Preparing for and Implementing a Global Payroll Solution
By Curtis Holmes
Implementation of a global payroll solution is a months-long task that can at first seem daunting. But understanding the process and requirements up front can alleviate the fear of the unknown and lead to on-time delivery, high-quality implementations, and increased customer satisfaction.
When done the right way, an implementation doesn’t have to be a struggle fraught with miscommunication. The key to an effective implementation is proper planning, focused project management, extraordinary teamwork, and continual communication.
Payroll is serious business and affects people’s livelihoods. Employees may be living paycheck to paycheck, and it’s important to get an implementation right so there’s no gap in service.
A provider needs to customize a global payroll system based on client requirements and walk side by side with the client throughout the journey. Throughout this process, providers hear many of the same questions.
The client and provider should address key inquiries to ensure global payroll implementation success. When the client and provider are acting in partnership, aligning on the needs and expectations of the project, the journey—while sometimes challenging—leads to the desired destination.
What Is the Best Approach to Implementing Global Payroll?
When considering an approach to implementation, look for one that will optimize resources, maximize benefits, and minimize risk.
Establish an implementation timeline to demonstrate the country groupings and associated “go lives.”
In conjunction with this, develop implementation work plans that detail the roles and responsibilities on both the company side and the vendor side, and identify the key milestones on an individual country-by-country basis to ensure a timely, accurate, and successful implementation.
Request your vendor provide a global data checklist, weekly resource estimator, current state assessment tool, and executive progress reports, all designed to create value and efficiency. An experienced global transition leader should manage the implementation process, ensuring central oversight and consistent service across in-scope countries and service types.
What Is the Process to Kick Off an Implementation?
Implementation begins with a current-state inventory. The vendor should be seeking to understand your existing infrastructure—not just from a transactional perspective, but in a broader organizational sense as well. To this end, expect to be involved in a series of meetings for discovery prior to starting an implementation. This is an opportunity for the vendor to meet with payroll process stakeholders, make sure you both understand each other’s processes, and document the pros and cons of the current payroll landscape.
Typical agenda items include resource availability, vendor relationships, HRIS integration, finance reporting, known issues, mobile workforce considerations, and compliance matters.
Once equipped with these inputs, the vendor can customize an implementation work plan to your specific priorities and needs. The project is planned and managed on a global scale to maximize consistency, oversight, and coordination. Following approval of the master project plan and agreement on contract terms, implementation formally begins.
How Much Time Does an Implementation Take?
A best practice is between four and five months, with key milestones established along the way. You want a seamless process, but you don’t want anything to be overlooked because the process is being rushed. The standard implementation is broken into stages: requirements, data take-on, two parallels, and a go-live phase.
During the last month, it is common for the process to be handed over from an implementation team to an operations team. One of the keys to a successful implementation is for the vendor to include the operations team as part of the implementation process, eliminating the need for a hand-over once the payrolls go live. This ensures a smooth and seamless transition from implementation through ongoing delivery, saves time, reduces errors, facilitates the channels of communication, and ensures you are familiar with the operational delivery team from the outset.
How Much Time Must the Client Provide to the Implementation?
Every client is different, depending on head count and countries, which makes a general answer difficult. A good rule of thumb would be to dedicate one business day for every 15 employees to the implementation.
Implementation is not experimentation. The vendor’s role is to create a concise program that engages key stakeholders to ensure success. During the requirements stage, the provider should define all of the roles and responsibilities so that each team member understands needs and deadlines. Most providers ask clients to dedicate one person to complete implementation templates, to participate in weekly status reviews, and to approve key milestones.
Who Will Be Working on the Project?
In addition to the implementation team, a project management team partners with the client to develop an overall implementation plan including supporting documentation and risk mitigation planning.
The project manager is responsible for the overall project pack, while your implementation consultant will be your day-to-day contact and payroll expert. The project team usually consists of the following roles:
- Global implementation manager
- Project manager
- Payroll professionals—administrator(s) and specialist(s)
- Technical analysts
- Product support
- Treasury manager
As a best practice, the vendor should assign a dedicated single point of contact and client account manager for support and query management. In addition, having the project team dedicated to the project from implementation through ongoing delivery provides consistency and reduces the need for knowledge transfer, therefore reducing the risk for error.
What Are Some Potential Challenges?
Inconsistent historical data and the client point of contact’s additional responsibilities beyond project implementation are the most common challenges. It is common to find inaccurate or incomplete data in multiple formats. Within the project scope, the provider should collect your data, configure it to its system, and upload the data itself to alleviate burden on the client.
In addition, depending on the requirements, the client might have specific pain points depending on countryspecific requirements and compliance challenges.
How Can Inefficiencies Be Mitigated?
A defined process and project charter can make the difference in removing doubt and inefficiency from the implementation process. As mentioned, continuous communication is key.
During implementation project meetings, a provider should cover the project charter, the project team, the methodology, the implementation, and key milestones. A well-defined project plan and weekly status reviews per country are necessary to keep everyone aligned and reinforce the teamwork that is so vital to success. Additionally, the client is assigned an account manager from project inception through go-live who is aware of specific needs and challenges and can communicate them to the appropriate project team members.
Successful implementations are often a function of the provider chosen and how that determination is made. With an experienced team in place, planning, focused preparation, and a steady pace, everyone involved not only can finish this race, but finish strong.
How Does Knowledge Transfer Occur During Transition From Implementation to Ongoing Service?
Every implementation should have a training component to ensure effective handoff of the solution and services. This will give you confidence and knowledge in maintaining the system moving forward. Training should include tailored programs using custom curricula to meet the individual audiences within your company.
All system users, from management and administrators to employees using the self-service portal, should receive appropriate training targeted to their function and access level. Training can be provided via a combination of live and virtual settings, depending on the needs and availability of personnel and agreement with the vendor. You should also expect to receive written materials as a follow-up to training so you have documentation to reference.