Wednesday, 26 October 2011

CMEC Changes

The changes CMEC is demanding from payroll software providers have now reappeared on their website.
Oracle said at a previous UK user group meeting that the Court Order Functionality in PeopleSoft GP will be rewritten in 9.2, but these changes are required prior to that.

Oracle, PeopleSoft and RTI

Oracle held some meetings with customers on their approach to RTI during October. If you are a PeopleSoft GP customer in the UK or using UK extensions, I hope you were able to get along and hear the word.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

HMRC on Data Quality

Apparently Employers have been sending HMRC duff data in returns such as employees called Mr X. It looks as if HMRC are concerned about the quality of data they hold, as well they might be, in advance of RTI.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

List of simple changes I would like to MyOracleSupport

Ability to change the main contact
Yes – MyOracleSupport really is MyOracleSupport – it won’t let me go.  This is 2011 – things change, people leave – it is nuts that we have to involve highly skilled Oracle support folks to do this menial task for us when we could do it ourselves.
E-mail notifications
The system sends an email to the main contact (even if they’ve left – see above) whenever an update is made to the SR.  Assuming they are still present, the person then has to log into MOS, go into the case and see what the update is.  My suggestion is to put the update in the e-mail notification to save time.
Also give me an option to turn off the nagging and nag e-mail about Oracle configuration.  I've been at more than one cleint who refuses to use this so stop whining and get over it, Oracle.
Cut down Logging process
In the years I’ve been logging SRs, the step where suggested solutions is offered has never offered anything remotely related to the problem, never mind a solution – either remove this or give us an option to turn it off
Make a description search of every customer’s SRs available
I realise that the full details of an SR are customer confidential, but if it was made clear that the initial description was in the public (or at least customer) domain, everyone would know where they stand and all customers could check if something similar (or that looks similar) has already been raised. (Whisper this bit) In any case, customer information is already shown in the bug data – it’s just not easy to search.  If I were a cynic (which of course I’m not) I might contend that Oracle doesn’t wish customers to know that other customers are reporting issues too.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Who do you think completes your RFP/ITT anyway?

A recent robust debate on Linkedin has prompted me to collate some thoughts I’d had in my head for a while.

I don’t like RFPs/ITTs (insert your Country/Industry/Organisation TLA here).

First a few light-hearted observations from my life in the world of pay and HR software to help illustrate why, then some thought on the nature of ITTs/RFPs .

When you write an ITT (invitation to tender) for a new software system or service, did you ever stop to think about who completes the response when it arrives at the potential supplier?

Having worked for a number of software houses before moving on to concentrate solely on implementations and projects, I’ve seen the ITT process from the other side of the fence.

I used to train end users in a payroll system that was a product of one of the leading suppliers at the time.

On one course I had a group of trainees who made it quite clear they hated the system and felt it didn’t do anything they wanted.

At a coffee break I tried to gently enquire about the selection process. “Oh it took ages” was the response ”but in the end, all the demonstrations melted into one and we couldn’t remember which system did which – but we liked your Salesman the most”. That readjusted my view on the rigour of their selection process and made me more relaxed about why they had bought a system they hated.

One ITT from a government agency said that they had a policy of adopting the very latest technologies – but later on said they wouldn’t use any system that didn’t have five references from other similar agencies available – I wonder which agency they thought was going to be the first?

At the same company I used to get ITTs to respond to as I knew the product pretty well. After a while I reached a few conclusions about ITTs (and responders).

Questions on an ITT about functionality are open to interpretation. In addition; some are just plain silly – like the card they give you to fill in on the plane to the USA that asks if you are entering for the purposes of drug trafficking or terrorism – just as you are unlikely to say yes on that card; who in their right mind is going to say “no” or “does not satisfy” the requirement that their system is “user friendly” ? (I’m not kidding – I have seen this “requirement” on countless ITTs).

You should also bear in mind that no salesperson is going to talk the product down – why would they? Therefore you aren’t all that likely to get many “no” answers from Salespeople responding to an ITT.

If the salesfolk have given the ITT to someone else, then that person’s answers may be shaped by their own position in the Company; take this along with the fact that there is often not a simple yes/no to some questions (and that a perfectly innocent “yes” may still leave you thinking – “well yes it does that but not in the way I wanted/imagined”) and you will see that I think ITTs need to be used with care.

