Choosing to outsource your payroll from an in-house function, or replacing your existing payroll provider, should be a solution for your school and not something that adds unnecessary stress. However, it can certainly be a daunting time that is not helped by often quoted horror stories, or you may have had a bad experience yourself.

Whilst certain factors can be challenging, we believe that the handover process does not need to be stressful, and we aim to make it as hassle-free as possible.

Parallel runs – a comfort blanket or just a billing opportunity?

One area that is rapidly becoming a standard addition during a payroll implementation is a dummy run (also known as a parallel run). It seems to make sense because it allows a new payroll provider to run the payroll alongside your current set-up to ensure things match.

We have seen providers across the industry use this as an opportunity to generate additional revenue. Selling parallel runs as a necessity and, as a result, creates a prolonged and costly implementation without always achieving the desired results.

The right provider should weigh the pros and cons, focusing on the best implementation mechanism and outcome for the customer based on several factors. We believe that there are better options to achieve accuracy, speed of implementation and peace of mind than parallel runs, and here’s why.

Problems associated with parallel runs

Additional data cuts

One of the most frequent hurdles is becoming reliant on additional cuts of data from your previous provider or your existing software to ensure everything matches the real-time data submitted to HMRC. In the case of your previous provider, they may or may not be willing to provide additional data cuts, and if they do, it could result in additional charges.

Errors in the existing payroll

It’s also not uncommon to uncover issues during a parallel run. This could be something as straightforward as an incorrectly calculated pension contribution or something slightly more complex such as incorrect Tax and NI parameters.

In practice, the parallel run payroll will have to be manipulated to match the incorrect live payroll, ensuring the accuracy of employees’ year to date totals to prevent any issues on their personal tax records with HMRC. So you are duplicating errors in the parallel run!

Software discrepancies

Payroll software is another factor. For example, National Insurance calculation methods can vary depending on which software is being used, resulting in the need for manual manipulation on the parallel payroll to match your current live payroll.

These changes can question the integrity of the parallel run results whilst also increasing risk. This is all without factoring in the additional time involved in providing payroll data changes to two separate providers at once, which can also add further pressure.

If, however, you look at the reason behind the need for a parallel run, there may be better solutions, and this is something Dataplan Education has focused on developing in recent years.

The Dataplan Education Solution

At Dataplan, we have continued to invest heavily in our people, technology and the continued commitment to improving our customer onboarding experience. We have developed a step-by-step process to ensure your payroll is transferred accurately and within your payroll deadlines. Our vastly experienced implementation teams are delivering on hundreds of payroll implementations per year, and there’s not much they haven’t seen before.

How do you reduce risk whilst still feeling confident without a parallel run?

If we now go back to why clients ask for dummy or parallel runs, the answer is that they are looking for something to give them confidence in the new provider. Payroll is such a mission-critical function that no one wants to open the process to risk and the fallout associated with payroll errors.

At Dataplan, we have developed an implementation process designed to give our new customers the peace of mind they require without the added costs and side effects of parallel running.

Typically we recommend an implementation period of 6 – 8 weeks for most of our new customers, and each implementation is meticulously planned in detail with one of our experienced project managers.

Our teams have the latest tools at their disposal and, as a standard practice, collect the prior period payslips from your incumbent payroll provider or software. The payslip data is then manipulated using our tech to compare and review the ‘go live’ payroll to find any potential issues.

This process covers the equivalent checks and more expected from a parallel run but without the costs or time involved.

If issues are discovered, this is communicated with you, and you will also have the opportunity to make as many changes on the payroll prior to go live as you require. In addition, our ‘query’ feature and subsequent versions of reports (including payslips) are provided to you via our secure online portal, VERA.

Throughout the process, you will have a named dedicated project manager who will be on hand to walk you through the process every step of the way.

So what might, at first glance, seem like a lesser service is actually a more advanced and efficient way of onboarding new payrolls. And, if you do still want parallel runs, we can accommodate that, but it may require a longer implementation and incur additional charges, and that’s not something we like to do.

Welcome to the Dataplan Education way!