Get on top of Payroll & Accounting…

Ideally, the till should be linked to the Epos system with accounts software running in the background.
Ideally, the till should be linked to the Epos system with accounts software running in the background.

... before it gets on top of you. Analysing the audit roll, trying to reconcile scattered invoices, the awful headache of stocktaking... they can all be streamlined with the right systems



1 April 2008

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For a smooth efficient operation in any retail store, it is vital that the Epos system and the accountancy software are integrated. In addition, if you really want to alleviate th headaches, the HR/payroll side must also be linked together. While not all businesses will have the above it does make for less stress and hassle for a retail operation.

Ideally, the till should be linked to the Epos system with accounts software running in the background.

There is also the option of outsourcing payroll and accounts to other parties; and it has become an increasingly favoured option.

Roddie Aherne of Northgate HR said the traditional reason for many organisations to outsource internal functions was to reduce their operating costs. He said while cost is still an important factor, the drivers are more sophisticated and the gains are far more beneficial. Aherne believes businesses have become ever more conscious of the need to focus time, energy and resource on their core activities, so they are increasingly turning to outsourcing.

Outsourcing a popular option

According to Aherne, besides cost savings, companies now see outsourcing as also helping them to:
1.    Remove risks in non-core functions by transferring the responsibilities of adherence to law and adoption of best practice to the supplier, in a controlled and agreed manner.
2.    Provide access to a wide range of experts in an ever-increasingly complex business environment, particularly in areas such as employment law and taxation.
3.    Refocus on core competencies, enabling employees to concentrate on key issues that directly relate to the company’s business goals.
4.    Improve their ability to react quickly to changing business circumstances – suppliers of outsourcing services have streamlined processes that are carried out in a time efficient manner by qualified and experienced employees.

“While Payroll outsourcing originally led the way, HR outsourcing is now increasingly at the forefront. Many of those who are not actively pursuing an outsourcing strategy are investigating other HR solutions such as e-HR and online services, with companies keen to explore new ways of connecting computers and sharing information via the Internet to achieve greater efficiency,” said Aherne.

Northgate can also straddle the outsourcing and in-house worlds. Its ResourceLink package is a fully integrated HR, payroll and time and attendance application, can be delivered either as an in-house or an outsourced solution.
According to Aherne, however, it is when ResourceLink is delivered as part of an outsourcing package that Northgate HR really believes it adds most value. And this can take many forms.

For example, Northgate will host the complete application in its state of the art data-centre. The client can then access the HR side of the application as if it is an in-house solution and its employees and managers can access also self-service over the web. Meanwhile Northgate, accessing the same database, can provide a fully managed outsourced payroll service. Alternatively, the client can manage the payroll in-house itself utilising the hosted platform.

“In either of these outsourcing scenarios, the client does not need to concern itself with the provision of hardware and infrastructure for the ResourceLink solution,” said Aherne.

“All that is required is a link into the internet and Northgate looks after the rest, including back-ups, application updates, disaster recovery and business continuity, etc. To this package, Northgate also adds its HR Outsourcing service, customised to the needs of each client. It provides support in such areas as employment law, recruitment, contract management, training and development and many more elements of HR.”

Reducing the administration burden

Aherne believes self-service is a huge driver in today’s HR and payroll applications. He said it reduced the administrative burden and costs within the organisation while empowering managers and employees with the ability to control their own records. 

“It allows them to update personal details, such as change of address, bank account details & next of kin. They can view their payslips & P60s online. They can record sickness, request holidays and submit their expenses for online approval.
“Together with integration, and the benefits that flow from it, clients look for Adaptability in the ways such functionality and services are delivered.

“Northgate HR has put together a very strong offering to service this market. It is built around its functionally rich HR, Payroll, T&A and Pensions application – ResourceLink.”