I used to think that those suppliers who just answered “yes” to everything were despicable – but looking back I’m wondering if it wasn’t better to get past the ITT stage and get to talk to the customer about what the product can really do.

I used to complete the ITTs with what I considered to be scrupulous honesty and care – but I now wonder if it was all worth it – apart from keeping food on the table at our house of course. I know that some of my “no” answers got changed to “yes” and there was nothing I could do about it.

We went through a phase of potential customers asking for the ITT to be written into the purchase agreement. I can see the logic (in theory suppliers would tell the truth if it’s contractual) – but when you think of the costs of legal action and the ability of the suppliers’ lawyer to argue questions were answered in good faith, it may seem a little pointless. It’s also not a great way to begin a supplier relationship.

In the end there are few things to think about – top of my list I have to ask this-

What do you hope to achieve from a new Payroll and/or HR System?

Unfortunately, this isn’t always clear – and when it is, the expectation of improvements may be based on a false premise. Very few organisations I’ve ever worked with are prepared to address their business process issues, even though doing so would save a lot of money.

A new system won’t solve a problem like payroll receiving late notification of events like an employee leaving. A slick system may make it easier to notify all the relevant parties, but if no-one enters the data in the first place, it’s a waste of cash.

You won’t get all your requirements. No off the shelf product or service is going to do everything you heart desires all the time – cars don’t, houses don’t, mobile phones don’t why should Payroll software?

Even if you did, get a “yes” to all your requirements – how do you know that how the system does things in a way that is going to actually suit you?

In any case, the first two points are largely academic because the truth is – you don’t know your requirements.

This is a question of degree; from organisations with a twenty year old legacy payroll system and no supporting documentation on how payments are actually calculated, to those with huge volumes of documentation about how payments are calculated and what process to follow to book time off, no organisation has a proper handle on it all.

Even if you do today; by tomorrow it has changed.

Just because it’s written down somewhere doesn’t mean anyone has ever read it or that staff members actually do it that way. By the time you have written the requirements down (or more likely done a copy and paste from a few other documents that no-one reads) they are at least partially out of date and inaccurate.

Providers don’t want to say “no”. Unless you are a notoriously scary organisation, most suppliers want your business, so they will do anything they can to justify a “yes” or “met” or whatever is on your ITT.

So with all that in mind, what can an ITT be useful for, and what’s a better way to get a system that will meet the organisation’s needs?

ITTs/RFPs can be good for qualifying suppliers – if your organisation has rules (most large ones do seem to) about the kinds of suppliers it deals with, then you can weed out suppliers that you can’t consider.

Similarly, for determining which general products and services a potential supplier might be able to offer, the ITT/RFP can determine this – for example, if you wish to take the system totally off-premise and a supplier doesn’t offer this, you can discount them.

For functionality, I am an advocate of a process advocated by Naomi Bloom here and a similar variant of which I have seen in use by Accenture. In short, the process involves determining some key functions that the business depends upon and writing scripts for them (I am summarising hugely for the sake of brevity). These can be used to examine not only what a product’s capabilities are but also the manner in which they are accomplished.

More Legislation - but Blink and You'll Miss it - CMEC

One of the many onerous duties that payroll departments perform on behalf of government agencies is the collection of money due for child maintenance or court orders. Needless to say, there is a set of arcane and labyrinthine rules to be followed.

The consequences of not deducting a court order can appear severe - a summons can be issued naming the payroll manager personally and demanding they appear and explain why. Thankfully this is rare.

Since everyone seems to recognise that the CSA hasn't really been working out, a new agency has been created. It's called CMEC. As such agencies do, they have decided that they want to make some changes to what is required of employers - and since many employers use payroll software, the implication is that the software providers will need to make changes.
CMEC published what they called "Business Requirements" on their site some time in July. Unfortunately I missed it at the time. Since then they have removed the document that had the requirements in from their website without explanation.

With any luck the requirements will be back soon. In brief they cover some new admin rules and a new method of reporting data - all to be in place by April 2011. They have apparently promised that the final requirements will be available to software providers by October this year.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Bonanza for Outsourcers?

