0402 Ultimate Software
For HR and payroll managers whose internal solutions are outdated and efficient, handling day-to-day functions is stressful enough, but when you also have to rely on your company’s IT department to get the most basic information, you know it’s time for a change.
That’s exactly what happened to the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, a group of member-owned businesses serving members in 74 of the state’s 75 counties. The solution the cooperative had used previously demanded significant IT resources for any system updates or reports. With two business units and a fluctuating workforce of 600 people, the cooperative recognized that employee-related changes and frequent analyses were commonplace, putting extra demands on IT and adding delays to time-sensitive requests.
According to Don Parish, HR manager for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, “We had no flexibility, no control, and we were very reliant on IT for any exports and special data requests. There were limitations all the way around as to what types of data they could give us–we couldn’t get creative with data manipulations or analysis.”
Parish says that at one point the situation became so intense that the IT staff, bogged down by requests for information, had no choice but to stop running certain data for the HR department.
“Both IT and HR were frustrated because IT had other priorities to handle, while seasonal workforce fluctuations along with reporting requirements mandated IT’s involvement with our HR system,” he explains.
With the two departments nearly at loggerheads, Parish decided to look at an HR/payroll system that his team could manage completely on its own. After investigating five different workforce management solutions, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas chose Ultimate Software’s hosted model, Intersourcing, because of its affordability, functionality, and reporting capabilities.
“One of the many aspects we considered when we selected UltiPro was the cost,” said Parish. “We liked the fact that withIntersourcing there was no capital outlay. Plus, I estimated the soft cost value of the day-to-day efficiencies from UltiPro, such as the time savings in expedited reporting without IT intervention, and I project a soft cost savings of approximately $95,000 a year, just by enhancing the way that we manage our workforce information and processes.”
WithIntersourcing, Ultimate Software provides the hardware, software, and expertise needed to upgrade and maintain the system. By opting for Intersourcing’s per-employee-per-month pricing, companies like the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas can pay as they go with predictable, affordable pricing, while profiting from the efficiencies and business value derived from UltiPro.
“We’re all very pleased now with the power and ease of use with UltiPro,” says Parish. “Using UltiPro throughIntersourcing, our IT people can focus on information systems rather than processing payroll, which means we’re all working more efficiently now.”
After an on-time implementation, the cooperative went live on UltiPro in July 2003 and immediately began experiencing efficiencies. For instance, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas now saves time and resources by generating and transmitting employees’ direct deposit files itself, rather than going through its credit union. In addition, Parish’s staff is using UltiPro’s future effective dating feature for employees’ retirement benefits, ensuring that pensions or 401(k) plans are activated when appropriate for qualified individuals. Previously, the HR department had to manually monitor the dates when these benefits needed to be initiated for new employees.
“With UltiPro, we can enter the date the plan is supposed to go into effect, and the onset of retirement benefits occurs automatically and appropriate deductions are made,” said Parish. “This means my staff doesn’t have to continually monitor paper files for hundreds of employees and double-check their ages to be sure that they qualify. Now that UltiPro has automated this process for us, my staff can cross this task off their list.”
Parish also is pleased that his department finally has the ability to run its own reports when necessary without third-party intervention. He remarks that on any given day someone on his team might create a report on benefit plans, verify employment queries, and perform data analysis. And the HR department can generate workforce demographic reports, such as profiles of the staff based on average pay rates for a particular group of employees, to measure trends, evaluate recruitment and retention efforts, and plan for the future.
“We’ve seen a significant difference in our ability to access information,” says Parish. “It’s kind of like driving an old vehicle and then getting a modern-day car with all the electronic bells and whistles. With UltiPro we’ve moved several generations forward in terms of functionality and reliability.”
Parish also cites speed and timeliness as part of the cooperative’s success with UltiPro.
“When I need information from UltiPro, it is fast and the data is real-time,” he explains. “If I run a report in a year from now that I ran today, that information will be current as of that moment. The power of UltiPro and the information we can pull from the system radiate throughout the company, meaning we are all able to reap the benefits.”
These advantages are being felt keenly by the accounting department, where UltiPro’s Rapid Pay function is used to enter employees’ time and attendance information. That data then moves directly into UltiPro’s payroll engine, significantly reducing the need for manual data entry. Redundant data entry is reduced as well by UltiPro’s one-table design because all employee information–benefits, accounting, and payroll–is housed in one system and can be shared by all departments managing employee-related processes.
“UltiPro has been a welcome relief to the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, and specifically to my staff, who no longer rely on the IT department. The IT department, by the same token, has been able to go back to working on the normal business processes that occur. The cooperative has witnessed a better utilization of the staff, who are working more efficiently now, and the HR department has become far more strategic,” explains Parish. “UltiPro has given me all the functionality that every HR department should have the privilege of experiencing.”