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HELP! I'm running a payroll project and I've never done one before!

This blog is written for the numerous employees that get plucked from a busy role to run a complex enterprise sized payroll project, without any prior experience or knowledge of implementing the payroll function. This may also apply to you existing project managers, or perhaps business analysts who got thrown in the deep end, or a HR leader with some project management experience – you’re confident that you can handle the project, but there may be some nuances along the way that you need to cover for.

Payroll projects can be notoriously risky. So, we thought we’d share some tips for people thrust into the payroll project spotlight, and how to plan for a successful project:

1. Build your project team and stakeholder management plan. We recommend working out who your key project delivery staff and project stakeholders are throughout the process and designate specific roles following role definitions such as the RACI model. Your sphere of influence will be vast – internal, external, staff, paid employees, leadership, payroll, finance, IR, legal and HR. All of these people will need to be communicated with by you and your delivery team.

2. Structure your time accordingly. Like all complex projects, payroll projects can be a whirlwind and they will suck a lot of time out of your day. Structuring team meetings, block-out time for internal communication and 30 minute windows for project reflection and note taking will ensure you’re keeping everything on track and remain prioritised.

3. Understand the ‘Why’. Your organisation will be motivated to deliver the project with a number of components in mind, including cost, scope, time, quality, risk and benefit to the team which makes up the reason ‘why’ for completing the project. When you are presented with challenging decisions or conflicts of interest, or a demotivated team, it is important to remember what the key motivations and goals are of the organisation in regard to the project and use those principles for decision making or getting things back on track.

4. Know your technology and contracts. Payroll projects often integrate with a variety of other technologies in the business and the vendor contracts are often complex and complicated. A common pitfall of payroll projects is when specific technology features of the new software are not matched to the business objectives or require costly customisation. Additionally, software contracts can be incorrectly estimated early on and result in ‘bill shock’ at a later date when the system goes live and licensing costs kick-in. This can result in project delays, stakeholder fall out and blow-out of budgets, both capital and operational.

5. Scope early and validate scope continually. Ensuring thorough business case and scoping activities in the early stage of the project will help control any ‘gotchas’ throughout the duration of the project. Payroll projects are usually mission critical and often these early phases are rushed through to meet tight time frames which then introduces risk at a later stage when the project is in full flight. Validating scope throughout the project also gives you a chance to review changes in its entirety and communicate budget or project issues proactively.

6. Document and report. Documentation and reporting are often the least exciting parts of a payroll project. However, they are crucial to project delivery, handover and success. Taking time during the day to log decisions, report issues and document change management or operational procedures will ensure you have a clear audit trail, an adequate reference point for Board reporting, and an extensive library of information available for when the project goes live or into ‘Business As Usual’.

7. Bring in expertise if you are unsure or even to confirm your approach. If you’re feeling nervous regarding the technology, payroll process or legal implications of underpaying your employees because of a payroll project bungle, then we advise bringing in expertise early to assure successful delivery and peace of mind. You can source expertise from employment specialists, risk and compliance specialist and payroll project experts such as us here at AgileXperts.

Managing your payroll project with these tips in mind will help you keep flexibility and visibility of the dynamic nature of the project while in full flight. With the right combination of structure, support, strategy and foresight – any experienced PM or motivated team member can lead a successful payroll project.

Now go! Good Luck!

Businesses can email or call 1300 287 213 for free first-step advice on how to ensure your payroll processes can safeguard your payroll compliance. Follow us on Linkedin or sign up here to receive our articles direct to your email inbox.


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