Recent UK Government initiatives like RTI and Pensions Auto-Enrolment, coupled with a gathering momentum in US HR thinking (which tends to arrive here 12-18 months later) is leading me to see a potential future in which a much higher portion of Pension and Payroll Processing is outsourced.

The received wisdom in the US (and here) amongst many HR, finance and other business people seems to be that Payroll is not a function that has the potential to offer strategic advantage. It's a generic thing that can be done by outsiders without affecting the way the business operates or your "Employer Brand". I don't agree - but who cares what I think - that seems to be the way the wind is blowing.

Add to this the fact that in trying to simplify things, the Government is of course making them more complex, and you might forgive business people for running into the open arms of the outsourcers.

I hope I'm wrong about this - and I would encourage any organisation thinking of outsourcing to be very cautious and thorough as I've seen some examples where it didn't provide any of the intended benefits - but I can see a move to outsourcers in the future.

Pensions Auto-Enrolment

There is a lot of stuff on the net about this and how it’s a major change. For once, you do need to believe (some of) the hype.

It is a big deal and it will have an impact on Pensions and Payroll administration.

The requirement is that employers will soon need to enrol employees into a pension scheme as the name suggests, automatically. So far so good, but as with all things legislative, there’s a degree of complexity. For one thing, there’s a requirement to check earnings each period and determine if they are above or below a threshold.

In short, the requirements are going to affect both pensions and payroll administration functions and any systems they use.
Every employer needs to be thinking about how they will approach this – even if it’s just to pick up the phone to suppliers and ask “what are you doing about this”.

Monday, 4 July 2011

RTI - More from HMRC

HMRC published the technical details on time as they promised. They can be found here. I've taken a quick look and of more interest (to me) than the tech details is a document called Customer Journeys and Business Scenarios, which describes how HMRC expects payroll software to deal with some common payroll transactions under RTI.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

SaaS Or is it?

Oracle have said that Fusion Apps will be available for deployment in a number of ways. One of these is SaaS. However, there is some dispute over what SaaS actually is. Oracle boss Larry Ellison appeared to suggest recently that multi-tenant SaaS as favoured by Workday, amongst others, was over hyped.

Some observers think that he doesn't care anyway since so much of the World's IT industry uses Oracle technology in one way or another - but wait. As far as I can tell so far, Workday doesn't. If that's true for any significant proportion of SaaS providers, if it catches on, it might give Oracle a thing or two to worry about.

I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs, but we are in interesting times in the software industry (well they are interesting to me, but maybe I'm just a sad geek).

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

UKOUG PeopleSoft Conference - First Day

The keynote address from Marc Weintraub was well crafted and expertly delivered. Aside from his comment below, I didn't really learn a lot I didn't know already.

Marc said that Fusion Apps were entirely greenfield and didn't have any copy and paste code - I'd not heard that before.

I understood Oracle's strategy to try to align with what he called "inflection points" so that it can offer customers what they want when they want it - so, for example, they can offer multi-tenant SaaS delivery of Fusion if a customer wants that. I have zero idea of the architecture behind that - Oracle don't seem to be talking about that yet.

The HMRC session was also very interesting. RTI will ultimately use BACS as a delivery mechanism, but as I blogged previously, they have accepted that an interim solution using EDI will be needed. In my estimation almost every UK employer* will need to find time to install and test the EDI delivery from their provider, then do the same again when the BACS version is released. In addition, since many UKGP customers are working with a customised BACS routine (it's an SQR), they will need to revist that too.

*at least those who adminster their own payrolls.

Oracle has plans in place for development using pilot customers in line with HMRC. It was very encouraging to see HMRC spending so much time with us, and as I said to the HMRC folks, my personal view is in accordance with the other feedback they have had - RTI is a good idea, but as ever the devil will be in the detail.

All in all a very good day - there is more, but it will have to wait.

I know I should be up all night partying in the bar, but I have a presentation to do tomorrow and I'm not as young as I was.

