Taking steps to drive digital

01 April 2019

This article was featured in the April 2019 issue of the magazine.

With few organisations set to change their software, what can payroll teams do to gain the digital tools they need? Glyn King, of Datagraphic, explores the options 

Dashboards, advanced analytics, improved employee experience; new payroll software presents attractive features. However, though – according to the CIPP’s recent Future of payroll report (‘the report’) (https://bit.ly/2CZhJkC) – half (49.73%) of respondents to the survey say their current payroll software allows them to be less effective than they’d like, just 16.3% of respondents are set to change their software this year.


Time to consider a change

For the payroll profession to become future-proof – moving towards a more strategic rather than operational focus – greater use of technology is undoubtedly needed. This is especially true for those 57.84% of respondents who stated their payroll software is five years old or older. Yet with almost 75% (74.87%) of respondents extremely satisfied or satisfied with their existing payroll software, there’s understandably little appetite for change.


The barriers to change

Working in payroll for many years, I’ve seen the good, the bad and, sadly, the ugly side of payroll software changes. When it works, the benefits are far-reaching; on the flip side, I’ve seen experienced payroll teams frustrated by lengthy and costly change projects that fail to deliver the value first proposed. 

I understand the nervousness of any professional in raising their hand to propose a payroll system change. Aside from offering immediate benefit to the payroll team, you need a strong business case to secure the five/six figure investment needed, a team with time to focus on delivering the project and a good grasp of technology to buy a ‘future-ready’ solution. 


But something has to change

It’s so important at this point I don’t lead you to believe new technology should be dismissed; that an if-it-isn’t-broken-don’t-try-to-fix-it approach is the answer, as it isn’t. It’s easy to list reasons not to embrace technology, but let’s not overlook the fact that payroll needs it to evolve. 

Despite 66.3% of respondents to the report not looking to replace/upgrade their payroll software in the immediate future, frustration with legacy software exists. When asked to list their top concerns, respondents placed inflexible systems (64.74%), a lack of data insight (42.2%) and worries about data breaches (30.64%) high on the agenda. 

This lack of flexibility and insight often leads to ‘work-arounds’, which can deliver the outcomes needed but seldom in the most efficient way; and, worryingly, this can at times compromise data security. 


...lack of flexibility and insight often leads to ‘work-arounds’...


Don’t be afraid to make small changes

The answer to your technology dilemma is to explore all the options available to you and to be fastidious about what you want to achieve. 

If your current payroll software provider doesn’t offer what you need, don’t assume this automatically means a whole new system. Discuss with your payroll peers their approach and consider alternative options.

One such option might be to work with credible third-parties, that can ‘add-on’ digital functionality by taking data from your current payroll system and presenting it in different ways. This approach gives you the opportunity to trial smaller projects in a risk-free way, but still deliver measureable benefits. You can then use what you learn to make a step change towards further digital transformation rather than one big leap.

Examples of this approach might include adding software like Qlik Sense to provide the reporting dashboards and real-time analytics you need to support business decision making. It could be, for example, selecting Datagraphic’s Epay to provide employees with access to payroll and human resources documents they need from a mobile device via a secure web portal, or working with providers of chatbot technology to automate some of the routine queries coming in to the payroll department.


Step change 

Undoubtedly any change of process can be daunting, but new technologies present real opportunities to work smarter and to release time for payroll to develop the skills needed for the profession to thrive in the years ahead. 

Talk, read, watch, learn and listen to colleagues and industry voices. Be a magnet for learning what digital technologies can do for you and your future career. Don’t be afraid to try small projects to see what results you can yield. 

I remember one Epay client who was convinced his employees wouldn’t want epayslips as they didn’t use computers at work, only to find a few months later that 84% of employees connected via their mobile devices. 

Embrace the options available and prepare to be surprised. Good luck with your next technology project!