Moving with the times: How payroll can keep pace with the technology, telecoms and media industries
All industries have a different level of change when it comes to utilizing new technologies, and they all start from a different base level when figuring out how best to do this. But nowhere is this more keenly felt than in industries such as Technology, Telecoms and Media, which are among the key drivers of these advances: a tech-savvy manager in a Telecoms company is unlikely to still be using a flip-phone today.
As such, when it comes to business processes such as Payroll, they are aware of what is possible with the latest technology and expect a fully-functioning solution that fits in with the global, mobile and tech-infused reality of 21st century work. However, like other industries the budget spent on ‘supporting’ areas of the business like HR, Payroll and Finance is minimal and funds are used mainly on the operational activities. Whereas, few would dispute the priority of business operational over support, payroll and expenses are the main cost of most organisations and an effective process therefore has a disproportionate effect on the whole company.
For those of us in the Payroll sector who provide solutions for Technology, Telecoms and Media organizations and other technologically forward-thinking industries, the challenge is clear: to make sure Payroll services remain level with what contemporary technology makes possible, and that the experience of clients and users meets or surpasses what contemporary global business requires.
When it comes to ensuring this, we can break the issue down into three main points:
– Staying up-to-date – providing the services and creative offerings which are already possible with current technology and organizations
– Readying businesses – providing the infrastructure for innovation, and the resilience to manage possible disruptions to current practices by new technologies and global shifts
– Keeping an eye on future possibilities and technologies – noting possible uses, risks and opportunities, and how likely they are to be realized
With these points in mind, we can take a closer look at each one.
What should Payroll already be offering?
To understand what Payroll services should already be available in an organization, it’s helpful to think about the shift which businesses have been making over the past decade from ‘e-business’ to ‘digital business’. E-business is simply the catch-all term for business which takes place via the internet, a shift which upended older business practices and opened huge new markets for innovative companies (but is also unlikely to be news to anyone in international business today).
Following this, the last 10 years has seen another shift, in which digital technologies have become increasingly integrated into our physical world and our everyday lives. The increased density and quality of data produced by this, and improved automation and methods of dealing with and understanding it has opened up new possibilities for innovation and unique digitally-focused services which might have seemed unimaginable to many only a few years ago. The technologies which are primarily responsible for facilitating this shift are commonly grouped under the acronym ‘SMAC’, or: Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud.
This is where we are today: payroll offerings should be expected to utilize a stack of SMAC applications to offer flexible payroll options to clients. Of course, not everything that has been made possible by these technologies is entirely relevant to payroll. Social platforms are useful to many parts of our lives, and to many businesses, but are clearly not the place to deal with sensitive, secure payroll data (though they can still be useful to maintain relationships with existing clients, seek new ones or share non-sensitive information which others might find useful).
This brings us to something of more relevance to payroll, and especially the Technology, Telecoms and Media Industries: Mobile platforms. The link here is accessibility and convenience, as whether you use LinkedIn to socialize, or Outlook to communicate with clients and payroll departments, there’s a strong chance you might be doing it via a mobile platform such as a smartphone or a tablet. As such, modern payroll offerings should be expected to include access to and integration with functional mobile applications improving employee experience by enabling self-service tasks such as viewing pay statements or more complex responsibilities such as managing and authorizing expenses to be performed easily, securely and ‘on the go’.
Not only this, but expectations of what modern business mobile apps should ‘feel’ like to use have also changed. As smartphones and mobile applications have become more sophisticated and pervasive, there has been a corresponding ‘consumerization’ of business systems, with a much higher focus on high-quality User Experiences (‘UX’) than in the past. Business users now expect enterprise applications to offer the same intuitive, accessible and aesthetically-pleasing attention to design detail and interactions which they experience as consumers outside of their work. Again, few sectors are as highly aware of this as the Technology, Telecoms and Media industries. As such, payroll-related applications should now be expected to meet these needs, drawing from skillsets which haven’t always been primary to this sector in the past to deliver positive experiences which improve the satisfaction of their users, whether on mobile, desktop or elsewhere.
Moving now to the Analytics section of digital business technologies. All these data-points, produced across devices, regions, formats and areas of business interest, are only valuable if they can be managed and understood appropriately, and can be integrated with existing HRIS platforms. Analytics and reporting are key aspects of modern business, but when there is more data being produced now than at any time in human history, another factor is also key here: ‘real-time’ access. When real-time analytics and reporting is possible, modern payroll solutions dealing with time-sensitive data can’t afford to offer anything less. Real-time visual and data-driven reports allow for robust analysis and beneficial business and HR decisions such as management of risks, costs and the assignment of people.
We’ve mentioned ‘consumerization’ already with reference to application design, but it’s relevant here also. Users engaging with analytics now expect an increased level of customization and personalization to be available to them, making sure they have the best access to the HR and payroll data which is of most importance to them, and receiving it in the way which they find works best.
Of course, the well-known computer science phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ is applicable here, as these reports and analyses are only as good as the data which produces them. Processes and systems must be in place which create accurate, error-free data across the diverse global network of users, managers and stakeholders in the payroll process. This requires the linking and integration of different systems and formats, without the need to keep re-entering data, while retaining an absolute commitment to security, privacy and the appropriate level of privileges for all involved. These standards must be consistently met otherwise the distributed access to work and self-service platforms such as mobile applications would cease to function correctly, reducing employee satisfaction and creating extra costs through errors and delays.
Luckily, the final one of the digital business technologies we’ve been looking at is now the cheapest, easiest and most effective way of ensuring that these complex needs are met. This is, of course, Cloud technology, which allows the secure integration of a multitude of company systems. In turn, integration enables automation of processes, web application tools and all the inherent cost and qualitative advantages – true ‘disruptive technologies’. We have found savings to the process across companies in all business functions of millions of pounds in costs, soft benefits with improved employee experience. In one Tech Company the provision of a mobile expense app linked to HR, payroll and finance, saved employees time equating to double the cost of the application; the time of line managers, finance, cost of payments (cash) whilst dramatically speeding up the process and improving that employee experience. All of this and the analytics is only the start of a new approach to further improve the organizational process and business as a whole.
What is the future of digital business?
Ways of operating a business such as these, linking together abundantly created data from increasingly diverse sources to create high-satisfaction, accessible-anywhere, productive user experiences, is what distinguishes the ‘digital business’ position, which modern payroll departments and providers should be currently occupying, from the ‘legacy businesses’ and ‘e-commerce’ approaches which can no longer deliver what is expected by forward-thinking and up-to-date companies today.
Are your payroll processes moving with the times? For further advice and information how you can streamline and make your payroll more cost-effective, get in contact with us today on – email@example.com