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CFOs Prowl for Payroll Solutions

About one in three may be looking to change systems. How do CFOs choose a new payroll vendor? Join the study. Get the answers.

July 12, 2007
by Rick Telberg/For the Finance Executive

For a long conversation, ask a corporate finance manager or CFO how he or she feels about his or her company’s payroll system. We got an earful when we did that in our online survey.

“One thing — that’s too tough,” Angela Robinson, a CPA financial manager with Flaherty & Collins Properties in Indianapolis, Ind., responded when asked in our ongoing survey to identify what needs to be improved with her office’s payroll system. She finally boiled her down wish list to better response time and accuracy from vendors’ customer support operations. Several other respondents echoed the same two concerns.

What do CFOs really want in a payroll solution?

Join the study. Get the answers.

(Free. Confidential.)

The vendor community would be wise to pay attention to the business and industry complaints. While more than half of the business and industry CPAs surveyed said they were satisfied with their payroll systems, 32 percent say they will (or may) look to change solutions in the next 18 months, including 10 percent who will “very likely” be looking.

While “ease of use” will likely be the biggest factor in choosing a payroll software or service, customer support concerns are growing. “When we have something out of the ordinary in our payroll, we have to jump through hoops to get it handled correctly,” laments Debra Shoaf, a senior executive with Renfroe Enterprises in McDonough, Ga.

A senior executive at a 100-plus employee company said he’s changed payroll companies three times in the last two years because of “poor customer service and late payroll tax filings and payments.”

Moreover, some business and industry CPAs would like to see their payroll services take a proactive approach to customer service by helping to manage the complexities of payroll. Don Nichols, a middle manager and comptroller at M&C Specialties Co. in Southampton, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, would like to see better education and explanation made available to employers and employees regarding payroll-related benefits such as health savings accounts.

A senior executive with a small business suggested that vendors produce newsletters that advise users of regulation and tax law changes.

On the technological side, business and industry CPAs are mainly interested in having systems that can readily integrate with other applications and processes and systems that provide greater flexibility in reporting. Expounding on her previously mentioned wish list, Robinson noted that in addition to better customer service, she’s also interested in the payroll system’s ability to consolidate all payroll-related information.

Dory Gordon, a senior executive with Emergency Medicine Associates in Rockville, Md., says payroll systems should come with more flexible and user-friendly custom reporting capability, noting that “Crystal reports is powerful, but painful.”

Bruce Grier, a senior executive at Interstate Mechanical Corp, a mid-sized company in Phoenix, Ariz., would like to see his payroll system better integrated with HR information such as workdays missed, safety records and attendance at work-related training.

Brian Larcom, a senior executive at Metallized Carbon Corp. in Ossining, N.Y., adds that payroll integration with HR information should also include Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports.

Debra Smith of Nichols Consulting Engineers in Reno, Nev., is part of a chorus of business and industry CPAs that say their payroll systems should reinforce their integration with businesses' accounting software.

A middle manager wants assurances that his company’s payroll system can keep pace with an ever-increasing number of nontraditional payroll deductions that include charitable contributions and college tuition 529 plans, as well as different types of insurance that are being sold in the workplace.

CPAs in business and industry are also rumbling for new Internet-based payroll system enhancements. For example, one senior executive suggests that his payroll service include an “online timekeeping solution to avoid all the data entry,” while a middle manager at another company wants to be able to e-mail pay stubs to employees.

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN: What do clients really want? Join the study; get the answers.

COMMENTS: Rants, raves, idle thoughts or questions? Contact Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2007 Bay Street Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.