Before embarking on any payroll system implementation project, it is important to think about operational readiness and what a successful “go live” looks like. It’s at that point where you have to be ready to operate the new application, and operate it in a repeatable and compliant way.
Perhaps more importantly, though, is that the operation must be sustainable. How do you ensure that your new global payroll operation will be sustainable? It takes a considerable amount of strategic planning, which we discussed in a previous blog. However, for that plan to succeed, you will need to put a premium on two critical areas—staffing and compliance—both of which need to be considered immediately at the outset of the project, and prioritized all the way through go-live.
When you reach that proverbial “point of no return” in the project and cut over to production, you must have the right people with the right skills in the right jobs who can react to issues and run the new payroll system in an efficient and compliant way. You can’t figure out two weeks after go-live that you need more resources. That must be considered at the outset of the project and as a best practice, at least one year before go-live. And as stated before, the project team needs empowerment and a senior sponsor to drive change.
The challenge with any large project or new implementation, is that “the show must go on” with other daily responsibilities within payroll. The organizations that are ready for a sustainable operation on Day 1 of go-live are those that proactively backfilled the ongoing payroll responsibilities with resources who will not be driving the project. You want your employees that will be associated with the new system to be involved in the project from the start. Take advantage of that in-house intellectual capital that comes from being involved so they are part of the operational organization at go-live.
Some organizations choose to keep payroll support in their current operations while bringing in third parties to run the new application. The problem there is that those organizations then expect their employees to be up to speed right away when they cut over to production. While that can work for some, it also presents a whole host of additional issues and can compromise the success of the project. A blended approach is best practice, using internal key payroll employees and supplement with a third party that has conducted the change many times.
In addition to focusing on your staffing implications, you must always keep compliance at the forefront of the project, especially in Europe where regulations are highly rigorous.
Once you go live, you must have compliance as the backbone of your operational organization. Therefore, it is essential that your compliance representative is focused early in the project so they know the inner workings of the new system and that all integrations are functioning properly from a compliance perspective.
A payroll engine has high integrity, but it is only as good as the data it receives. Typically, it is in the data where compliance issues come to light, and projects and compliance issues fail or succeed in the data integrity. The chances for success increase dramatically when your compliance representative is involved from the start and compliance as a whole is a prioritized focus throughout the project.
A global payroll system implementation project is no easy task, often lasting at least one full calendar year. Those who set out with a well-structured strategic plan can create a seamless project and minimize the risk of delays or even failure. And those who consider their staffing implications and compliance right from the start will be optimized for a successful go-live.