“I love it. I don’t think I’d want to work at a company that didn’t have Avanti.”
Sawridge Group of Companies
What is your biggest fear? For some, it’s heights, spiders, or even worse, public speaking. In our experience of working with thousands of Payroll Professionals, it can be switching payroll software. Some fear the amount of time they believe it will take with balancing current job tasks and challenges that may arise during implementation. Others fear maintaining two systems at once through the implementation process. To learn more about the implementation process, we spoke with Nicole Edmonds CPM, the Payroll Manager, at Sawridge Group of Companies.
Fear didn’t stop Nicole from switching Sawridge Group of Companies Payroll software. With three different systems to individually manage, it became a hassle to coordinate new hires all the way to writing accurate reports. Waiting for the systems to sync with each other could take days, making it nearly impossible to have full control over Payroll due to this lack of integration. On top of that, each year the system couldn’t figure out how to complete the Status Indian box 71 for First Nation employees, making year-end processing a nightmare.
Leading to feeling unsupported by customer service, Nicole knew it was time for a change.
The Sales Process
So Nicole and Eresha, the CFO of Sawridge Group of Companies, began their journey towards finding a new payroll software company. However, it wasn’t until Eresha met Perry, a member of Avanti’s sales team, at the Chartered Professional Accountants annual conference, that they began looking into using Avanti. After speaking with Perry, Eresha knew she wanted to try their product and had the Avanti Team conduct a product demonstration.
Nicole was unsure of what to expect when she walked into the meeting room for their demonstration. But soon after, she was comfortable talking to everyone from Avanti who was providing the presentation. With a conversational style demonstration, it was straightforward and easy to understand. It was a fun experience, and they loved how the integrated system provides real-time updating- a crucial factor when it comes to staying on top of turnover in the hospitality industry.
After the product demonstration, Eresha and Nicole were confident in choosing Avanti as their new payroll software provider. Once they found out that switching payroll systems wasn’t going to disrupt any day-to-day operations at the property level, they were thrilled to start the implementation process. Nicole was ready to conquer the change of systems with Kim Groome ,HCM Implementation Specialist, at Avanti.
Avanti’s Easy-to-Follow Implementation Process
1. The Project Plan
When creating the project plan, Nicole and Kim set clear deliverables to meet throughout the implementation process. This ensured Nicole, Kim, and their teams knew what was needed to be done and felt confident in reaching a successful outcome.
Change Management Tip
Make it optimistic and also realistic. Remember to consider your team’s scheduled vacation leaves and other special times of year for your organization that would affect the time available to work on the implementation. Celebrate task and milestone completion!
2. Information Gathering
Avanti provided Sawridge Group of Companies detailed workbooks to complete in order to gather the necessary information to configure a solution based on their specific needs.
Change Management Tip
As much as possible, get input from all stakeholders. Communication across groups helps to ensure there are no surprise requirements and promotes buy-in.
Nicole was trained in every aspect of Avanti’s all-in-one solution:
For Nicole: that means greater control in the system, and having better year-end capabilities.For employees: When it comes to the high turnover of the hospitality industry, the self-service portal provides terminated employees with access to past pay statements and T4s. Not only does this save Nicole and her managers time, but it ensures present or past employees have easy access to their information.
• Human Resources
Nicole can now facilitate Payroll & HR onboarding processes for new hires, employees, and managers.
• Time Clock
Nicole uses the biometric time clock for the hourly retail and hospitality staff. She now has the ability and control to easily manage the various employment cycles during the year.
Nicole was surprised at how straightforward Avanti’s approach to training is. The materials made sense and the timelines were clear, this approach left no room for ambiguity. Kim was a helpful resource to Nicole during the training process; if Nicole ever had questions Kim clearly explained everything.
“The training was great. If there ever was an issue, I felt really confident that I could correct it myself.”
From Trainee to Trainer
After being trained, Nicole was certain she could now train her managers on the new system. She gave them print screens to help them understand the system and all of the processes within. With these print screens, Nicole created an “Avanti Guide” on how to efficiently use the system. This guide is now used across the company for current managers as well as a handy tool for new hire onboarding.
But Nicole didn’t stop there, she did a mass training across all of the Alberta locations. She traveled to Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Jasper, and Peace River to hold the training sessions. She wanted to ensure every manager knew how to use Avanti.
