Payroll technology just keeps getting better

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|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2003

Canadian HR Reporter talked to Tony Berardine, general manager of Best Software, about advances in payroll technology.

The good news is that new technology allows payroll professionals to add ever more complex tasks (in a more cost-effective manner) to processes. The better news is that new technology is becoming affordable to companies of all sizes.

More and more smaller and mid-sized companies have access to powerful tools and processes that were once only affordable to large corporations. Just as the Internet has leveled the playing field in research and e-business, so have today’s new software designs and languages empowered uses of ERP and HRIS payroll systems.

Take, for example, the basic task of printing pay stubs and stuffing them into envelopes. Hewlett-Packard has teamed up with Moore, the business form manufacturer, to create a seamless process where stubs are laser printed and sealed in an envelope in one run. Security is improved because the stubs are immediately sealed from prying eyes — always a payroll department worry.

This merger of software, hardware and forms represents a simple technological solution that saves time and money. And it is a cost-effective option available to small- and mid-sized firms.

Advances in payroll hardware and software are a bonus for small- and mid-sized firms because the ability to perform complex functions is no longer linked to expensive systems only large corporations can afford. Big organizations are also benefiting from new technology, with continuing improvements in the flexibility of software that can perform complicated and time-consuming tasks. And systems are becoming faster and more powerful in order to allow for the processing of numerous complex functions.

In fact, a lot of functions payroll practitioners have dreamed of are now becoming reality. The flexibility to change payroll design is a key factor in new software that is allowing for ease of customization.

The latest union contract arrives with an agreement to show deductibles and non-deductibles together on a stub — no problem, software can now easily customize your outputs.

Need to come up with a formula to calculate decreasing benefit contribution amounts? Software will let you create all types of statements.

Consider for a moment how software can aid in implementing changes brought on by the TONI tax collection plan (see article on page 9). TONI changes will be implemented with greater ease and lower costs by organizations that have flexible software systems.

Today’s new systems can, in fact, create most any type of customized reports and printouts. Benefits statements can be personalized, with employees receiving individualized reports, improving employee communications. When a change affecting payroll takes place, for example a shift in tax rates that sees an adjustment to net income, HR can tap into employee data and include it in an e-mailed report to employees showing them individually how the change will affect their next pay period.

If you have hundreds of employees you can now get personal with each one by sending them a benefit statement showing their own data, such as salary, bonus, seniority, medical, dental and more. The employee receives useful information and the company can, in a positive way, show exactly how much it spends in compensation and benefits.

Multi-site applications

Processing payroll in organizations with operations at more than one site is also becoming more efficient and cost-effective with remote technology. Take the example of a firm with a head office in Toronto and another office in Quebec. Putting the software on the company’s Quebec server can be avoided through new technology such as Citrix Metaframe that will even allow for a pre-run trial. (A Metaframe demo can be test-driven by visiting www.citrix.com.)

The Internet

Electronic data transfer is also being built into today’s software. For example, electronic T4 filing is an efficient practice that also saves government a lot of time and energy.

And of course intranets and the Internet have brought employee self service (ESS) — a boon to freeing up payroll staff from mundane and routine tasks, such as address changes and fielding employee inquiries.

ESS options continue to improve and drop in price, making them affordable for small companies.

It is even possible to put pay stubs on kiosks and desktops and eliminate pay stubs altogether.

When it comes to self-service, companies can opt for interactive voice response (IVR) systems or online ESS. The advantages of a Web-based ESS are twofold:

•speed on the user end; and

•the ability of the user to view records on screen and then print them or save them in soft form.

Consider the difference between IVR and Web-based ESS in the world of personal banking. Those who have tried both methods will be aware that the same advantages of speed and ability to view data apply.

Final note

Of course with all these new technology features being made available to improve productivity in the payroll department, there is another issue to keep in mind: in order to take advantage of all that technology can offer, investments must be made in training payroll practitioner to fully utilize a system.

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