Compliance, performance, efficiency—it can be tough to prioritize goals within a global data management strategy. Depending on your yearly objectives, regulatory demands, and market opportunities, data quality and security can seem more urgent, complicated, or beneficial in widely varying ways.
Continually developing technologies, like cloud-based services and process automation, have enabled multinational companies to recognise the value of their payroll data and begin to get creative about what they can do with it. Payroll data is an essential source of information about an organization, offering insights into productivity, scheduling, employee preferences, and much more. The opportunity now is to begin using that data to inform and support better decision-making, and to start turning those unique insights into smart strategies.
However, before you can put your data to work, you need to understand what it is and what it means. For years now, companies have been amassing banks of data and running analytics to underwhelming effect. As McKinsey & Company pointed out last year, the majority of companies use only a fraction of their data, with efforts often stymied by obstacles such as “legacy systems, siloed databases, and sporadic automation.”
The key is not having the data, but having visibility into the data. Every function within an organization could capture perfect data and protect it as required, but if those functions aren’t talking to each other, if that data remains decentralized, it is a wasted resource. This is why the latest solutions are focused on providing customers with seamless data integration and real-time, cross-functional access, delivering unprecedented visibility of data and processes, and empowering business leaders to use that information to their advantage.
Why It Matters
This year is welcoming several major regulatory changes, most notably the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on May 25 and is already impacting the breadth of operations for companies in Europe as well as everyone who deals with them. The heightened requirements include new protections, such as the right for individuals to be forgotten, and strict controls around data privacy that require instant enactment. While data visibility has always been important, GDPR makes it essential, as the risks and benefits on both sides are stacking up.
Your global payroll team processes some of the most valuable and vulnerable data your company will ever have. Beyond its operational importance for you, that data includes sensitive personal information on everyone who works with you. Depending on the size of your company and security of your process, that could mean putting a large number of hard-working individuals at risk every month.
Beyond protection and regulations, good data visibility enables companies to exercise greater control over their operations and performance. It means you can see precisely what is happening within your organization, which allows you to measure and adjust according to needs and goals. Cross-functional access in real time means everyone using or reviewing data has the most up-to-date information, which in turn means all departments are operating with and responding to actual data, not after-the-fact reporting.
Benefits Across the Board
When you can see what is happening in the moment, you can take action to alter the outcome, as opposed to adjusting for next time. That agility is a key indicator of companies’ ability to power growth and respond to market changes. Viewed in light of compliance requirements, data visibility helps position organizations to adapt to evolving regulations, maintain compliance, and more easily respond to audits.
Visibility also directly enables process improvement by revealing obstacles in current workflows, causes of data error, and opportunities for greater efficiency. Leaders can leverage those insights to streamline and standardize processes across systems and functions, yielding potentially significant time and cost savings. For example, by integrating and optimizing the workflows between global payroll, HR, and benefits, a company ensures that each team is working with the same, complete, accurate personnel data. There is no need for additional communication or data transfer between teams, which minimizes the opportunity for unintentional error, shortens the payroll cycle, and improves the accuracy of results.
The level of visibility organizations have into their payroll data varies greatly across providers. Payroll as a business function is not digitally native—yet your solution can be. As with other key enterprise systems, like those for HCM, sales, and finance, technology-driven, cloud-based solutions provide the best access, integration, and visibility for data management.
Process optimization is important; however, the best process in the payroll world cannot deliver the visibility needed if it is stuck within an outdated, unintegrated system. The first step is to use a single payroll platform across all locations in which you run payroll. This brings your payroll processes into alignment across regions and, at minimum, ensures standardized payroll data, which will help your organization evaluate the state and potential of your global payroll function.
The next step in achieving data visibility is to integrate your payroll solution with related enterprise systems, particularly your HRIS and finance solutions. The benefits of data visibility really come into play in cross-functional processes. When all teams can access and use the exact same data—not shared files saved in separate locations—they can achieve more accurate results with fewer errors in less time. For global payroll, that means shorter cycles, fewer supplemental runs, and less time spent on data changes and error resolutions.
While many considerations rightly play into choosing a technology solution, data quality, integrity, and visibility must be at the top of the list. To be competitive and agile, multinational organizations must seek providers who are data-driven, who understand the importance and intricacies of data, and who dedicate development resources to data goals within their solutions. Choosing the right partner for global payroll can make the difference between gaining a competitive advantage and maintaining one into the future.