At first glance, one would think not much has changed, but you should look closer.

Once again, Sability attended the APA Congress and had our booth in the Expo.  For the most part it was a typical APA Congress.  The event is always informative and filled with enthusiastic participants who enjoy the time away from work to network, get credits toward certifications and visit the vendors in the Expo.  Even the Expo seemed to be filled with the same companies that have been showing up at APA Congress for years if not decades.

But, if from all that you conclude that not much has changed, look again.

Although the names of the vendors in the Expo haven’t changed much (ADP, Ceridian, Ultimate Software, Kronos, etc…) those vendors have evolved substantially in the past few years.  I remember a time when ADP and Ceridian were called “payroll service bureaus”, Ultimate Software’s tag line was “HR/Payroll it’s all we do” and Kronos was known only as a Time & Attendance solution.  Today though, all of these vendors label themselves as “HCM Software Companies”, offering end-to-end Human Capital Management solutions that span HR, Payroll, Talent and Workforce Management.  In fact, there are very few “payroll only” solutions left to pick from.

What does that mean to attendees at the APA Congress?

APA Congress 2016 Prize Wheel

Spinning the Sability Prize Wheel. (Photo courtesy of American Payroll Association.)

The reality is that most of these HCM software solutions must be bought as a complete solution.  So, if you are a Payroll Manager who wants a new payroll software, you can’t just go shopping by yourself.  You have to work with a team of HR, Operations and IT people and shop for an entirely new HCM platform.  In fact, most HCM vendor choices aren’t being led by the Payroll department.  Most often, HR or Operations are the ones to initiate the search for a new solution and “by the way” they are getting a new payroll solution as a part of it.

Don’t’ get me wrong, at Sability, we are big fans of the industry’s move to HCM suite solutions.  We believe HCM suites deliver a superior value proposition and return on investment compared to point solutions of the past.  But, attending APA Congress reminded me that companies tend to overlook the things that are going well when shopping for software to fix things that are broken.  Doing that with your Payroll function can come at a high cost.

The quality of the payroll solution that is included in an HCM system shouldn’t be overlooked.  Payroll is not a commodity where all of the solutions are the same.  Different vendors are more successful than others.  Some payroll solutions include more robust support for global payroll needs and only some vendors offer payroll services like check printing, tax filing and wage garnishments that your company may need.  For Payroll practitioners and their internal customers (i.e. every employee in the company), these things are extremely important.  So, when it comes to looking for a new HCM solution, Payroll must have an equal voice and incorporate their business case and risks associated with changing payroll providers into the decision making process.

So, here is my battle cry to Payroll Professionals – STAND UP AND BE COUNTED!  We all know you’ll be center stage if the payroll system stops working, so be sure your voice is heard and you are included in your company’s HCM strategic planning.


Rob Leonard – Sability, President & COO

Rob is responsible for the management of Sability’s business and execution of key initiatives to improve service, quality, revenue and profitability. Prior to joining the company in 2009, Rob held senior management positions at Ultimate Software and Workbrain (now Infor), as parts of a long career in professional services, business development and product management for multiple software vendors and consulting firms in the Human Capital Management (HCM), Workforce Management (WFM), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) industries.