In the next few months Northgate will be announcing the launch, in Ireland, of its Northgate Essential Card, a type of payroll credit card. According to the company it provides an easier and more efficient method of paying employees, particularly where employees do not possess bank accounts or share a bank account with another person. This situation often arises with migrant, temporary or seasonal workers. Instead of the employees net pay being transferred into a bank account, Northgate credits the person’s Essential Card, instantly providing the employee with access to his or her money. “It removes administrative burden and cost associated with issuing cheques or handling cash. The use of such cards can significantly enhance corporate relationships with staff, assist in attracting the right sort of staff and help to improve staff retention rates.

“It means that a new employee, perhaps arriving from abroad with no banking facilities in place, does not have to wait a long time for the appropriate banking checks to take place. It also means that employers avoid the need to provide cash advances to such employees to help them over that interim period. It allows for the provision of additional cardholders which can be very useful where a migrant worker has dependants in his or her home country,” said Aherne.

Cutting data entry time

Lorna Keogh of Sage said the past 12 months has seen a few changes in payroll and accountancy systems.
CSO reports have now been included in Sage’s Micropay products which aim to cut down time consuming work generating numerous pages of information on employees for the CSO.

Sage has also added batch time sheet entry which, Keogh says, allows the admin people to pull up several timesheets at once instead of having to call them up individually – again cutting down on time on data entry.

Keogh said FMCG retailers usually have two choices when it comes to financial software. One is to have an accounts and payroll operation separate from the till. The problem here is if the business is doing sales through its tills how does it know what the stock levels are, what products are selling well and when to reorder from a supplier.

The other option is to put in an integrated system. “So when items are sold through the till it updates the accounts packages so you can see what you’re selling. You can customise the entire Epos system as well and it means that it’s updating in the background and there’s no duplication of effort.”

Keogh said software was now making it easier for businesses to keep financial systems in house as opposed to outsourcing.
She did say, however, sole traders would usually use an accountant and companies often solicit the services of a payroll bureau.

“For me, it comes down to confidence. If you have the self-belief to do the payroll yourself it’s not that difficult. Again, it is easier when you have staff that will run the payroll. And if the system is integrated, at the end of the day, there’s not that much left to do.”

Employee self service

Keogh said if a third party is tending to the accounts and payroll the big disadvantage is that instant access to important data such as what products are selling and which suppliers you were doing the most business with and so on is not possible.”
In the next 12 months Keogh believes that employee self service will become standard. “We also have the Sage HR product coming out as well which will link to Micropay and tie it more together. And our accounts packages such as Sage50 will be debuting on the SQL platform.”

John Cusack of Ceridian said he was seeing some rollout of employee self service but perhaps not as much as expected.
“Given the amount of turnover in retail, we generally didn’t see much self service in the stores.”

Cusack sees the main differences between the FMCG sector and other business areas as volume oriented, turnover of staff, tight deadlines and constant pressure which changes the dynamic of the software that’s suitable for retail.

“Also the people often get paid weekly or fortnightly which leads to very tight deadlines for getting information which feeds the figures for payroll.”

Cusack said he has two different types of customers. Ones that give Ceridian information on paper that has to be transferred to digital format and the clients that give him digital records. “The paper customers mean tight deadlines and causes a peak every week.”

Multi linguistic payslips

Cusack believes that outsourcing of accounts and payroll usually occurs when a company has an event such as growth or decline, where people are lost or major errors and fraud are discovered in the accounts or payroll process. “It could be that the business then needs to have their processes audited and documented, so if they outsource it is one less area that they have to concentrate on internally.

“In the retail environment they usually want their managers managing front of house staff and clients rather than managing administration employees.”

Cusack pointed to some new changes coming down the line at Ceridian including multi linguistic payslips. “A lot of people don’t understand why their net pay changes from one month to the next, particularly if salary or overtime didn’t change. We’re putting an explanation of the net pay on the slip and why it altered due to tax credits, allowances, benefit in kind and so on. And because of the amount of non Irish born people working in the FMCG sector we’ll have it in different languages
“We’re also introducing a tax credit survey where we ask the employees a series of questions online such as are you married? Do you have children? Health insurance? And so on. Then we’ll look at the tax credits they have and suggest ones they might be missing.”



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