Updated: Nov 17, 2020
Making the switch to a new payroll solution requires a substantial investment of time, resources, and effort from multiple teams within an organisation. From building the business case for the project, setting objectives, identifying requirements and creating an RFP and then finally reviewing responses and selecting a vendor, a vast majority of time is spent upfront even before implementation goes ahead.
As the project progresses, people both involved in and affected by the transformation will be looking for the shortest time to value—putting added pressure on the project leaders across multiple functions to finish quickly.
Taking a business-wide view of the impact of the payroll function is key to timing your project wisely. Doing so requires a comprehensive understanding of your company’s overall business objectives, goals for the project, any risks, or deadlines, and how they all come together. You can find references to this type of information in our Guide to Developing a Business Case for a Payroll Project. In addition to this critical knowledge, there are a few insider tips that will help you choose the best time for your project.
1. Avoid notoriously busy times such as Christmas or large recruitment drives.
A key indicator of whether a payroll implementation will run smoothly is the payroll team’s availability, access to data and capacity to take on extra workloads. While the project implementation team is configuring the new system and running testing programs, it’s important that the payroll team are available to answer questions, help with User Acceptance Testing and check data—not to mention learn how the new system works.
It’s best to avoid implementing a new solution when your live payrolls are busy, such as during large recruitment drives or during restructures. Holiday periods such as Christmas present challenges for the retail and hospitality sector with increased sales and staffing hours. Plus, it’s likely that one or more members of the payroll team will also be taking holidays, meaning fewer payroll staff are dealing with more work and have less time to devote to implementation.
2. Manage deployments in an agile way.
At AgileXperts, we work with our customers to roll out payroll projects and transformations in an agile way, using sprints and staggered deployment of work. Throughout the process, there are peaks and troughs in terms of the requirement of the systems and we’re careful to properly schedule each sprint or project feature so that deadlines do not compound or overwhelm team members.
Having consideration of a phased approach is crucial to managing resources properly and reduces the risk of project failure. We advise customers to determine how much their team and stakeholders can handle at any particular time, accounting for risks and standard operating procedures. Working closely with the Programme Office also helps dovetail work packages in line with other projects rolling out and ensures that competing projects all get the required level of attention and priority.
3. Analyse what quarter works best for your business.
As with peak busy times, understanding what operational quarters your business performs in is crucial to choosing the best time for project execution. Depending on the size of the business and level of payroll transformation, payroll projects can span multiple quarters throughout the year. To meet agreed deadlines, project executives need to forecast timing and operational periods.
Many businesses prefer to start the new year with a new payroll system. However, depending on your payroll specifics, a clean year-end switch may be more complex to execute than expected. For example, the software vendor may do a feature upgrade around this time which will throw out integration capabilities. If you were planning on rolling out just before End of Financial Year, consider that your payroll team will need all of payroll data entered for June while also having year-to-date information for all prior pay periods to ensure deductions and taxes are calculated correctly, meaning 11 months of records. Accessing, entering, and checking all that information in May or June, when your team is busy with EOFY financial tasks may be a lot to ask.
4. Make integration a priority
Many major companies seek a payroll transformation to align with or make the most of their HRIS system – as in, running multiple Human Capital Management (HCM) projects concurrently. This is good in theory as it will result in better data quality and management. However, the decision of whether to integrate at the same time as implementation should be weighed against resource availability.
Depending on your available resources and the scope of the integration required, it could be more efficient and safer to implement the payroll solution first, then test it against use cases with the HR systems to be able to identify what types and layers of integration are available and easily deployed.
As we’ve learnt through multiple payroll and HRIS system project transformations, these programs of work are often notoriously risky and require fundamental planning and strategy to be executed properly. It’s important to approach implementation with pragmatism and extensive communication to stakeholders both internally and externally.
In addition to having clear objectives and a solid understanding of your available resources, it’s helpful to choose options that simplify the process for your stakeholders. This could mean considering what time of year to deploy, how systems are scheduled go-live, when testing is undertaken and what work packages are delivered. Timing is key and resource management is essential for planning and achieving your overall payroll transformation goals along the way.
Want to learn how to kick off your upcoming payroll project? Download our guide here: