An In-depth Analysis of Ultimate's UltiPro Payroll and Benefits Software Offering
Ultimate Software’s UltiPro Enterprise provides end-to-end payroll, benefits, HR, and talent management functions; including: Open Enrollment and Life Events; Time, Attendance, and Scheduling; Tax Management; Global Workforce Insight; Reporting; Workforce Analytics; and Business Intelligence. While not the focus of this particular review, the UltiPro solution also has the capability to handle recruiting, on-boarding, career development, and performance and succession management. These offerings represent a marked difference from the Payroll/HR solution that Ultimate Software was conceived upon—a change that has not only increased the abilities of the company to compete in the increasingly tight HR/Payroll software market, but has also driven a sizeable rise in customer adoption rates. In fact, Scott Scherr (Ultimate’s CEO) estimates that over fifty percent of all new clients are signing on with the company thanks to this shift in priorities and options.
While Ultimate’s software offering does come in additional packages besides Ultipro Enterprise (e.g. Ultipro Workplace), customer size dictates which suite will work best for a given company. More specifically, Enterprise is an offering that targets those companies with 1K+ employees. Workplace on the other hand has been designed for those organizations in the 200-1000 employee range. Smaller employee populations beyond these figures could still necessitate the use of a package like Ultipro, but in all likelihood the scope of features will prove to be less-than-useful for small companies—a fact that could well equate to paying for more than what is needed. Regardless of which solution is selected however, as of Fall 2011 all SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) customers are live on the current instance—an update to the Ultipro line that brings with it the added functionalities of new global compensation options; an increasingly broad selection of Web service APIs (Application Programming Interfaces); improved country-specific analytics; and new application-level search capabilities. While broad talent management capabilities have also been added, as mentioned before, those fall outside of the scope of this review and will not be discussed here. As for Payroll/HR specific feature sets, Ultipro’s software modules include:
- Payroll Administration and Tax Management
Easily one of the most flexible and functional payroll engines on the market, the UltiPro Payroll module is capable of handling hundreds of simple to complex payroll-related computations (e.g. shift premiums, pieceworker/makeup pay, overtime, garnishments/levies, etc.) in both U.S. and Canadian dollars. Further, payroll tracking, gross-to-net calculations, automatic time/attendance data retrieval, direct deposit generation, and off-cycle/voided checks are all supported through the Ultipro solution. The standout feature of this module however, is the Ultipro Payroll Gateway; a one-click access point for all of an organization’s payroll data. From the Payroll Gateway payroll calendar and pay dates can be viewed; pay groups can be selected for payroll processing; payroll setups can be checked; processing statuses can be reviewed; and reports can be accessed. In addition to organizational level capabilities, this portal also allows for employee interaction; and, while limited features self-service options such as Paycheck Modeling (a feature that provides employees with the ability to calculate their net income or take-home pay based on different "what-if" payroll scenarios). In essence, the Payroll Gateway serves as a system in and of itself—wholly dedicated to payroll.
Aside from these functionalities, UltiPro delivers all U.S. federal, state, local and Canadian federal and provincial/territorial tax updates automatically every quarter as part of the core solution—negating the need for additional effort or 3rd-party services. Further, as part of the tax management aspect of the system, compliance and computation support is provided—an offering that serves to address questions and concerns over issues such as multi-state taxing rules (and reciprocity), taxation wage accumulation, and withholding requirements.
- Benefits Administration
Of the many options that the benefits administration module provides, one of the most salient is the ability for companies to tailor UltiPro to match the benefits that their organization offers its employees, set up and administer benefit plans, and allow employees to check benefit options and coverage from the UltiPro workforce portal. Further, by including within the benefits feature set functionality for managing the calculation of employee and employer premiums (and paycheck deductions), UltiPro eliminates the need for duplicate rules, duplicate data entry, and reconciliation reporting—storing details for deductions and benefit plans (e.g. coverage/premium/employer matching computations; eligibility/participation determinations; and taxation wage accumulation/withholding requirements) in one common table.
Another distinct advantage to the UltiPro solution (while far from unique to Ultimate Software) is the system’s Open Enrollment automation—an offering that, like similarly-situated Payroll/HR solutions, can significantly reduce the time and expense associated with administering employee benefits via paper enrollment. Much like offerings that have a strong focus on employee self-service (ESS), staff can review benefit options asynchronously and make elections from anywhere via the UltiPro portal. Building on to these ESS capabilities, Ultipro Life Events is another added (and intuitive) feature—allowing employees to make their own updates to benefits and personal information, online. That said, where the Ultipro solution seriously shines is in the capabilities it provides Benefits Administrators; including ease of setup and flexibility to customize content and messages for employees. On top of these features, administration tools allow HR and benefits managers to monitor employees’ session progress at any time.
- Tax Filing and Wage Attachment Disbursement
Designed to effectively guard against filing errors (by transferring responsibility for remitting tax files and payments) Ultipro’s Tax Filing module reduces administrative burden through: depositing federal, state, and local tax liabilities for 13K+ tax codes (via electronic funds transfer or check); filing monthly, quarterly, and annual tax returns (via paper, e-file, or magnetic media); balancing quarter-to-date and year-to-date deposits to liabilities; providing tax returns reports for review (prior to due date); delivering reconciliation summaries and copies of all filed returns; generating and filing amended returns; and delivering multi-worksite reporting to the appropriate locales. Additionally, organizations that are required to process third-party payments (i.e. tax levies, garnishments from creditors, child support, etc.) on behalf of employees can leverage the UltiPro Wage Attachment Disbursement for payment management (a process that utilizes previously-entered and calculated information to make payments via a pre-determined method).
- Human Resources & Global Workforce Insight
The two modules of HR & Global Workforce Insight work in concert with each other, tracking almost all HR-related information; including (but not limited to) employment histories, performance management data, job records, salary documentation, and more via Ultipro’s SOR (system of record). In turn, this SOR can be used for regulatory compliance monitoring and reporting activities on issues such as FMLA, FLSA, EEO, COBRA, HIPAA, OSHA, and/or provincial/territorial (Canadian) employment standards legislation.
- Time, Attendance, and Scheduling
While at first glance, this module may appear to be solely useful as a targeted labor management application, its integration into payroll and benefits administration is significant. Specifically, through payroll processing integration, this module allows for seamless handling of time entry, leave management, and workforce scheduling data.
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