As a global payroll project enters its deployment phase, organizations typically seek a swift, streamlined implementation to minimize time to value. Yet failure to prepare for the rigors of rollout often leads to painful project delays, with issues showing up late in the implementation process.
Not only do these delays heighten the possibility of missing your go-live date, they mean a greater chance of increasing project costs — including those involved with retaining existing payroll systems for an extended period while problems are overcome. However, with a more thoughtful approach to planning and project management, organizations can avoid delays and save that time and money.
Here are three ways to avoid the most common pitfalls of global payroll implementation and keep your transformation project on the right track.
1. Ensure the Readiness of Reliable Data
A data-ready human resources system containing up-to-date current and historical payroll information can make all the difference to an implementation project. Historical payroll data in particular is of crucial importance when setting up a new system, yet many companies find it challenging to obtain. Traditional payroll providers typically use an aggregator system, in which a company’s global payroll data can be spread across multiple local providers, rather than stored centrally. The result is a complicated, time-consuming process of requesting and collecting the necessary information — a challenge often exacerbated when organizations elect to implement new global payroll and HR systems simultaneously.
Alternatively, some companies may not store their global payroll data in their HR systems at all, instead doing payroll processing through multiple in-country teams, emailing data or completing spreadsheets on an ad-hoc basis. In these scenarios, your first step is to identify where your payroll teams are getting their data. The process is most likely not standardized, which can mean discrepancies between the data you hold at a global level and the data being passed between local offices and your existing payroll provider.
Top tips for success:
- Ahead of implementation, ensure that a complete, standardized global payroll dataset is prepared and stored in your HR system. Your new provider's payroll implementation specialist can confirm required data fields, including any that may pertain only to one or two countries. For example, in Germany, religion is a required field to facilitate collection of Church tax. This may seem like a huge undertaking, but failure to provide complete payroll data is the most typical cause of delays when setting up a new payroll system.
- Engage local teams and task them with validating centrally held information against their own records. Ultimately, you need to ensure the consistency of data across your HR system, local offices, and your existing payroll providers. This verification process will have a significant impact on your post-implementation outcomes.
2. Recognize the Complexity Level Country-by-Country
Rolling out a new payroll solution will always be a complex process. However, some countries represent greater implementation challenges than others. An organization setting up payroll in Brazil, for instance, typically must provide five years’ worth of historical payroll data, whereas entities in the United Arab Emirates may not need any year-to-date figures.
When it comes to establishing a deployment schedule, pairing a complex country with an easier one, regardless of geographical or cultural proximity, can be beneficial for the overall transformation project. Your implementation team gets to focus resources on the more challenging setup, while the overall project still rolls out two countries. This can help demonstrate progress and maintain a sense of momentum.
Acknowledging the local requirements in each of your territories also forms an important part of your ‘gap analysis.’ In other words, understanding the complexity involved helps determine the role your global payroll solution can and can’t play in each country.
Top tips for success:
- Liaise with local contacts and payroll specialists to understand the legislative requirements in each country included in the implementation.
- Deploy resources thoughtfully – that is, don’t schedule rollouts in challenging countries like Brazil, China, and Germany all at the same time.
- If your business needs allow, consider building a journey of success by beginning exclusively with an ‘easy’ country before moving forward with a comprehensive global rollout. By starting small, you can learn the methodology and functionality of the new provider system in a limited scope before tackling bigger challenges.
3. Manage the Change Wisely
Any significant business technology switch brings some resistance to change. When it comes to global payroll, that resistance manifests most often at the local level. Payroll team members in various countries may push back against the implementation of a new solution out of fear that their jobs will be impacted or because they feel discouraged by the prospect of re-learning established processes. Some local payroll teams may already be performing to a high standard and feel especially reluctant to change their winning formula, despite the needs of the broader organization.
Top tips for success:
- Engage local teams in the transformation project from the outset, communicating specifically how the new solution will benefit them.
- Achieve widespread buy-in by holding regular status meetings, supporting your phased implementation with proper IT guidance, and following our other suggestions on getting local teams to back your global payroll project.
- Commence deployment with a relatively simple country or region to secure an early success story. A local-level team that’s pleased with the rollout process can become a valuable advocate to vouch for both the efficiency of the implementation and the value of the technology.
Rolling Out Success
A global payroll implementation brings with it many challenges, but proactive preparation of both your data and your people can ensure a smooth, seamless transition, delivered on time and on budget. If your project team has successfully navigated the initial stages of global payroll implementation — including solid business case development and thorough vendor evaluation — you’ll have the information needed to make deployment a success.