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Cloud Payroll Applications: Advantages and Disadvantages
Payroll Blog Post

I love lists. From the moment I wake up in the morning to right before I head off to bed, I’m making lists. Personal lists, business lists, grocery lists, to-do lists, even restaurants-I-want-to-try lists are all being written constantly. So, I decided to marry that “love of lists” to my equally strong affinity for payroll technology to see what I could come up with. The end result was this post on cloud payroll applications; a list of sorts about the pros and cons of these HCM software solutions. After all, we’re currently in the throes of an era where there are literally dozens of payroll, HR, talent management, and broader HCM solution providers that are offering cloud-based applications; and from what I’ve heard from business leaders there are still some rather big questions about the positives, negatives, and even the pitfalls surrounding cloud payroll software solutions. So here we go; first with the pros…

Cloud Payroll Application Pro #1: Cost Reductions

Let me say up-front that there are a whole host of items that go into determining exactly how much a payroll software application will cost and whether cost reductions will be gained. Most often referred to as TCO (or Total Cost of Ownership) this metric is based off of each businesses unique circumstances that contribute to creating unique cost implications. So, before you get too excited about this first entry in our pro list, be forewarned that a full cost-benefit analysis should be conducted before committing to the cloud deployment model. More cloud payroll ...


Mobile Payroll Applications: Are Businesses Ready?
Payroll Blog Post

I have a confession to make…I’m a mobile junkie. I’ve got 4 different mobile devices currently and I’m always on the lookout for what else I can buy to satisfy my thirst. Thank goodness it seems that I’m not alone. For instance, research firm Gartner put out a rather bold prediction that global revenue for mobile data will exceed a trillion dollars by 2015. And even mobile device provider Ericson has weighed in with their own (albeit self-serving) figures that cite by 2020 over 50 billion devices will be connected worldwide. So in other words, it clearly doesn’t look like the appetite for apps is going to be over any time soon—which is music to my ears.

What’s not so clear is what this means for mobility with regards to enterprise applications like payroll software. On the one hand you’ve got figures coming out from ABI Research that say upwards of 250 million enterprise business customers will be handling tasks from a mobile device by 2015. On the other hand though, you can’t escape from the reality that mobile functionalities for business applications are still largely on first-generation platforms; which are still low impact, and only deliver basic information via approval process automation.

Nevertheless, this is changing, and as then Gartner’s Jim Holincheck once put it, “the emerging generation of these mobile capabilities is a re-imagination of the employee, manager, and executive user experience in a way that improves not only user productivity, but also increases usage and engagement”. Maybe that’s why CedarCrestone’s 2011-12 HR Systems Survey identified payroll software as one of the two most widely adopted mobile applications that the industry is seeing. Still, the larger questions that I have been pondering for a while now are what, how, and why. What are organizations looking for in terms of benefits from mobile payroll capabilities? How are these businesses actually using mobile for their payroll processes? And of course…why is it exactly that we need mobile payroll capabilities anyway? So in the immortal words of Adam West, “To the Bat Cave!” (or to the questions I just posed, whatever works). More mobile payroll ...


Benefits Administration Outsourcing: A Question & Answer Guide
Payroll Blog Post

I have been trying for the last several days to wrap my head around the U.S.’s new healthcare reform provisions. But unfortunately either I’ve grossly overestimated my intellect, or seriously underestimated the lengths to which legislators will go to make things complicated. Whichever the case may be, I didn’t color myself surprised when I found out that CedarCrestone’s HR Systems Survey uncovered results that indicated a trend towards benefits administration outsourcing (BAO) caused by the complexity of these new regulations.

Even so, benefits administration has been a stalwart function in the Payroll and HR landscape for decades; and for many organizations is the last bastion of the transactional elements that are rapidly being replaced by newer, transformational processes and technologies. So just as it might be no surprise that our increasingly intricate and involved compliance environment has caused many companies to seek out specialist benefits outsourcing providers, it’s likewise no surprise that there are just as many businesses that are reticent to go the BAO route. In large part though, what I’ve heard from business leaders and benefits administrators trying to navigate these murky waters is that what really keeps them away from BAO is the queries they have that remain unanswered. That’s why I decided to write this post; to address (if I can) just some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that keep coming up in my conversations about outsourcing the benefits function.

Benefits Outsourcing Question #1: Can It Help With Healthcare Reform Issues?

