06. Implementing

Planning ahead for a successful implementation

When your payroll software is reaching end of life or support is being withdrawn by the provider, you’re faced with the challenge of what to do next. Planning ahead is vital; the budget and timeline should be outlined on day one, with input from all stakeholders.

Replacing a legacy system, without planning ahead and documenting requirements, is likely to result in mistakes you may live to regret. Sometimes, selecting and implementing a replacement is rushed because the previous payroll system is near or at end of life. Concerned that it may fail at any moment, managers may lower standards with “panic measures” to avert a perceived crisis in staff not being paid.

As an experienced Payroll and HR software/service provider to the public sector, Frontier Software offers choice for any organisation considering a replacement system. Here, they offer tips for making the move as pain free and effective as possible.

Get your staff involved

Get all affected staff together to discuss current payroll issues. It is essential (yet often overlooked) to involve payroll users in the process to ensure they support and are willing adopters of a new system. Ask them what currently works well and what needs improvement. Ask managers to help define requirements to meet their operational needs.  It is important that potential users view the new system positively and to demonstrate the many and varied ways it will support them and improve productivity.

Identify and document your processes and requirements

Manual, paper based processes are open to error or abuse. Paper files are costly to store, liable to loss and difficult to manage in terms of data protection and GDPR.  It is essential to identify processes that can be automated to save staff time and your organisation money.  If you identify these in advance, the new system can be configured to help from day one.  Get a payroll system provider on board. They can help at the planning stages with a specification of requirements that asks the right questions to ensure the system is compliant with legislation, secure and can generate all the required outputs without the need for 3rd parties.  Payroll software providers configure and implement payroll systems every day and will have some useful suggestions from previous, successful projects.

Clean house

Invest time on data cleansing.  An audit of your data to verify that it is accurate and up-to-date will always reap rewards in the future, avoiding mistakes and time wasted resolving errors.  If you have records already stored in a payroll and/or HR system check if the data can be easily extracted. Frontier Software’s ichris payroll system includes a standard tool for data export/import, using spreadsheet templates to save you hours extracting and re-keying information.  Plus, is uses the same security, audit and data validation as direct data entry giving you peace of mind. Migrating data doesn’t have to be a time consuming exercise that drags down the entire project.

Check for compliance

A new payroll system should not only support all current statutory payroll legislation, the provider should maintain the software and issue upgrades as regulations change,  including Tax, NI and other statutory information.  Any system that has been tested and recognised by the HMRC PAYE Recognition Scheme is a good place to start as you know it is compliant with requirements for Real Time Information (RTI).

Put the software through its paces and check references

Once you’ve drawn up a short list from responses to your specification, arrange to see product demonstrations.  Select at least two or three providers to enable comparisons.  Score these presentations against your key requirements and make sure any existing pain points are going to be eliminated. Again, don’t forget to include end users in system presentations; after all, it is their job to work with the system day in and day out. 

Don’t be dazzled by the demonstration. Ask for reference sites to see the system at work, preferably in an organisation with similar challenges. Talk to end users about ease of use, processing times, reporting output, customer service etc.  A smart user interface is popular with users, but it’s not needed to process payroll successfully - a quick and reliable payroll processing engine is.  A system provider should be able to provide customer references and, if they can’t, ask why not.

Don’t forget to test!

User acceptance testing and parallel runs are vital as you have to be confident that the data and resulting output is accurate. You’re looking for the new system to improve operational efficiency, so rushing now could be a mistake. By testing the software, you can identify and fix issues before they adversely affect operations. System testing and successful parallel running will raise confidence in the new system. Avoid going live until every detail has been taken care of. Payroll mistakes can prove costly and put a huge dent in staff morale. To ensure the benefit of cost savings and efficiencies, a smooth transition to a new system is critical

Responding to feedback

Throughout the entire process of selecting and implementing your payroll software, the project team and users will be giving feedback. It is wise for you to pay attention and respond to the feedback. By involving and responding to your staff and any concerns, you will build a committed and enthusiastic project team.  Negativity and resistance are the enemies of a system implementation. The injection of energy that is missing when your staff are not engaged with a project can result in failure and you may end up back at square one, with people to pay and no system.

Article originally published on The EPS Supplement October 2021.