Four benefits that RPA promises payroll


The impact of automation on the payroll function has been talked about a lot lately. Indeed, the increasing adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) technology has given rise to some of the most dramatic industry changes in the sector since the advent of cloud computing.

In general terms, benefits include time and cost savings, greater accuracy and improved data protection. But automation also affects how payroll professionals undertake their job roles and responsibilities in four key ways:

  1. Simplified data collection

One of the most time-consuming parts of any operational payroll job has traditionally been gathering all the data required to process the payroll itself and ensuring it is in the required format. Different departments have a habit both of changing their data, often at the last minute, and providing it in multiple formats, which requires payroll professionals to endlessly update an Excel spreadsheet created to help them keep on top of the situation. 

But if this process is automated and different departments’ systems are integrated together, data collection becomes much easier. Information is input, or edited, once at source — whether that is within the payroll, HR or finance applications — and the system is updated automatically.

This means that everyone has access to, and all calculations are undertaken based on, the most up-to-date data. Information security is also improved in the process as files containing potentially outdated but sensitive data no longer need to be stored on desktops that are potentially located around the world. 

  1. Faster data access

Integrated systems enable the seamless transfer of information. If your organisation’s HR applications are integrated with your global payroll system, the two will be based on a single database, which is often known as ‘a single source of truth’. As a result, the data used by each system will be stored in a single place and can be accessed as required. 

It will no longer be necessary to send files to the HR or finance department, or wait for them to send information to you. It will no longer be required for you to export data using different data formats, upload it to different systems, or back it up to desktops. This means that less time has to be spent on undertaking tedious tasks, freeing you up to get on with higher value activities.

  1. More accurate data validation

Payroll professionals have traditionally spent hours, if not days, manually checking spreadsheets against one another, verifying that the information to be processed is correct and up-to-date, before manually checking that the resultant payroll is accurate.

But if this data validation process is automated, the payroll system can be set up in line with the organisation’s specifications, which includes setting tolerances for factors such as salary increases and net costs. The RPA system’s algorithms then perform validation checks based on your instructions, triggered by a simple event such as locking payroll. So rather than spend hours looking for errors, you can spend your time correcting them or even standardise your processes to prevent similar problems happening again in future.

  1. Task management

Automated systems make it possible to schedule and complete repetitive tasks such as data transfer once the preceding activity has been completed. For other more complex activities, the software can be set up to alert the payroll professional responsible when a job is ready to be done. 

One example of this involves pushing pay slips to the HR system once the payroll process is complete. Rather than finish payroll processing, initiate payment and obtain a PDF copy of each pay slip before sending them to HR or uploading them to an HR system, RPA software will automatically populate the pay slips in your HR system as soon as they are ready. Some even allow employees to log in and access their pay slips directly.

Conclusion

Estimates are that by automating these kinds of activities, you could save up to two days’ worth of time per payroll cycle. The fact that each step is automated should ensure that more accurate and complete data is processed and fewer supplemental runs are required, which leads to savings in terms of both time and effort.

Paul Bartlett

Paul Bartlett is CEO of CloudPay, which provides global payroll and payments managed services to multinational organisations. A global business expert, he has much experience in helping companies improve the efficiency and scalability of their operations using technology and services.