Plan the Work: Strategic Planning for Sustainable Global Payroll

Tuesday, June 26, 2018 | Consulting

Plan the work and work the plan. It’s easier said than done, especially when it comes to global payroll system implementation projects. However, the key to maintaining a sustainable global payroll ecosystem is to create a strategic plan that works using a standardized methodology. Each organization is different and has its own unique challenges and processes. But the fundamental characteristics of a solid strategic plan can work across any organization.

When putting together a strategic plan for your global payroll system implementation, integrate these aspects and your chances for long-term success increase dramatically.

Clear Vision of the End State

Any good strategic plan starts with the end in sight. What does the end state look like? What does operational readiness look like for your organization? You need to consider all factors of operational readiness from your people, their roles, your locations, and how future employees fit in. Compliance should remain a primary focus at every step of the journey with a reconciliation process in place to maintain integrity.

Payroll Vendors/Integration Partners

As you consider global payroll vendors and integration partners, you’ll need to understand their operational models and then utilize their assistance in defining the best operational model for you given your priorities. Make sure your integration partners are familiar with your game plan. And lean on your payroll vendor to ensure operational readiness, making sure they care about and understand your desired end state. Managing and optimizing vendors to achieve your outcomes requires significant effort, so be prepared to identify a change sponsor to build in the required time in advance.

Barriers to Success

Being able to understand and recognize the potential barriers to success will help you break through them if/when they arise. Though not an exhaustive list, there are a few important barriers to consider:

  • Data integrity: Payroll is a back-end process with different people inputting multiple data sets. The system has high integrity, but it is only as good as the data it receives. Make sure your detective audits run routinely and processes are in place for issue resolution.
  • Underutilized use of payroll data: The payroll data is some of the most powerful data in the organization, yet it is also often the most underutilized. Metrics such as overtime analysis, tax benefits and wage recovery can give the organization important insight, yet it can also provide a major barrier if it isn’t utilized properly.
  • M&A activity: Because it is a back-end process, payroll is rarely included in the mergers and acquisition process. As a result, non-standard processes or manual processes occur, causing issues and inefficiencies across the organization.
  • Global Shared Services: Not all payrolls are created equally, and often the decision to utilize a GSS model creates a ripple effect across the organization for years to come. Each country has different laws and regulations, data security requirements, fines and penalties, statutory reporting requirements, etc. It is extremely difficult to leverage technology, people and process, in a GSS model.

Pre-Implementation Audits

Any successful strategic plan has audits built in BEFORE the implementation begins. The “sins of the world” reveal themselves in payroll so it is best to have early detection of data issues before they enter into the payroll engine. This is also where it is vital to have a compliance lead on the project; someone who is well-versed in IT information security and SDLC adherence and can be the owner for all things compliance. Catch the issues early.

Project Team

Though the makeup of the project team varies from organization to organization, there are still representatives and leads from key departments, including payroll, human resources, IT, compliance, time and attendance and benefits among others. It will be crucial to identify a program integration manager (PIM) who oversees all integration touch points. This person must be politically agnostic in the organization and work to ensure the collective voice of the team is heard accurately.

Communication Plans

The work has been planned; now it’s time to execute. But, planning the work is easier than actually working the plan. That is why communication is key. Communication can often be the Achilles Heel of global payroll projects, but providing weekly status reports, stakeholder updates and corporate internal audit updates can help minimize dysfunction within the team and the project.

Project Team Meetings

During the course of the project, maintaining a regular cadence of project team touch points and meetings can go a long way in ensuring success. However, everyone must always share a willingness to talk about any “elephants in the room” at any point. Major issues like inadequate people resources; issues with testing, compliance/documentation, software performance, training, and data integrity; and any staffing concerns are critical to creating operational readiness and must be addressed as early and as transparently as possible.

Production Cutover

When it comes to the production cutover, typical baseline criteria for success is two consecutive months in parallel with tighter criteria in the second month. The User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase is critical to test your people, the system and your processes for anomalies to gauge for operational readiness. Be sure to freeze the payroll pipeline before cutover, halting new starters and any salary changes from being entered. Your target go-live date should accommodate all of those changes and additions and more.

Go-Live, Project Closeout

Once the button is pushed and the system is live, the team must maintain a war-room mentality, tracking issues tightly with daily production updates so any issues can be resolved quickly. Be sure to document lessons learned for the next project and replicate best practices. If you’ve reached go-live and project closeout, then you’ve likely considered and included all of the above components to your strategic plan and it can be considered a success. At that point, it’s time to implement perhaps the most important part of your plan—celebrate your success and recognize the hard work and effort from your team.

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