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PracticeWEB opens online payroll data collection service

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14th Nov 2008
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PracticePAYROLL is a new online service from PracticeWEB designed to help bureaux and business advisers collect their clients' payroll data. John Stokdyk reports.

Created through a collaboration between PracticeWEB - like AccountingWEB, part of the Sift Group - and iipay, PracticePAYROLL is a software as a service portal that provides a simple data entry mechanism for business users and an administrative hub for practitioners. Once the data has been entered by the client and validated by the payroll service provider it is exported into Sage Payroll for processing.

"Talking to accountants, we found that one of their biggest headaches was getting payroll data from their clients. They have to deal with illegible clock cards, insecure emails and the like, so we wanted to solve that problem," said PracticeWEB operations manager Jonathan Mann.

"PracticePAYROLL is a natural extension of our secure document area - it's also a secure data exchange mechanism. We saw there was a gap in the market and this extends our client portal. As this matures, there will be many other secure ways to capture data and use it for client applications."

The web-based system created by iipay and PracticeWEB is a secure collection point that holds employee information as a mirror image of the database structure in Sage Payroll. Each month, employers can enter pay details, over time figures and new starters or leavers into PracticePAYROLL. Once the period has been closed, the system outputs two spreadsheets (employee data and payment details) that can be imported into Sage. The two partners are now working to create compatible editions for other popular payroll packages from the likes of IRIS and Intuit.

PracticePAYROLL produces change and exception reports to help the payroll processor keep tabs on the quality of the data entered. If problems are encountered, the system can roll back to the previous so that corrections can be entered to the new period.

On behalf of iipay, Piers Lambert explained "We see ourselves as a wholesaler. Our strength is bespoking payroll systems and making them do interesting things for international clients. To get into new markets we have been looking for partners, and PracticeWEB was a natural candidate. We have the technology and flexibility and PracticeWEB has the market."

Although iipay has an HMRC-accredited payroll processing system, PracticePAYROLL is not tied into this mechanism - yet.

"Changing payroll is quite a big decision," said Lambert. "We're intentionally acting as a collection point for the data so they can continue using their existing payroll system. This is a system you can turn on today and use it tomorrow."

As part of the alliance, Lambert said iipay had significantly reduced its usage fees, so that each employee processed will cost 30p per period. The fee is does not depend on the size of one particular payroll scheme or the number of clients serviced by a bureau. "The biggest benefit of web-based systems like this is that you only pay for what you use. You're not wasting money maintaining an IT investment," Lambert said.

The minimum contract period is 12 months, but the processing fees will be waived for the first six months, added Mann to give clients time to settle in and get used to the system.

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By User deleted
19th Nov 2008 07:25

Paranoid or valid concerns ...?
John

The real point of the posting was to determine where Sift media sees itself in the market (content provider or competing with their members) and with that in mind it identified a number of hypothetical scenarios. Whilst, these 'what if' examples were posed to demonstrate the potential impact of any competition with members of Aweb etc. and were nothing more than theoretical, they could very easily become reality

I apologise if the question was uncomfortable but surely it doesn’t invalidate the thrust of the posting or label it as paranoid. Nevertheless, to indicate how broad minded Sift is because they did not censor the posting is treading on very dangerous ground indeed

As we are all well aware any business that wants to be both 'poacher & gamekeeper' never goes down well in the eyes of the public; especially when the business concerned could pose a potential threat to their own membership.

No one is questioning editorial ethics in writing about a news item in the normal course of reporting and as ever you have done an excellent job. However, when a media provider (Sift) has the potential to don another hat as a sales organisation, at their own discretion, in direct competition with their audience, then questions need to be asked.

I understand the statement '..PracticeWEB and AccountingWEB operate as completely separate divisions..', however Chinese walls with self regulation have traditionally never proved terribly effective. Moreover, the public have rightly become very wary of the 'trust us' approach taken by many organisations; in short, the good intentions generally last until expediency overtakes policy

Perhaps the scepticism is not valid, but on the other hand it does provide Sift with an opportunity to state their case in an open forum; thereby reassuring their membership by identifying Sift's boundaries with regard to encroaching on members businesses

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
18th Nov 2008 13:11

Don't get too paranoid, JC
Hi JC,

I've grown accustomed to your bracing and well informed diatribes about Microsoft and Sage, so at least I'm partially prepared to cope when the invective comes our way.

First off, PracticeWEB and AccountingWEB operate as completely separate divisions. The first I knew of this development was when they invited me to a London demo of the system. Anytime an organisation introduces a new service, I'm interested in seeing what's on offer. Secondly, the article made the commercial connection between our organisations perfectly clear .

Because the focus of the story was on the new PracticePAYROLL service, it didn't set out some of the organisational background, which is that AccountingWEB is an independent professional community while PracticeWEB is a website designer and builder for accountancy firms. AccountingWEB has and will continue to seek out partnerships that benefit our members. We have had relationships with software houses before - for example the Staffpay.net payroll service (RIP) - but decided that this route wasn't very effective. And as you suggest, it didn't sit very well with our advertising-based publishing model.

As part of its remit, PracticeWeb is always looking to expand the services it can offer to its client firms, and Jonathan Mann said that they were interested in bringing on all manner of online partners. If you'll notice, PracticePAYROLL does something else no other provider does, which is provide a data collection portal. While it currently supports just Sage, the intention is to develop interfaces for all the leading payroll suppliers, so utmately no one is frozen out or disadvantaged. They picked Sage as the first application just as any other third party developer would because it has the biggest user base.

As far as our editorial and commercial integrity goes, this article was not an advert for iipay. It was a news item, written in exactly the same way I would cover any other new product launch in the payroll market. Just as it would be discriminatory not to write about other software providers, I would not be doing my job if I refused to cover iipay because it was affiliated to my organisation.

The measure of AccountingWEB's credibility is whether we bring forward information that is useful to our members - and they let us know if we're doing our job properly by reading the material or by commenting on it, as you have done in this instance. In no way have we hung anyone out to dry with this article and if we were ever to do so, we would risk alienating the people we rely on to remain commercially viable.

While I think you have overreacted a little here, you'll notice that we haven't altered any element of your post. That reflects the open nature of debate on the site, which extends to any member of the accounting profession - even Microsoft and Sage.

Thanks again for your post.
John Stokdyk
Technology editor
AccountingWEB.co.uk

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By User deleted
15th Nov 2008 12:18

dangerous precedent ..... ??
Interesting article which raises some fundamental issues concerning the positioning of Sift (variousWebs) in the market place

Perhaps I have misunderstood the content of the article, however, it very much looks as though Sift have teamed up with a 3rd party software house to sell their wares

The question has to be:
Where does Sift see themselves in the market place - are they a forum or software reseller? If the latter can everyone join or will they discriminate against those they don't like?

Let us just extrapolate this current alliance into one or two other areas (in relation to the variousWeb family of sites) as follows:

AWeb decides to partner Sage or M$. Similar to this deal but effectively using their market power to favour their own partners rather than providing a balanced view
this one is closer to home - Sift decides to partner with a preferred accountancy practice and everyone else is left out in the cold
Aweb starts offering payroll services in conjunction with their selected partner. Once again those in practice who have supported Aweb in the past have just been dumped on ........
Aweb offers basic accounting / bookkeeping services (per India outsourcing) via their own preferred alliances

Far fetched - maybe but what if does happen

Additional Aspects

Other Advertisers - presumably Sift will be providing free advertising for the IIpay product on their site(s)

Therefore is this really a good idea and will it lead to the members of variousWeb's loosing business because Sift is prepared to hang its membership out to dry in its own interests ??

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