A wild ride ends – a payroll outsourcing project diary!

30. March 2024   Sabine Katzmair  

It’s been a wild ride. After 13 months – one of my longest projects – I’m now leaving my current client at the end of the month. I had various roles in the project – project manager, learning coach and eTrainer.

I started in March last year as project manager for the company’s change of outsourcing service provider for payroll accounting in Germany. The go-live in Germany was planned for 08/2023. Some of the client’s European countries were also to be transferred by the end of the year.

Here is a short project diary – part 1:

March 2023: We start with a project manager from the new service provider in Singapore – Yes!!! It was a surprise for the client, and for me too. He clarifies the basics, including the go-live and testing phases. English was the order of the day. No problem for me, but if I wasn’t used to working internationally, the project would have been over for me here.

April 2023: We start with payroll accounting in Germany. There is a German team from the client for the data transfer and a Spanish project manager in Madrid. The required data delivery is difficult. The people responsible at the client are either ill, on vacation or have simply disappeared and cannot be reached. The ship is drifting rudderless on the client’s side. I escalate to the management, as the project is already threatening to tip over. The management responds. The old service provider does not respond. I have to escalate here too. We manage to deliver the data by the skin of our teeth.

May – June 2023: Clarification with the client’s managers on how the collaboration should work for me in the future. It is now clear to the client that they also need to be reliably on board for the project to be successful. The project is now running. There are internal coordination meetings twice a week with the client’s HR team, the accounts department, the international project manager in Madrid and the operational German project team. Data is now delivered on time and decisions are coordinated quickly. In between, we work via an MS TEAMS channel that I set up for the project at the beginning. We use it to chat outside the regular meetings and exchange data.

I’m having a private knee operation at the end of June. At last. I’ve been waiting for the appointment since April. Right in the hottest phase of the project. What else, of course. I’m working from my sickbed. I’m amazed that it all went so well.

July 2023: 2nd test phase. There is miscommunication from the new service provider regarding the social security deregistration procedure and wage tax certificate. The old service provider is rightly angry. I have to mediate between the old and new service provider. There are also discrepancies regarding the monthly data delivery process and the form of communication with the new service provider.

My recovery process is running in parallel. I’m on crutches and working lying down. Foot elevated. I go to my physiotherapist three times a week. Easy to manage thanks to remote working.

August 2023: GoLive. We get to know the managed service team in the Czech Republic. Very nice, but the team only speaks English. Apart from Jana, none of the new employees at the customer’s site speak English. In addition, there is now suddenly a so-called Client Account Manager who is supposed to be the contact person for all the client’s concerns – but she is based in India and has no idea about German payroll accounting. The client is completely upset. The whole thing was probably not discussed or expected. Neither the nearshoring in the Czech Republic nor the Indian CAM. We’re working it out so that we can at least communicate directly with the payroll team in the Czech Republic. However, the CAM is responsible for the monthly final Payroll accounting step in the system, which then also triggers the reporting procedures. This goes wrong in August. We almost miss the deadline for delivering of the contribution statements. I have to escalate again. We just manage to submit the report for August on time.

…to be continued…

X HR and payroll projects are resource guzzlers for the existing team – an external project manager can provide support here, relieve the team, take on a lot of coordination and management work and bring in external expertise

X Companies should find out about the requirements of the project and therefore the internal and external personnel in advance

X Companies should seek external advice before outsourcing payroll, changing systems or changing outsourcing partners

X An external payroll project manager needs comprehensive operational payroll accounting knowledge. Legal knowledge and system know-how. Not everyone can do that.

X A payroll project (actually every external project) also needs to be managed by the client. It won’t work without the client.

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