As I often quip with the business leaders I talk to who pose this question, the only thing that BAO can’t help with is electing new politicians; that part’s up to you. Seriously though, not to oversell the benefits outsourcing option, but the current round of health care reform (including the much-maligned PPACA) is the single biggest driver for the delegation of benefits administration to a 3rd-party provider. And honestly, for good reason says Towers Watson’s Annual Benefit Enrollment Survey. According to the company’s research, “More companies that outsource reported that implementing health care reform-related administrative changes was easy”. Yep, you read that right…easy. How is that possible? Because maintaining up-to-date knowledge and expertise in-house are becoming increasingly taxing tasks—especially considering how many employee questions are having to be fielded about those very reforms. BAO providers on the other hand have paid staff to handle those responsibilities. More benefits outsourcing ...


Payroll Data Security—And Tough Vendor Questions
Payroll Blog Post

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have the deepest, darkest secrets of my bank accounts, social security number, demographic data or personally identifiable information (PII) accessible by some tech-savvy teenager with a penchant for hacking. I want to know that stuff is safe. That’s why I decided to dedicate this blog post to payroll data security. It’s a big deal after all, and as Ernst & Young’s (E&Y) 2011 Global Information Security Survey put it, “Knowledge is power, and information derived from data is any organization’s most valuable asset”—especially when it comes to payroll software.

But how do you know if your company’s payroll data actually is secure? I mean, other than donning full military gear and trying to break in to a vendor’s data center to test security measures, are there ways to ensure that your payroll data is safe? I think so, and so do a number of other companies too. For example, as the good folks at E&Y uncovered during that research I just mentioned, 74% of the businesses surveyed had specific classification and handling policies in place. Not only that, but nearly 70% of them ran employee awareness programs to keep staff informed about data security, and another 60% were putting additional measures in place like encryption as a means to further protect sensitive information. But that’s what the company’s themselves are doing; not the payroll solution vendors. So that got me thinking…if you’re in the market for a new payroll application, what questions should you be asking that vendor to get off on the right foot with payroll data security? Feel free to add your own, but here are the top ones that I came up with.

#1: Payroll Data Should Be Secure from Internal Threats; How Will You Help?

Aside from my unflinching resolve that the government is covering up evidence on alien abductions, I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist. That said, when it comes to payroll data, apparently one of the biggest threats to security comes from espionage-esque activities inside the organization rather than some malicious external hacker. At least that’s what McAfee found in 2011 during one of their massive global research studies. According to the company, “Insiders have two variables supporting their activities that outsiders don’t: trust and legitimate access”. And with the proliferation of smartphones, portable storage devices, and cloud services, that access and trust can be exploited and easily turned into data that literally walks out the door. Add to that recent research from Ponemon that found roughly 59% of people leaving a company take information when they exit, and you’ve got a full-blown catastrophe if measures aren’t in place. So ask that prospective payroll software vendor, how are you going to help mitigate these risks? After all, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that payroll provider to aid in reducing the chance of insider data theft. Do they incorporate measures like accountability controls? What about automatic de-provisioning when an employee leaves? Or do take things even a step further with automatic recordings of employees’ interactions with sensitive information? Of course, you hate to be paranoid and assume that all employees have this type of proclivity, but wouldn’t you rather have the measures in place and not need them, instead of the other way around? More payroll software security ...


How to Craft and Enforce HR Policies
Payroll Blog Post

Human resource policy-making and enforcement is usually not the most enjoyable part of an HR professional’s job but it is by far one of the more important. HR executives and managers should be very diligent and careful when crafting, updating and enforcing policies. Otherwise, concerns about fairness and/or legality can creep into the picture. Here's some proven guidelines to aid you in this process.

HR Policies Should Be Legal in All Relevant Jurisdictions

This dimension of policy creation and enforcement can become quite complicated. The main reason for this is that different levels of government often regulate and enforce for the same thing. Common examples include minimum wage and overtime pay guidelines. Other legal dimensions are left largely (if not entirely) to the states or largely to the federal government. Some cities pass laws that must be looked at as well. Any policy crafted that has a relevant law that regulates it (at one or more levels) must comply with ALL of the relevant laws. For example, if a state requires a half hour lunch break for employees and the city requires an hour, then the latter is what would have to be done from an HR policy standpoint since that it is the shortest lunch that complies with both laws.

HR Policies should be Equitable

Something that is typically more a matter of fairness and less of legality (although lawsuits can be filed for literally any reason) is policies that treat like situations differently, even if enforced to the letter and in every applicable instance. A good example would be a paid time off policy that awards employees 40 hours upon hire to use as they see fit until the end of the year. If an employee hired in February and a different employee in August both get the full 40 hours, that would be consistent enforcement of the policy, but it is not fair that someone gets 40 hours for working 11 months out of the year while a person that works five months gets the same benefit. In short, if a policy treats people unevenly, there needs to be a reason behind it that is justifiable and fair. Most firms address this example by having people accrue as they earn tenure, but still keep the year-end cutoff. More on creating HR policies ...


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