Successful tech implementations hinge on solid preparation

Some preliminary action is universally beneficial

Whether payroll reports into the human resource department or into the finance department, the reasons for new payroll solutions remain the same — the organization has outgrown the current payroll management system or the organization is looking to streamline its multiple systems to use one HR system solution.

The key to a successful conversion or implementation of a new system, though, is the work that goes into the preparation for the change.

Organizations are split between in-house and outsourced payroll systems. Many firms choose to stay vanilla with these programs, as it makes maintenance and updates much simpler to manage. Either choice requires the same pre-work.

There are a number of preliminary actions an organization should take to ensure a successful system implementation or conversion:

Determine the current actions executed by payroll

• Understand how to streamline these processes.
• Determine whether the new system improves these processes or increases the current workload.

Understand current customizations that make the job more efficient

• Are there any unique spreadsheets that are easily imported into the current system that reduce the amount of manual input?
• Are there any outside systems that need to be integrated with the new program/system (web, desktop or outsourced)?

Fit-gap analysis

Examine the current system and compare it to what the new system will provide. Any deficiencies are considered a gap or missing component. Determine the deficiency in the new payroll management system.

• Identify exactly what the differences between the systems will be.
• Do the benefits of the HRIS system outweigh the deficiencies?
• Will the conversion create better processes and simplify the existing ones?

Include payroll administrators, payroll specialists in fit gap analysis

• No one knows the existing processes better than administrators and specialists. They will share the intimate secrets of payroll processing for every pay period.
• Keep in mind change is not easy and there may be some resistance from the team.

Security

• Do managers have the same access as administrators?
• Should all of HR have access to payroll information?
• Is there a strong encryption?

How easy is integration?

• Does the financial reporting system need to be changed?
• Does the time management or time keeping system need to be changed?

Once a payroll management system has been selected, there are several steps to follow to complete a successful conversion or implementation:

Clean up the data in the old system

Garbage-in definitely means garbage-out. There is no need to maintain old, stale or invalid data and transfer it to your “shiny new HR system.”
• The data being converted or moving over will need to fit the parameters of the new program. This includes the number of characters in a field, the types of fields required, essential information versus “nice to have information.”

Outline rules required to meet company policies, collective agreements

• Although every great system will come with the legislative compliance built in, it is the organization’s responsibility to test for accuracy.

Build set of rules in new system

• Be careful to build the rules as they exist today. If pay frequencies are being changed, this should be the very last step performed.
• The important part here is to make sure the new system handles the task exactly the same way as the old system in order to achieve the same results.

Regression testing

Regression testing is usually managed or completed by the project team. This will be performed many times throughout the process. It’s simple — the more changes required, the more testing required. The purpose of regression testing is to confirm a recent program or code change has not adversely affected existing features.

This testing is done to make sure new code changes will not have side effects on any existing functionalities. It ensures old codes still work once new code changes are completed.

Regression testing is required in the following situations:

• when change in requirements and code is modified according to the requirement
• when new features are added to the software
• when defects or performance issues need fixing.

System integration testing

System integration testing (SIT) is a high-level software testing process where testers verify all related systems maintain data integrity and operate in co-ordination with other systems in the same environment. The testing process ensures all subcomponents are integrated successfully to provide expected results.

The main goal of completing SIT is to test the automation of aggregated components and the dependencies that exist between them. In a complex environment, this is a tedious task, as there are a number of components and dependencies. Conducting SIT ensures it follows the dependencies available in a sequence, thereby simplifying the task. After system integration is performed, data flow testing takes place through three states.

Test cases for SIT are developed using test design techniques, such as:

• use-case testing
• state transition testing
• load testing
• usability testing
• volume testing
• graph-based testing
• decision table testing.

User acceptance testing

User acceptance testing (UAT) is formal testing with respect to user needs, requirements and business processes. This testing is conducted to determine whether or not a system satisfies acceptance criteria and enables the user, customer or other authorized entity to determine whether or not to accept the system.

In UAT, the user requirements are used to derive the functional hierarchy. As such, they are likely to be specified at the business transactions and processes rather than specific logical functionality. The test cases created in “design” are going to be testing the functionality of the system as a whole to simulate the business processes.

The UAT tester should possess strong knowledge of the business. She should be independent and think as an unknown user to the system. The tester should be an analytical and lateral thinker and combine various data to make the UAT successful.

The main purpose of this testing is to validate the end-to-end business flow. It does not focus on the cosmetic errors, spelling mistakes or system testing. This testing should be carried out in a separate testing environment.

Marie Alfano is the owner of MT Alfano Enterprises. She publishes a blog intended to help with the complexities of Canadian payroll. She can be reached at (416) 803-5091.

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