Change Management TipMake a training plan that includes stages for your Super Users, Managers, all the way through to your End Users. Well-timed training is key, not only for the initial project but also as an ongoing experience – it is the most important step to help people feel comfortable using your solution.
4. Built to Last
Based on Sawridge’s specific needs, Avanti specialists developed abuild for them.
While the Avanti Implementation Team built the majority of earning-deduction-benefit codes for, and with, Nicole during the implementation phase, Nicole had the control to create new earning-deduction-benefit codes as desired, with no wait time.
She also had control of the numbering methodology of the codes so that Avanti can match the codes she is familiar with. For example, if overtime was code 030 in her current system, Nicole can make overtime code 030 in Avanti.
The Avanti team made recommendations on new codes, but Nicole had the ability to modify and insert codes as needed, even after the implementation process. For example, if her organization started offering a vehicle allowance, she could add this code herself. Nicole also had the ability to change T4 boxes, change generation frequency, and modify tax methods.
This creates a sandbox environment to test things out, stress the system, and ultimately to confirm that calculations are happening as expected. This is where she can create a new code, run a payroll, and ensure that is working the way that it should without risking an error for an employee.
Code Behaviour Changes
Nicole loves the cloud environment for its immediate and synchronous access. It enables more efficient testing, especially when configuration needs a change. Now, Nicole has the control to test the effect of the change, confirm resolution, and continue; all with no wait time.
Change Management Tip
Implement the system planning for organizational change. This may be growth or downsizing, but the database should be configured to allow for a realistic amount of growth on either end. Failing to plan for growth leaves the system feeling obsolete in a relatively short amount of time.
5. Data Conversion
There are two levels of Quality Assurance Testing:Scenario testing and Parallel testing.
The Avanti team helps identify the scenarios that should be tested. There are documentation and guidelines in place to assist Nicole in pushing the database to the limits.
At this stage, Nicole was able to stress the system and systematically run scenarios to identify any areas that needed attention. Not only regular, overtime, and statutory holiday earnings, but also special payroll considerations.
Nicole and her Payroll team compared what was currently calculating to what was expected. Nicole had the control to create her own scenarios to test in the system and had the ability to make any changes needed.
Nicole performed mirrored runs in Avanti to compare Gross-Net to the actual pay run happening in the previous system.
With Nicole’s open communication and timely training with the Sawridge Managers, she worked with the Avanti Implementation Team to make sure her Managers’ needs were resolved. As a result, the parallel testing stage was smooth, and the Go Lives were right on schedule.
Change Management Tip
Maintenance and organization of the current system is key. While your current system may be out-of-date and being phased out, the data integrity is crucial for the quality of the new database. Poor input will always produce poor output.
6. Going Live
Just in time for Christmas, Nicole reached the sales point with Avanti. Nicole knew she wanted to go live in April as that is when they do all of their hiring for the peak season. The complete timeline until their live date was over a 4 month period with salary going live on April 13th and then hourly 2 weeks later.
In order to meet the deadline, Nicole, Kim, and their Client team- Nicole’s Payroll Assistant, Development, Quality Assurance, and Information Technology– had clear deadlines set in place to help them stay on course and reach their target.
As soon as it went live, all of the information from Nicole’s previous solution, plus April going forward information, was in the new system. When every employee was paid on time, Nicole knew that all of the hard work that she and Kim did over the past few months created a successful implementation where no information was missing from the new system.
“It was just great. Every year-end since has just gotten better and better. It’s night and day compared to the other system we used to use for sure.”
Change Management Tip
Clear training plan and trainers should be enthusiastic. Get the employees excited about the new product. Have them view it as a new opportunity, focusing on the benefits of the platform. Empowering the workforce allows individuals to be in control of their own employment, and more broadly – their own success. Be sure to promote what’s in it for the employees, how it will make their jobs easier, and how it is a time saving initiative.
A Better Payroll Year-end
Now that the implementation is completed, Nicole is relieved with the change in how she does year-end processing.
T4 Trial Runs
She can do T4 trial runs any time of the year, which means Nicole can wait until September to do a test run. Having the choice to do it after their peak season gives Nicole the control she needs to easily check to see if the summer information was accurately done before year end.
Tax Slips/Special Boxes
Nicole can make sure she feels comfortable about everything in the system, especially for new earnings that are going into new boxes. Avanti even has tax slips for employees who have special boxes, such as the Box 71 Indian Employment. Having the option for Box 71 is important for the employees who work for employers on Reserve Land. This makes Nicole’s life much easier when it comes to managing the payroll at each hotel for all employees.
