Choosing the right payroll software in the digital age

21st May 2021
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Payroll software has evolved a great deal in the past decade. Advances in digital technology and cloud computing have helped to create a new breed of payroll software, with platforms that offer streamlined and automated processes, integration with accounting software and links to other helpful third-party apps and business solutions.

So, if you’re a payroll bureau that’s looking to update its systems, or an accounting firm that wants to upgrade its outsourced payroll offering, how do you choose the best software?

We’ve highlighted eight important questions to consider when reviewing the payroll software market, with top tips on choosing a payroll platform that fully meets your needs.

1. Does the payroll functionality suit your clients’ needs?

If your portfolio is made up mostly of freelancers and small contractors, you’ll need a different kind of payroll software than if you mostly deal with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Matching your clients’ needs to the functionality of the software will be critical.

Look at how complex the payroll runs will be for your main client groups and assess what your main needs will be. Will you be mostly running monthly payrolls for one or two people? Or will you be running a mix of weekly and monthly payrolls with multiple expense claims to process?

Assess your clients’ needs and match them to the feature set of your chosen payroll software. If simplicity is what you need, a basic payroll app may be enough.

2. Is the software easy to learn and use?

Any change of software can have an impact on your efficiency and productivity as a payroll professional. The smaller the learning curve and the faster you can be up and running, the less disruption there will be when you switch to a new system.

Look at the user interface (UI) and the user experience (UX) of the payroll software you’re reviewing. Are they easy to use? Is the UI intuitive and logical? What do other payroll users in your network think of the UX? Make sure to do your homework and, wherever possible, get a hands-on demo with the software before you buy.

3. Does the software integrate with other third parties?

Integration is the key to a successful business system or ‘app stack’ in the digital age. If you can connect your payroll software to the client’s accounting software, this can be a huge timesaver when it comes to reconciling the payment run against the client’s bookkeeping and accounts.

Check if your chosen payroll software options have the ability to integrate with the most popular online accounting apps (Xero, QuickBooks, Sage Business Cloud etc.) and also look at how well each platform connects with HMRC for areas such as Real-Time Information (RTI) and the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

Another integration option could be connecting to a direct payment platform, allowing you to pay your client’s employees in bulk straight from the integrated payment solution. This cuts out the need for separate bank files and all the associated admin that goes with this, providing you and the client with a fast, connected and convenient way to pay employees.

4. Can the software handle batch processing?

With so many different clients and payrolls to manage at any given time, the administration and organisation of your payroll schedule can be a challenge. Having the ability to run batch processing of multiple payrolls helps to ease some of the complexity and workload.

Check if the software you’re reviewing has batch processing as standard and look at the benefits this could bring to your standard processes. Rather than having to run each payroll and each client individually, you would have the option to process multiple companies and payrolls at once – metaphorically killing two (or more) birds with the one stone.

5. Can you back-up payroll data to the cloud?

You obviously want your payroll data to be safe, secure and properly backed up. But the process of manually backing up this data to an external drive or server can be tedious and time-consuming. With the recent progress that we’ve seen in cloud technology, there’s real value in being able to back up this data to the cloud.

Automated cloud backup is certainly something to look out for when assessing the payroll software market. Look for platforms that offer full encryption and the highest levels of cloud security, and which automatically back-up your payroll information in the background.

6. Does the software offer a cloud-based employer portal?

Emailing payroll files and approvals back and forth with clients can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, and also a procedure that’s prone to human error. 

Check if your payroll software offers a cloud-based portal for employers and their employees, as this can be a far more practical and efficient way to interact with your clients. Clients can enter their own payroll information via the portal and give payroll approval, cutting down your workload and speeding up the whole payroll process. And if the platform provides an employee hub, this makes it easier for your client’s employees to update their contact information, apply for holidays or download their most recent payslips from the system.

7. How much will a subscription cost?

Price is obviously a big factor in your decision-making process when it comes to your choice of software. As a business, you will want to keep your overheads manageable, but it’s important to remember that you also get what you pay for.

Monthly payroll software subscriptions can vary from approximately £50 p/month to several hundred pounds per month, depending on the complexity of the package and the number of employees you’re paying. Look at your key requirements from your system and make sure that you’re getting the functionality you need, the templates you will regularly use and the integrations that will help you to streamline and automate your processes.

8. Does the provider offer excellent support?

When reviewing and testing potential payroll systems, your main focus will obviously be on the software and its key features. But what’s also incredibly important is assessing the provider, their level of support and how good they are at dealing with customer service and feedback.

Does the software provider offer phone support, or do they just have a support email address? What’s their reputation for client support like within the industry? Talk to your peers and fellow payroll and accounting professionals, and check out the social media presences for all your potential providers. You can get a very good idea of how well you’ll be treated as a subscriber by seeing how a software provider responds to Twitter and Facebook enquiries etc.

BrightPay: your ideal modern payroll solution

If you’re looking for a platform that meets all your payroll software needs, we believe that BrightPay should be top of your review list. 

BrightPay makes managing payroll quick and easy. We offer an easy-to-use interface, flexible features and updates, HMRC-approved software, accounting software and business app integrations and our renowned BrightPay Connect cloud hub. BrightPay also includes the ability to batch process the payroll for multiple clients at the same time, and you can streamline payments to employees by using BrightPay’s direct payments integration.

Try a 60-day FREE trial of BrightPay and see why we’re the software to choose