HR software case study: Integrated payroll and HR at Marshall Motor Holdings

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Business challenge
Based in Cambridge, Marshall Motor Holdings decided in 2005 to reorganise internally by moving its payroll function from finance to a new HR department that would also administer expenses, benefits and other compensation. According to HR general manager Carole Minter, the motivation was partly administrative and partly strategic.

“Every part of the business is being challenged to become more efficient and we had a lot of duplicated effort because parts of the system were not talking to each other. The accounts department previously handled payroll and expenses using a specialised motor industry system from Kerridge. The application was not able to process P11Ds, so this would be taken over by HR using a new, integrated system.”

The software would also need to cope with the company’s bonus scheme for technicians, which is particularly complicated.

“The changes are not just about the system,” Minter explains. “As a department, we've been very administratively based. We wanted to reduce our admin staff but increase advisory support to support the management team and to get better performance from people in the business.

System specification
As the first person recruited to the new HR department, Minter was giving the task of defining where the company could make improvements to its HR systems and what functionality it would need. The accounts department was effectively being taken out of the administrative loop, so she consulted closely with finance managers to make sure they would get the information and monthly reports it needed to do their jobs. The main requirement was to map the outgoings from the HR system to the nominal account structure and codes within the Kerridge system, she says.

Selection factors
Reporting capabilities were an important factor in the selection process, and most of the systems assessed could handle Marshall Motors’ requirements using reporting add-ons such as Crystal Reports. In some cases, the candidate systems offered too much, while not coping with the company’s compensation and benefits requirements.

Marshall Motors looked at systems from PeopleSoft, Northgate, Frontier, Snowdrop and Select HR. “A lot of the systems we found had superb functionality with bells and whistles. But if you pay for a premium product and don’t use 30% of it, you’re wasting capacity,” she says.

The suppliers’ approach to customer service for a mid-size company also played a part in the final selection, Minter reports. “With Peoplseoft and Northgate, we found their levels of service weren’t great. We were being asked to contact them and were moved from one point of the operation to another. We thought that might be indicative of the level of service we might get afterwards.”

Selection and implementation
Select HR won the Marshall Motors contract because it offered the closest fit with the company’s needs and paid extra care through a series of meetings with Minter to ensure that it could adapt the SelectPay module to cope with the complex remuneration requirements.

“The system we chose was the most straightforward and I was pleasantly surprised,” says Minter. “When we showed the board what the system looks like and compared it to what they used to, I was pleasantly surprised that they agreed with our recommendation.”

The plan is to roll out a full blown system with the Clearvision self-service capability which will let employees amend their basic information and give managers access to the data to produce reports, monitor sickness and absence and do appraisals on line. "For us, in order to be as efficient as we needed to be, self-service was fairly high on our list. Because our industry is used to using computers that was not much of a challenge – it might be more difficult for organisations where only managers and senior people have a computer,” she says.

The first phase of implementation took place over the summer of 2006 and in the later project phases, Marshall Motors is looking to implement Select HR’s e-recruitment modules. “At moment, we want to make sure we’ve got all the information right. But with recruitment built into the system, the manager who wants to begin a recruitment can compare the costs against their budget, and go through an automated route to get the appropriate authorisation. Once they get sign-off, HR will automatically be notified and we can start preparing an advert and identifying where it should go."

As her final advice to payroll/HR software hunters, Minter suggests, “Look at what your current processes are, work out where you want to make improvements and ensure the system you buy delivers those improvements. And get the supplier to demonstrate that it works.”

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