Monday, 16 May 2011

RTI and Oracle User Group - Connected News

HMRC made some announcements on RTI on Friday. Aside from publishing technical information for developers, they have said they will continue to support EDI as a means for submission of the extra data until at least April 2014. In practice, this applies to most users of PeopleSoft GP in the UK since most will be large enough to be sending via EDI. We don't have the full picture of what HMRC and Oracle's plans are yet.

The Oracle User Group has published the agenda for the Conference on 22-23rd June - and it includes sessions from both Oracle and HMRC on RTI - these are a must-attend for any GPUK customers (in my humble opinion of course) I will certainly be attending if at all possible to see what HMRC's latest thinking is, and what Oracle plans to do about it!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Steve Boese - mind reading for fun and profit


Steve's analysis towards the end is spot-on.

Ten Reasons You Don't need a blog

I love this from the cynical girl. In fact I love most of her stuff - and aspire to it. It doesn't matter since as she says - no-one's reading.

My New Job - and an earnest plea for a better candidate experience

I don't wish to load this down with personal stuff. But.

I have recently been pleased to have been offered a full time employee job to replace my self-employment. I did enjoy sailing my own ship, but there are particular reasons for wanting to do this now (which I won't bore anyone else with).

As I know my new employer, the process was painless.

I'd have been a fool to take the first offer I got (actually as it turns out not a fool at all); and I took some time talking to recruiters.

I realised that some of these people seem to operate in an odd parallel universe. Most people talking to me seem to realise I am not a young and inexperienced person. I therefore wonder how it is that they can take up so much of my time telling me about a job and then casually mention later that the salary we spoke about is actually 10-30k less.

I mean what on earth is the point of that? They wasted their own time, and mine, why?

Perhaps the funniest was the one who accused me of not ever having been serious about her job after I turned it down. I made it clear at the outset that one thing I'd like to do was reacquaint myself with the house I'm paying the mortgage on, and the people who live there, including a small one who calls me Daddy when she recognises me. In this day and age there is no serious excuse for forcing people to live out of a suitcase all the time.

This lady seemed to understand - then I spoke (telephone interviews) to two existing staff members at the prospective employer - both of them gave the impression that I wouldn't be seeing much of home - "if the client is paying they expect to see you there" and "you'll have to decide if you want to continue living the contractor lifestyle" were not giving me much reassurance.

I just don't get this - do some people just shrug and say "Oh well 10K less than every conversation we had? Not to worry, I mean it'll be a struggle paying the mortgage, but it's a great basis for starting a new employer/employee relationship knowing that they either employed a liar or an incompetant to recruit me - or they are liars and/or imcompetants themselves. Or both"

So please, recruiters, don't waste my time and your own. Tell the truth about the job - including salary and maybe you'll have an easier life too.

I'm quite happy with my new job - and because recruiters couldn't tell the truth, no money changed hands to get me here. Instead I dealt with people I know, trust and have worked with before.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

So, then, This Fusion Malarkey

I've been trying to get a proper idea what Fusion Apps will bring us - as usual someone else has asked the questions I wish I'd asked, and in a better way here.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Pensions Reform

Not to be outdone by HMRC in terms of creating potentially onerous requirements for payroll software, the Pensions Regulator has published a "guide to software developers".

I've read this and at first glance it seems to have a lot of extra data and transactions that need to incorporated into payroll systems. This is all around the new requirements to automatically enroll employees in a pension scheme in certain circumstances.

Once again, it'll be interesting to see the Oracle response.

RTI - a challenge to All UK payroll software

I'll try and keep this brief, if only because there is such a wealth of information already around about RTI. I am trying to focus on how this will/may affect PeopleSoft GP UK payroll.

HMRC has decided to use BACS for capturing a whole load of data that it either already captures via EDI, or doesn't capture at all for now. Part of the reason for this is the major overhaul of the benefits system that is due to take place.

What this means for GP is that major development work will be needed. The BACS delivery for GP in the UK in "vanilla" is highly inconsistent anyway in that it doesn't produce the files in a ready to send (i.e. with headers, footers and contra entries) format - PeopleSoft financials does. However there are other factors here - certain kinds of transactions - new joiners, etc, will need to generate data in the BACS file. This will involve some quite major changes.

