Alexa, what's the status of my payrolls?

I was one of the millions of people worldwide experiencing the delightful, charming and convenient presence of Alexa over the Christmas holidays, The Amazon powered home assistant who will, "perform various tasks for you and control various systems."

Alexa comes well educated out of the box and you're able to enable additional skills from the always-growing skill store using the Alexa app. She helped me orchestrate the delivery of Christmas dinner and the vast array of reminders and timers it demands, she effortlessly turns on my stereo and serenades me with playlists by The XX, and she provides me with flash news and sports updates in the mornings, without me needing to unlock my phone and be distracted by everything else the day has in store.

While all these scenarios will seem incredibly trivial, even gimmicky to a many people, the convenience Alexa brings is undeniable. So much so, it wasn't long before I began imagining the benefits Alexa could bring to a global payroll team or manager.

Hiring Alexa

There are hundreds, sometimes thousands of key delivery points across a global payroll solution each month. People managing multi-country or high volume payroll will spend a significant amount of time each day simply ensuring payrolls are on-track; understanding the current status of each payroll, being aware of the exceptions and issues that are having an impact on delivery, planning and prioritizing the next few days based on the plethora of deadlines and latest communications. Payroll delivery is relentless, it never stops and it's moving at an ever increasing pace.

That's why I think Alexa would make such a great member of the team. She's ultra responsive and infinitely quicker than me ever opening a web browser and going to a single page. Sure, she'd be a little restricted (right now) to pre-configured commands, but when I was working as part of a global payroll operations team, I asked these same questions every day, all week. Some of them multiple times a day;


  • What's the status of my... payrolls?" UK Payrolls?" EMEA Payrolls?"
  • What was the last communication sent on Payroll 'XYZ'?"
  • What are my next 5 deadlines for payrolls in the EMEA region?"
  • How many open issues are they on my APAC Payrolls?" What Payroll has the most issues?"
  • What payrolls are behind schedule?"
  • How many new starters did I have across EMEA this month?"
  • What payrolls are ready for approval?"
  • What are the status of statutory submissions across EMEA?"
  • Remind me to go home on time tonight, at 17:00." 

I'm sure you're getting the picture.

We could take this a step further and get Alexa to remember repeat requests and bundle them together for a "flash broadcast" and allow team members to configure and command their own "flash broadcast" – Alexa could be a great team player.

Even as just an information giver, Alexa would enable teams and managers to get answers to their questions quickly, improving their decision making which is paramount to a successful and stable payroll delivery.

Going beyond information sharing, she could begin to do things for us too – but I'll save those ideas for a future post.

Can Global Payroll Really Adopt These New Technologies?

Alexa's 'skills' and the benefits she could bring to your teams will depend on software and applications you use to manage and deliver you global payroll solution.

For Alexa (or any new technology) to truly empower your teams she'll need access to a rich and expansive data source that includes information about every aspect of your payroll delivery, not just aggregated Gross-to-Net results. This would ideally be aggregated within an Analytics application that's able to consume information from the variety of sources that touch payroll.

If your teams are;

  • Using excel or paper checklists to track and manage the tasks and best practice needed to deliver end-to-end payroll.
  • Following a payroll calendar (or schedule) that's not digital or integrated with your payroll application.
  • Using email to communicate – that's not integrated with the payroll or any type of communication/collaboration portal.
  • Unable to track statutory submissions, payments and obligations in a more advanced and effective method than tracking a document storage system.

Then it's unlikely that you'll be feeling the benefits of this new wave of technology that's maturing around us, anytime soon. (Of course, the pre-requisite of all those aspects is that you're already managing every country payroll in a single cloud-based application). 

Payroll has traditionally been left behind HR and Finance in the adoption of new technology and innovation with it in the past, that isn't the case anymore.

If you're selecting a new provider in 2017, dig deeper than how the employee data is integrated or how the Gross-to-Net information is aggregated. Sure they're great benefits, but global payroll can be so much more.