While the premise of receiving payment for work performed is prehistoric, today’s payroll function is highly technical and reliant on technology. From computerised data processing to direct deposit and beyond, modern payroll providers and the international organisations who use them benefit time and again from ongoing improvements in global payroll technology.
As we enter 2018, the potential of payroll to contribute to an organisation’s success is greater than ever before. Primary concerns are interrelated—greater accuracy, faster processing, regulatory compliance—and advancements in payroll systems enable forward-looking companies to address them all. Below are four key trends in payroll technology to consider for the coming year.
1. Automation and Robotics
Payroll may be in the early stages of adopting robotics to improve both process and results, but it’s becoming easier every day to move quickly down that path. The current boon of automation in global payroll is its ability to perform repetitive, high-volume, low-value tasks with inhuman speed and accuracy, facilitated by what’s known as robotic process automation, or RPA. This modest application alone is already transforming how payroll teams function, and it’s just the beginning.
As we move through 2018, the potential of robotics and automation in payroll will continue to develop. More organisations will examine their processes to discover opportunities for automation, such as in repetitive tasks or computational activities like uploading files to ERP systems, reviewing payroll calculations and even validating data. RPA enables faster processing with greater accuracy—and thereby lower costs—but the key advantage will be more time for payroll professionals to focus on higher value work.
2. Predictive Analytics
It isn’t the numbers or the volume of data collected that makes analytics valuable, it’s what you can do with them. As more organisations realise the wealth of information contained in their payroll and HR data, they will look for opportunities to analyse and apply that information to improve processes and operations. Predictive analytics takes a step beyond exception reports and monthly reviews to focus on what is happening in real time in payroll, empowering teams to recognise causal links, foresee issues and proactively resolve problems.
Properly conducted and applied, payroll analysis can have fundamental and far-reaching implications for a global organisation. When teams can predict issues, they can improve results, whether by altering data processes or schedules, augmenting teams or making other changes. The insights offered by predictive analytics can guide decision making as well as internal investment, by highlighting opportunities for improvement and their potential benefits.
3. Better Data
Both the goal of automation and the key to predictive analytics, data quality and consistency will remain an important focus in 2018. Improvements will centre on how data is gathered and transferred, as these traditionally manual steps present the greatest opportunity for error and the biggest challenge to resolving those errors. Particularly for large or multinational organisations, 2018 may be the year to consider a payroll solution that houses all data on one platform (versus multiple local provider systems) as a means of achieving greater data consistency, visibility and traceability.
The most significant advantage of better data is better compliance. In the year of GDPR, heightened data security regulations are presenting both obstacles and opportunities to companies worldwide. Automation and analytics can help organisations achieve greater data quality and thereby better outcomes and insights, helping payroll assume its role in strategic planning and decision-making.
4. System Integration
With a focus on data integrity and compliance, organisations will step up integration plans over the coming year, looking for opportunities to align both information and how it is managed. Integrating payroll with related systems including HCM, accounting and benefits gives organisations greater control over both data and process, and plays an important role in maximising efficiency.
A natural next step toward improved performance and governance, system integrations reduce complexity by eliminating redundant and errant data—bringing organisations closer to operating from a single source of truth in key functions like global payroll, HR and even finance. The integrated information is more accurate, current and complete, which opens up new possibilities for smart organisations. Companies who achieve system integrations clear the way for better analytics and forecasting, as well as valuable strategic insights into their most valuable asset: their workforce.
Technology as Enabler
The year ahead holds a heightened interest in the potential of payroll to improve organisational performance and compliance, and technology is the means by which companies will achieve their goals. A single process improvement like automated data validation delivers significant time and cost savings while improving the payroll outcome and highlighting both data and process issues at the source. Integrated systems provide unprecedented visibility and traceability, giving companies greater control over their information as well as new ways to apply it.
By harnessing the possibilities presented by technology advancements in payroll, organisations can design a better way forward for their business. Leaders who incorporate the tech above send the signal that they are committed to improving their operations in ways that benefit both company and employee for the long-term.
A version of this article first appeared in GPA Magazine.