16 Sep 2020
Planning for the future of Payroll and HR Software
Education Today is delighted to speak to Michael Howard, Founder and Managing Director of Frontier Software, a global provider of award winning payroll and HR software and services, to find out more about the business he founded back in 1983 and to hear about the future of payroll across the education and other sectors the company serves.
How did Frontier Software come about, and how has it grown?
"After moving to Australia in 1978, I worked in IT consulting roles within Human Resources and the combination of IT and HR generated a kernel of an idea that grew to become the global company we have today. My sole objective was to create a world class, fully integrated HR and payroll software solution. The company was formed in Australia in 1983 and, following rapid expansion, the first of our five offices in the UK opened in 1991. Frontier Software develop, maintain and support a comprehensive range of software applications across all aspects of HR and payroll management including absence, self service, recruitment, learning and performance. Our customer base is from a wide and varied range of market sectors, including many in education and local government. We offer on-premise and cloud solutions and our software is also used to provide payroll processing services. Our long-term growth is from prudent investment in people, software products and services. I have spent almost forty years building the company and have a fantastic team, sharing the ethos that customer support is our number one priority."
In changing times, how are companies changing the way they manage their payroll?
For many organisations, the processing of payroll is undertaken on-premise and this will always be the case. However, there is a marked growth in the number of companies looking at cloud based and outsourced solutions. Whilst we are navigating the changing work landscape, one constant is payroll - it is business critical and must continue to operate. Organisations are discovering new ways to work efficiently and safely, and many are now considering use of a payroll services provider for the first time. The number of organisations outsourcing payroll has been increasing year-on-year and now, more than ever, it is recognised that staff must be paid whatever is happening inside and outside the business. A global health crisis is not usually a determining factor in the decision to outsource payroll, but it has certainly focused attention.
How has Frontier Software helped to support its customers through the pandemic?
Frontier Software has weathered the COVID-19 storm and I am rightly proud of the way in which our global team pulled together to ensure we kept delivering support where and when it was needed. Our teams are all working from home, to the very best of their abilities, ensuring calls are answered and responded to, and that we continue to deliver first class customer service. The nature of our business meant we had robust continuity plans in place, and these have proved very effective in ensuring help desk calls are taken, payrolls processed so that our payroll service customers do not have to worry about paying their staff. Some customers reviewed operations and turned to us to provide payroll services support during the pandemic. This meant they could devote time to supporting staff while we focussed on their payroll. Others rolled out our self-service option to provide secure, remote access to personal data and payslips for their employees. Our customers benefit from the fact that all software and services are provided by us, with no reliance on third parties or sub-contractors.
When is outsourced payroll a good option for a company?
There are a number of factors that can influence the decision making process. First and foremost is peace of mind. Tried and tested business continuity plans ensure payrolls are processed correctly and on time. Mistakes in pay are damaging for staff morale - unwelcome at any time - but even more so now. Payroll providers have these in place to guarantee continuity as demonstrated during the pandemic. Educational establishments, like any business, are looking for secure access to confidential data. A specialist software or service provider such as Frontier has Information Security Management policies and controls in place and the added reassurance of ISO accreditations. Plus, our expert teams ensure that customers always adhere to legislative and regulatory requirements, such as statutory pay and GDPR for example. When using a payroll services provider you reduce the overheads associated with experienced payroll staff, software, training and compliance. While Frontier Software processes secure and compliant payroll, schools and colleges can devote their time to supporting staff and pupils over the coming weeks and months as we progress through a return to some sort of normality.
The education sector has particular needs – how do you support educational establishments?
We have a proven track record in the education sector, and I believe flexibility is at the very core of what we offer. Having a single focus on payroll and HR software and services enables us to deliver appropriate solutions as demands within the sector change. For example, to provide a school payroll service you need proven, reliable software and the expertise to effectively manage the payroll. We have both. Education sector payroll is complex, with pay scales, Teachers’ Pension Monthly Data Collection, Local Government Pension Scheme, multiple contracts administration and RTI just a few elements that have to be considered. You need the right software and support and Frontier Software helps facilitate efficiency with a choice of in-house, hosted or outsourced payroll options, with the freedom to change option at any time, or add additional modules such as HR and self service. Plus, our software has an easy to use, inbuilt report designer and a truly comprehensive range of standard reports.
Finally, what lies ahead for payroll and HR management software?
Obviously the events of recent months could not have been foreseen and the way in which people have adapted has been inspiring. One thing for certain is that remote working is here to stay and tools to support the remote workforce will be in demand. In this respect, payroll and HR management software is definitely ahead of the game. Mobile apps delivering 24/7, secure access to personal data, e-payslips and leave applications are already in the market and receiving great feedback from users. In terms of the education sector, the growth of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) means decreasing reliance on local authorities and the development of the MAT as a business model. Factors such as governance and leadership, financial sustainability and risk management all require reliable, effective business tools. Payroll and HR will have an important role to play in this, offering security and compliance around personal data and workforce metrics on demand.
Originally published in Education Today September 2020.