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Softworld preview: Selecting the best payroll software for your business

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By Dennis Keeling

Dennis Keeling, Chief Executive of the Business Application Software Developers Association, will be speaking at the Softworld HR & Payroll seminar ‘How to select and implement a business system effectively’ at 9am on Thursday 3 March. Here’s a snapshot of what he’ll be discussing …


This year will see a number of changes to the Government regulations governing payroll and reporting. Many of the visitors to Softworld are planning to replace their existing payroll systems in order to comply with this latest tranche of Government red tape which includes compulsory PAYE e filing, beginning for large companies in April 2005 and eventually including all companies who employ staff by April 2009.

At his Breakfast Briefing Dennis Keeling, Chief Executive of BASDA, to which many of the HR software suppliers belong, will be offering advice on the most effective way to select a new system and explaining the BASDA fast track selection system known as Request For Information (RFI).

RFI was developed by the software industry in co operation with a number of the major IT consultancies and is designed to simplify the purchasing cycle. It was created to remove all uncertainty and risk in the selection process whilst, at the same time, ensuring that users have access to a wider range of products.

Unfortunately, many companies still use outdated methods of selecting a system, which is to prepare a detailed ‘requirements’ specification with other operational information in a huge document, known as an Invitation To Tender (ITT). This is a highly detailed specification which was originally used when bespoke systems had to be developed to handle specialist requirements.

Today, modern packaged HR systems are very comprehensive and flexible enough to be configured to meet most requirements. Therefore, evaluating them against a list of general functional requirements is both lengthy and unnecessary, as the answer to most requirements will be ‘yes’.

There are, however, some key elements, which relate to the customer’s particular application, that need to be specified and reviewed in detail. The BASDA RFI procurement process enables customers to concentrate on those areas which are particularly important to them.

Instead of sending out the detailed 200 page ITT as the first stage of the process, customers are now encouraged to circulate the simpler 10 page RFI document which provides a simple summary of requirements, covering basic hardware and software, time scales, transaction levels, number of users and budgeted price range. Suppliers, who feel that their software meets the general specification and wish to tender to supply the new system, agree to respond within three weeks from receipt of the RFI document.

They provide the customer with all the information which has been requested together with a profile of the package and the supplier. From these responses, the customer can then select a short list of two or three suppliers who are requested to present detailed product demonstrations from which a ‘preferred supplier’ emerges. Once nominated, the preferred supplier undertakes detailed on site testing of its software prior to signing a contract to supply.

Principles of the RFI approach
There are two basic principles of the BASDA RFI approach that differentiate it from traditional procurement processes:

a) The replacement of the Invitation to Tender with a shortened RFI
b) Bringing forward the detailed product testing to the evaluation phase prior to purchase, rather than after the system has been installed.

The effect of these two basic principles is to reduce the time taken for the procurement process and make it significantly more reliable than the traditional approach. BASDA is able to show that using this approach a reduction of 45% in the elapsed time can be achieved.

To help users, BASDA has published a booklet entitled ‘How to Select a Business System’ which will be issued free of charge to show visitors and is also downloadable from the BASDA website at www.basda.org. It details all phases of the RFI tendering process and offers advice and information on the selection process.

The ‘Selecting a Business System’ booklet explains how to manage the buying process throughout. Far too many organisations in the private and, particularly, the public sector still insist on selecting a new application using this outdated ITT method, which was developed before package software existed and bespoke software had to be developed from a detailed specification. There are very few applications that need to be developed that way today, so the RFI approach offers a much better methodology.

BASDA is the international standards body, based in the UK, representing 250 of the world’s leading developers and suppliers of business application software. BASDA represents and supports software developers by developing standards and accreditations for handling business to business and business to Government ecommerce, euro compliance and VAT handling. It provides an information service and runs seminars and workshops for the benefit of its members and business.

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