I'll be fascinated to see how Oracle address this - it will all need to be live by 2013. That sounds a while away - but it seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the UK getting the Olympics.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Twitter - I am late to the party

I thought Twitter was a load of nonsense for self-obsessed morons with too much time, a sort of "Facebook lite". I was (not for the first time), utterly, utterly mistaken. Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of self-obsessed morons (they would probably speak highly of me), but there is some wonderful content on there too.

After I happened across a thread on Mumsnet I found a good explanation of what it was, from a Mum advocating the benefits to her small business - the key to this is that I tend to ignore geeks and meeja trendoids advocacy of this week's next greatest thing, but this was a real person citing real benefits.

Taking a new look at Twitter has led me to an ocean of quality comment and information in the world of HR and Payroll systems (which is what I do). I can't believe there is so much expertise out there that I hadn't tapped into. Most of these people write blogs and tweet their blog entries so because I hadn't done a Google (or any other) search for blogs about HR systems, I'd missed out entirely.

This is not news to anyone who already uses Twitter I guess, but it was pleasant surprise to me.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Oracle Delivers Oracle’s PeopleSoft Enterprise Feature Pack Amidst Wide Customer Adoption of Oracle’s PeopleSoft Enterprise 9.1

Snappy title eh? They know how to get to the point.

I'd have missed this but for a tweet from @PeopleSoft_Info - and that was tweeted again recently after initially appearing at the end of January.

In short, Oracle/PeopleSoft has a "new strategy" for releasing extra functionality between releases. It would appear that, possibly spurred by stuff like this from a prolific industry commentator, and an apparently growing acceptance (at least among the cognoscenti) that the future of HR Software lies in SaaS; Oracle has decided to release new functionality between formal releases.

For some reason, they have used the same announcement to trumpet the success of the latest version, 9.1, of PeopleSoft. According to Oracle:

Adoption of PeopleSoft 9.1 is over four times faster than previous PeopleSoft releases across all products. Over 1,000 customers are live on or deploying PeopleSoft 9.1. In addition, the customer base is expanding with over 350 new customers selecting PeopleSoft applications over the last 12 months.

I'm off to review these new features (and the Global Payroll Core ones recently announced) to see what they are offering.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

ERP App Store

This is an excellent post from Jiju Vengal. It is a great idea, but (there's always a but)-

At the back of my mind I seem to recall that there is something in the licence agreement for PeopleSoft that precludes this kind of thing if the widget/app is written using PeopleSoft - but I may well be wrong about that.

I wonder if the march of SaaS (of which is a leader) may overtake all of the ERP systems we currently know and (occasionally) love, thereby rendering it obsolete.

I don't pretend to be able to see the future but I suspect the arguments for SaaS HR systems may soon become so compelling that there will be a major shift of customers in this direction.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Absence Before Payroll

This came up again recently - and my experience at a client has been useful. In general organisations who are implementing Global Payroll and Absence Management do so at the same time, or do Absence after Payroll.

Occasionally it may be appropriate to do Absence first - however, there are quite a few areas where setup done in one module overlaps with the other. Briefly, things to watch out for are:

Retro config including triggers
Calendar and accumulator config

In our case, part of the Absence implementation had invloved removing all the delivered GP rules (for reasons best known to whoever did it) so we spent quite some time "repairing" those, too.

PeopleSoft GP Year End

This is as good a time as any to mention one factor in PSGP which as far as I can tell, is unique in UK payroll processing. Most other UK payrolls require some kind of cleardown and reset process to be run at this time of year (tax year end). PSGP doesn't, and it really takes some explaining, even though it means there is a whole lot less to do and to worry about.

Yes - that's it - there is nothing to do. Tax year to date balances roll over automatically and the system holds all the previous year's too. Automatically, no intervention needed. Keep calm and carry on.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Retro Deltas rule OK

Payments and deductions can have generation control and post processing formulas attached. These are used to restrict processing or modify calculated results according to set parameters. However, if there is a retro delta (difference) that the system has forwarded from a previous period, it will be processed without regard to post processing or gen control. You need to keep this in mind when defining retro.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Linked In

I have had quite a few invitations to connect from people I don't know - I have decided on balance to ignore these. I hope that doesn't seem too unreasonable.