But it doesn’t stop there. Nicole also has the ability to balance the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) remittances as a result of having an in-house system. This means that she doesn’t need to outsource anymore, she can manage her own programming, remittances, and deposits. Giving Nicole the control she needs to accurately and confidently track the amounts due and paid all on her own.
Now that all the payroll activity is collected, Nicole and her Payroll Team are able to compare the remittances that are supposed to be submitted to what was actually submitted. These remittances inform Nicole if all the information in boxes (associated with each employee) balance with their T4 summary.
Now at year-end Nicole can easily track what was paid, know if everything balances, and whether or not she is out. She can ensure that earnings are going into the right boxes, such as her benefits box 40 or Status Indian box 71.
She has easier year-end reporting capabilities that enable her to be compliant, accurate, and have the knowledge she needs ahead of time.
Nicole now has access to a WCB report, one of the 170 standard reports available to Nicole in Avanti. This report provides Nicole with an estimated balance of WCB payments for the end of the year. With this tool, she can easily identify maximum assessable earnings for each WCB group so they can correctly estimate WCB.
What is the Next Step?
Implementation to Support
After a successful implementation, Nicole was nervous to leave Kim and transition into support. However, she quickly realized that she had a strong support team who stood by her. It didn’t matter if Nicole emailed or called, she would get a prompt response nonetheless. Support not only helped her come to a resolution if she had any troubles, but they helped her fully understand how to solve the problem. By empowering Nicole to have the ability and control to fix it herself, she can now solve it if it happens again in the future.
If there ever is a problem, Nicole feels confident to answer questions and correct any issues. For example, sometimes their power goes out and they need a new IP address, and Nicole can always recognize this and fix it with supported help.
How Nicole went from Payroll Manager to Implementation Superhero
Nicole has bolstered her payroll knowledge and experience with the right tools she needs to transform into a Payroll Superhero.
She has saved the company huge amounts of work and time by having easy-to-use payroll software.
• Repeat Entries:
They used to have three different systems: HR, Time, and Payroll. None of them were integrated which meant that the Payroll team would have to do repeat entries in the three systems. For example, if someone was paid $12.50 and received a raise to $12.75 then you would have to enter that into all three systems, three different times.
• Verify Consistency Across Systems:As a result of entering data into three different systems, Nicole and her Payroll Team would constantly have to verify information consistency across systems. Nicole couldn’t be happier that this task has been eliminated by having everything integrated.
• Creating Reports:Without repeat entries and verifying consistency across systems, reporting has become much easier for Nicole. She can easily compile reports no matter what information is needed for it.
According to Nicole, the recipe for a successful implementation is time management and communication.
Nicole was still managing payroll regularly throughout the implementation process, and she was thrilled that it didn’t take as much time as she had originally thought. Balancing her current job tasks, while implementing a new system took a lot of time, but she didn’t put in overtime nor did it become unmanageable.
While implementing Avanti, a dynamic team rose to the occasion. Kim and Nicole worked side by side to get everything done on time. They communicated effectively and whether it be a phone call or email, they responded promptly to questions. Together, they were always there for each other and were always communicating what they needed. While Kim took care of Nicole, Nicole took care of her managers and employees. Each of them ensured everyone knew what needed to be done to reach their timeline for a successful implementation.
Nicole’s Implementation Experience
Throughout Nicole’s journey, she felt part of a community. Not only did she have Kim by her side, but she had another trusty partner: Carolyn Leshyshyn– another one of Avanti’s Superheroes and Nicole’s former instructor at NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology). As a fellow Avanti user and friend, Carolyn helped Nicole if she ever needed it. With Kim and Carolyn there to guide her during the implementation process, Nicole had a strong support system along the way.
When the Avanti team asked Nicole what they could improve on, she couldn’t think of an answer.
“That is a tough question. I thought it just went really really well, and the support I got, everybody on the team, and even transitioning to support, I thought it was great. I don’t know what else could’ve been improved because even if I did have an issue someone in support would help me out.”
This journey led Nicole and her Payroll Team to save time, and feel confident with data. They no longer need to manually enter information with their new automated Canadian Payroll Software. Now, Nicole feels confident that she has a support team who not only helps her as thoroughly and efficiently as possible but gives Nicole the control she needs.
“I just really like Avanti. It saves huge amounts of work, especially at year-end because it’s just already there.”