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Dave Foxall Decoding the Payroll Software Trends of Canada

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 By Dave Foxall

A Forward Look at Canadian Payroll Technology Trends

When it comes to commentary on global payroll software environments and practices, North America is often taken to mean the U.S.; but in 2011 the Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) conducted a survey of industry-leading providers and analysts to determine the “upcoming challenges and opportunities” on the payroll landscape of America’s neighbor to the north. The findings are perhaps not entirely unpredictable (including cloud deployment, self-service functionality, more sophisticated reporting and mobile access); but they do serve to show that Canadian payroll professionals and organizations are embracing the leading edge of payroll technology.

Future Changes in Payroll Technology

The CPA’s panel identified a number of trends that are moving the payroll profession forward:

  • System Integration: A key area for Canadian organizations is the increase in integration between payroll software and other business systems to streamline processes and fully leverage technology such as employee self-service. Scott Scherr of Ultimate Software states, “One of the biggest opportunities for savings and increased efficiency is integrating processes such as payroll and benefits, compensation and performance management, and recruitment.” The greater connectivity enabled by integrated systems also allows the use of reporting tools that drive a deeper insight into the workings of the business, leading to better decision-making and greater employee engagement.
  • Cloud Computing: A continuance of the shift from traditional on-premises deployment to software-as-a-service (SaaS) payroll systems will increasingly put payroll in the cloud which according to Payworks’ Barb Gamey is more cost-effective because “cloud computing allows all of the functionality of a server-based system with none of the maintenance and cost, it has also opened doors to new mobile technology methods, such as payroll applications for smartphones, and innovative payment methods, such as paycards.”
  • Mobile Access: A Bloomberg Businessweek 2011 survey showed a 32% global adoption rate for mobile access to pay and benefits information and as with the rest of the world , Canada’s payroll is keen to embrace mobile functionality and link it to both employee and manager self-service. Marnie Larson at Stargarden believes, “Payroll, HR and accounting systems have to be linked to provide real time data about overtime, budgets and resource levels so that managers have the information they need to make the appropriate decisions. Self-service options will enable employees to have quick, easy access to their information.”

The Global Economic Impact on Canadian Payroll Technology

The recent (and in many arenas, ongoing) global economic downturn has had lasting effects on all sectors and most surviving organizations have done so through a restructuring or internal evaluation strategy of some description. The CPA survey questioned the impact of economic events on payroll software and related technologies; resulting in the general response of a predictable demand for simpler processes and more cost-effective options and a marked preference towards SaaS solutions and other overhead-reducing tactics. Walter Ross, CEO at Legiant has found, “organizations have moved to SaaS models to eliminate the cycle of upgrades and server replacements, and switched to self-service to reduce the staff who previously handled inquires.” Vendors that offer both on-premises and cloud options have noticed a definite shift towards the product with the lower up front price tag in an effort to reduce the overall total cost of payroll ownership. On a different angle, some industry figures have seen an increased focus on the use of time and attendance solutions as organizations try to do more with the workforce resources they have – workforce optimization is a growing priority.

The Rise of Mobile Payroll Technology

Appropriately enough for the home of the BlackBerry, Canada’s payroll professionals are experiencing the functional freedom offered by mobile devices. However, the survey findings encourage a structured adoption of mobility rather than a simple ‘riding of the wave’; suggesting that clear HR policies that support telecommuting and mobile working are as important as the technology itself. Likewise, the rationale behind the use of mobile devices should be carefully thought through and clearly aligned to workforce productivity and efficiency. A final cautionary note is sounded by Alexandra Swann at Loki Systems who warns, “employers need to consider security. Enhancing web and mobile [payroll] functionality is excellent, but you must also consider what information is available to whom.”

Final Thoughts on the Future of Canadian Payroll

In one sense, the trends of mobile access, increased integration and a budget-driven move to the cloud are in line with the general direction of payroll technology in North America and beyond. However, the picture painted by the CPA’s survey also includes a measured note typified by the final advice from Legiant: “Technology and legislation will continue to change but the fundamental requirements of payroll remain the same…Remember to look at the big picture and keep the core business needs in mind.” Indeed, it would seem that none of these changes and enhancements is occurring in a mood of blind enthusiasm; rather they are a calculated response to the combination of new technological opportunities and current market conditions. End

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The CPA survey questioned the impact of economic events on payroll software and related technologies; resulting in the general response of a predictable demand for simpler processes and more cost-effective options and a marked preference towards SaaS solutions and other overhead-reducing tactics.”



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