Marc-Oliver Fiedler is the co-founder and CEO of Irish global payroll platform start-up, Payzaar. He shares his views of the market, where it is going and how he hopes to shake it up.
He started out managing HP’s business process outsourcing division, which included payroll-related services, in the mid-2000s. Next came a stint at Oracle, where he assisted in developing the software company’s cloud business model.
This was followed by a move to ADP, where Marc-Oliver Fiedler became head of marketing, strategy and products and developed a ‘passion for payroll’.
What key pressures is the payroll industry facing today?
Payroll professionals are expected to be perfect and get things right 100 percent of the time because if they get it wrong, they risk being faced with disgruntled staff. What’s worse is they can also get into trouble with the tax authorities, which is likely to lead to a call from the CEO asking what’s happening – and no one wants that.
But payroll professionals are also expected to do more with less because compliance requirements are constantly changing and becoming more stringent across the world. For example, Brazil, New Zealand, and Ireland are all introducing real-time reporting requirements that are being billed as the biggest such changes in decades.
Many organisations are also introducing new and more complex pay and benefits packages to attract and motivate the best talent, but it all increases the burden on payroll professionals.
As payroll is a back office and service function, it’s one of the first parts of the company to be squeezed whenever there’s financial pressure. These pressures and challenges multiply exponentially when running a global payroll department.
How can global payroll functions best deal with these pressures?
Firstly, it’s about putting effective central governance structures in place to ensure that payroll is handled in a compliant manner. Secondly, the use of smart technology can help you gain better insights into your operations and ensure corporate policies are followed at the local level. Technology can also help streamline and automate your processes to help you become more efficient.
Even though global payroll solutions that aim to provide a more integrated view have been around for more than 10 years, most organisations still have very fragmented payroll operations.
To go through a transformation process and adopt a global payroll solution has traditionally meant ripping out and replacing existing payrolls, which is risky. As a result, many companies have shied away from it.
We see a lot of pent-up demand for more integrated payroll solutions, which is driven by a number of factors. There is a general move towards centralised shared service structures for back-office functions, such as payroll, in order to increase operational efficiency.
The roll-out of global HR systems has led to a need to connect them to local payroll applications. Compliance requirements are growing, which includes more stringent data protection regulations due to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), while many organisations also want better insights into their data and to have more controls in place.
So what options do customers have?
In terms of a big single system to manage all of your global payroll operations, the only real option is a big enterprise resource planning system like SAP or Oracle. But it doesn’t always make sense to implement such a big platform, especially in long-tail countries with relatively few employees.
There are also the traditional aggregator solutions that provide a middleware layer to integrate with local partners. While the aggregator model does offer some level of integration, harmonisation and standardisation, it is necessary to replace your existing local payroll providers with the partners of their choice. This can cause a lot of disruption, as the quality can be quite variable.
Payzaar is the first open platform for global payroll. It allows you to work with any local provider you choose, giving customers flexibility and control.
It’s a similar model to open marketplace concepts, such as Amazon, Airbnb, and Booking.com platform. Customers can choose to work with local providers that fit their specific needs using standardised, reliable processes. It makes the process of transacting and doing business with them more transparent.
We don’t force customers to rip and replace their local payroll solutions. Instead, we offer them consolidated access to all of their global payroll data as well as standardised processes to improve efficiency. We also provide better operational controls and oversight on what happens locally to ensure compliance.
The platform has state-of-the-art security measures and stringent access controls in place, such as multi-factor authentication and data encryption, to protect sensitive employee information.
Finally, processes are automated and digitised wherever it makes sense to reduce the need for staff to undertake previously manual, time-consuming tasks. Machine learning has also been included to identify outliers and anomalies that are hard for humans to detect in very large data sets.
How do you see the payroll industry changing over the next few years?
It’s definitely an extremely exciting time to be part of an innovative start-up company trying to move the payroll industry towards new horizons.
Technologies such as machine learning and robotic process automation (RPA) will change payroll professionals’ day-to-day work. So being adaptable, understanding the changes and using them to your advantage will offer fascinating opportunities. Some of the mechanics of payroll and its repetitive tasks will start relying less on human intervention. This will free up people’s time to focus more on addressing value-add questions and challenges.
There is often little time to step back and think about how to build out organisational structures or realise different processes and operating models.
Payroll is an incredibly data-rich environment and payroll data is often the most accurate and trusted, but most organisations are only starting to figure out how to make the most of it. So there’s an opportunity for payroll to help people think that issue through.