For years major organisations around the world have been adopting and upgrading enterprise technology solutions to improve essential business functions, most notably in HR, Finance and Sales. Recently the digital transformation has extended to the payroll function, a development that appears perfectly timed with the next key step for companies looking to improve their performance and control: system integration.
Although data, big data, and better data have been hot topics for years, their significance and application have been an ongoing discovery for both innovators and end users. Now the widespread ability to link the software systems used across functions serves to supercharge our data quality, accuracy, and access, and thereby elevate both process results and potential. In global payroll, this confluence of advancing technology and systems integration is serving to transform payroll from a poorly understood back office function to a key source of business information and performance insights.
Behind every successful payroll run are tedious hours of manual data collection and verification, adjustments, calculations, and information transfer. Advanced payroll solutions and automation technology are already transforming those processes to improve accuracy, security, speed, and results—integration takes it a step further.
By connecting systems across related functions through seamless interfaces, the benefits of these better solutions can be shared throughout the workflow. More complete employee data in a company’s HRIS can be accessed directly by their global payroll platform, which can automatically validate the information in minutes to highlight any critical errors in need of attention. Suddenly a process that took days and required an employee in HR to engage with an employee in payroll is completed in a fraction of the time with almost zero labour.
Integrating systems requires a level of standardisation of both processes and data formats across functions, which can create opportunities for greater alignment and understanding between related departments. It presents a fundamental change to the way we process payroll and shares the benefits throughout the organisation by enabling better access to better data for all integrated solutions.
For the payroll professional, integration brings greater opportunities to contribute to and engage with their organisation. Our research shows that up to 40% of current payroll activities can be automated, a figure exclusive of the potential savings available through system integrations. That’s a significant amount of time that payroll professionals could be spending on higher value tasks.
Integration can afford payroll teams the opportunities and time to work upstream of their function to improve the overall process. A payroll professional could focus their saved time on minimising or expediting error resolutions, thereby directly improving payroll performance and the employee experience. Another could work towards shortening cycle times to include more complete and accurate data in each payroll run, enabling more comprehensive reporting on the company’s workforce.
As the quality and totality of data improves, its value increases. And as payroll data becomes more important to organisations, so will the people who understand it. The role of the payroll professional will expand beyond processing data changes and pay calculations to interpreting trends and applying their unique insight to help support and improve overall business performance.
As I’ve mentioned, the importance of improving payroll solutions and integrating related systems lies in the data. Acknowledging data integrity as both the end and means of payroll innovation is the key to unlocking its potential.
Systems integration creates opportunities to standardise both processes and formats, which can speed data collection and movement between functions. Integration minimises or eliminates manual intervention, diminishing the risk of introducing errors into datasets and improving accuracy—not only for payroll but for each function accessing integrated data.
Integration is key to creating what’s called a single source of truth (SSoT) for an organisation. There are no versions of data, no files stored on desktops, no manual entry of Excel content. There is only the one source of accurate, up-to-date, complete data that is maintained and accessible through the linked systems. Everyone who needs it has access to it, and today’s leading systems automatically track and control access and changes to ensure transparency and traceability.
For global payroll, this means more complete, true data in every cycle, minimised errors, and better performance. For organisations, it means greater control and visibility of their largest cost centres, as well as related functions. Rather than payroll data being a security risk, an advanced, integrated payroll solution can become a vehicle for compliance, as well as positive process change. Audits are easier and quicker to manage, reporting is more flexible and accurate, and analytics can happen in real-time for instant insights and problem-solving.
The Full Picture
For any company processing payrolls for multiple populations or multiple regions, moving to an advanced, unified solution will improve results. For enterprise organisations with complex needs, integrating that solution with other core functions like HR and Finance will transform payroll data into a tool for elevating performance and maintaining compliance. While integrating systems can be a major undertaking, its benefits are no less tremendous, with advantages shared across integrated functions, related departments, business leadership, and in fact every employee—including the ones responsible for processing the future of payroll.
A version of this article was published in April in GPA Live.