Skip to content
Alight has entered into an agreement to sell its Payroll and Professional Services business to an affiliate of H.I.G. Capital. Learn more

Sustainable payroll: What you can do to ensure your payroll stays relevant

By Robert Stegeman, Research and Advisory Centre

Picture the scene: Your project team can see the finish line. The go-live date of your new cloud payroll system is near. The atmosphere is charged with anticipation and activity. The final preparations are underway.

If you think you will be able to relax once the system is live, think again: the journey to the cloud goes beyond simply the technical deployment; it does not end when the payroll system launches.

Once the system is launched, the journey continues, and it will be transformative. Operations and services delivered by your teams must evolve, but in doing so, they will require a well-thought-out approach.

Recognising the complexity

Before taking the leap into the cloud, it is important to understand the current complexity of your payroll operations, where technology is just one element. For example, there are still many organisations with a fragmented payroll landscape using multiple payroll vendors and technologies. 

More and more organisations are becoming aware of the complexity this poses. Particularly for governance and control as there could be financial and reputational risks if not addressed. 

For clients, this realisation marks a pivotal moment, a turning point that highlights the complexity of the project and the all-encompassing approach needed for payroll transformation.

Elements for success

In our experience as transformation consultants, there are key elements that need attention and strategic focus for the initiative to be truly transformational:

Managing innovation

Embracing innovative technology requires a change in behaviour. Sufficient resources are needed to maintain a dynamic equilibrium between innovation and stability. 

Maintaining the payroll system’s smooth operation requires an understanding of how innovations and updates affect the different components of your payroll operating model. These are some examples of activities you need to consider:

  • Regularly assess the payroll operating mode.

Monitor regulatory frameworks like Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) to endure your operations comply.

  • Establish a dedicated team to monitor, evaluate and implement innovations.

Such as how AI can improve payroll efficiency and accuracy as well as employee experience. Being proactive ensures you are at the forefront of technological advancements.

  • Encourage a culture that values adaptation, continuous improvement and alignment between process and the cloud payroll system.

Aligning processes and cloud solutions

Success is dependent on how well processes and cloud solutions work together. It is important to strategically connect the two rather than just integrating them. This alignment guarantees that procedures are optimised to take full advantage of the cloud, not just make them compatible with it.

Before migrating to the cloud, conduct a comprehensive analysis of existing payroll processes. The more consistent your processes and procedures are, the easier the transition will be. It is an opportunity to fix any issues or gaps in the processes. 

Promoting cross-functional collaboration between HR, Payroll, Finance and IT departments is vital for constructive interaction between processes and the cloud.

Documenting your processes, ideally using a Business Process Management (BPM) system, supports repeatability and predictability of process outputs. It also provides a baseline for continuous improvement.

Managing business impact

Change can affect entire organisations, particularly when it comes to payroll. To reduce interruptions and guarantee a seamless transition, a proactive strategy is needed.

  • Create a robust change strategy and plan to manage change

First develop a vision for payroll, then a comprehensive change strategy and next an impact assessment for the people affected by the new payroll solution. It should include the implementation approach, training strategy and plan to ensure everyone impacted is well-prepared.

  • Prepare for and handle obstacles with careful scenario planning

Identify critical points in the transition process where challenges may arise, such as data migration or system integration. Develop contingency plans for each scenario to address any issues and maintain operational continuity.

  • Manage expectations and be open and honest in your communication with stakeholders.

Establish a transparent communication plan with stakeholders, clearly outlining the expected timeline for the transition and potential challenges that may arise to update on progress and address any concerns promptly to foster trust among stakeholders.

Reaping the benefits of investment

The true measure of success lies in the ability to realise the benefits of the investment. Extracting value from the transformed payroll operations is done through a combination of optimising processes, enhancing efficiency and delivering an exceptional service to customers.

  • Determine performance metrics to track the impact of the transformation, ideally in the early stages of your transformation and implement a strategy to actively manage them throughout your project.

At the start of your payroll transformation, establish clear metrics aligned with your organisational goals. For instance, track payroll processing time, accuracy rates and employee satisfaction.

  • Continuous evaluation and optimisation of processes to maximise efficiency.

Process mining with advanced tools like Signavio can visualise and map the entire payroll process. This can help to reduce errors and improve the overall payroll process.

  • Encourage feedback loops to continuously improve the delivery of payroll services.

This can be done through surveys, focus groups, or dedicated feedback sessions. Use this feedback to make iterative improvements to the delivery of payroll services. This ensures payroll is responsive to the evolving needs of your people.


Embarking on a sustainable payroll journey is a strategic change beyond technical implementation. Organisations need to ensure that payroll is not only relevant and well governed, but also a catalyst for excellence and continuous improvement. 

They can do this by identifying the complexities involved and concentrating on individual components that when combined create an optimal payroll operating model.

Robert Stegeman
Robert Stegeman
By Robert Stegeman

Robert Stegeman is leading Alight's UK and Ireland Advisory practice, driving cloud-enabled HR transformation programs and optimising HR operating models for maximum alignment with organisational strategies.
With a track record of achievements, he is a trusted partner for successful HR transformations that empower organisations to thrive.

Related reads

Why aren't companies embracing AI for payroll processing?

Uncover the barriers impeding AI adoption in payroll processing and learn strategies to encourage implementation in your organisation.

Is your HCM really on the cloud?

Discover if your HCM is truly on the cloud and unlock the transformative potential of cloud technology for your organisation.

Ensuring business stability: Have you reviewed your payroll continuity plan?

Ensure business stability by reviewing your payroll continuity plan.