The payroll function is undergoing significant change as growing numbers of professionals migrate their systems to the cloud, freeing up time and resources to enable them to work on more strategic activities.
According to the latest ‘Future of Payroll’ report from the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, some 38% of respondents are now cloud users, with two out of three of them indicating the technology has enabled them to work in a more ‘value-add’ way.
As Samantha Johnson, Policy Lead at the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, put it at a fireside chat during our Zellis Connect customer conference
, “[Moving to the cloud] is ensuring professionals have a bigger impact than just delivering the transactional payroll piece, so we’re seeing some real changes based on using technology.”
The value of having a cloud system in place also became particularly clear during lockdown as the approach delivered a level of flexibility – in access terms – that was not open to users of on premise systems, many of whom were forced to come into the office rather than work remotely.
The art of the possible
As to what payroll teams need to think about if deciding to migrate, Johnson believes that a key starting point is to truly understand “what it is you’re looking to get out of the cloud and what the art of the possible is – so you’re not just recreating what you’ve already got in a different format”.
Doug Betts, Deputy HR Director at cruise holiday provider Fred Olsen, which has just migrated to the cloud from a hosted environment, agreed.
“I’ve seen so many HR teams over the years just do things in a certain way, for example with their payroll functions, and don’t question why,” he said. “But a transition like this towards the cloud is a really good opportunity for any organisation to just step back and question why they’re doing what they’re doing and the way they’re doing it – and to see if they can use Zellis to help their processes take place in a more efficient way.”
Taking this approach can help save a lot of time and effort, while also providing the chance to plan ahead. “It’s not just a technology migration, but a technology optimisation opportunity too,” Betts explained.
Planning is vital. Part of this involves understanding what functionality you want to use and mapping out third party interfaces, reporting requirements and the like, so everything can be reviewed with the project team upfront, believes Sue Hayes, Senior Payroll and Systems Specialist at Cromwell.
“There’ll be some things that operate differently, for example, menus and reporting service options that may change, so you need to make sure you’ve understood that upfront to allow time for any changes so you can continue with business as usual processing,” she said.
Preparing for change
Another important consideration is to “be prepared for the project timeline to change if something comes up unexpectedly” as it is imperative to feel comfortable when making the decision about when to go live. “You want to have a planned timeline, but be flexible with that,” Hayes explained.
What also helps is involving the IT team early on. Particularly if, like Cromwell, you are migrating from an on-premise system. Not only will it be IT that supports the all-important data migration, but they also “give a different perspective on data security to a payroll user, so it’s great to get their involvement”, Hayes said.
Her final piece of advice is to allow ample time for testing. “As you go through the testing scenario, you’ll come across things that are different. It probably took us a couple of days of someone working through all the payroll cycles to test everything, but we wanted to be 100% sure before we completed our live migration,” Hayes concluded.