wind up meaning that requirements change, senior sponsorship is lost, or employee engagement flags up an unforeseen issue. A good consultant (and by proxy the principle of a good relationship with that payroll software person) means not having to find a way around such problems or facing an unchecked issue that must be dealt with on the delivery date. By working with you, keeping you in the loop and being prepared to give you bad news when necessary, they’re doing their job.
Payroll Software Consultant Success Signal #6: Doesn’t Overreach
We all start somewhere and in the spirit of lifelong learning, we all seek to continuously hone and develop our skills and experience. While every project will provide new learning, it’s reasonable to expect your consultant to only to have taken on work that they’re skilled to do. What you should expect to see are signs of competence, not ignorance. A consultant’s personal and professional development should be on their dime, not yours.
Payroll Software Consultant Success Signal #7: Evaluates Satisfaction
The basic goal for the consultant is that you, the client, is happy. As the project progresses (and when it’s completed) part of the regular two-way communication between consultant and client is confirming that the client is satisfied with the rate of progress and quality of outcomes.
Payroll Software Consultant Performance – Final Thoughts
Naturally, much of the work involved in selecting and implementing your new payroll solution will be a team effort and even if the consultant is doing the heavy lifting, much of their work may be unseen within the overall success. But, by bearing in mind the above seven points, it should be possible to point to specific contributions made by the consultant throughout the project, thus confirming the value of the consultancy relationship. As for the seven signals, feel free to pick and choose the ones most relevant to your project and add an eighth (or a ninth) as necessary.
Even if your in-house people can be spared to manage the project, the chances of any of them having been involved in more than one or two payroll software projects (if any) is remote; whereas it’s reasonable to expect a specialist to have conducted dozens of such projects.”