In mid-2004 Wienerberger Brick Industry Zrt. decided to change its payroll management program, which was bleeding from multiple wounds. After a multi-round evaluation process, Wienerberger chose NEXON’s NEXONbér payroll management program, while at the same time introducing the NEXONtime entry and working time registration application to replace their existing paper-based systems. We spoke to Zsolt Burai, Wienerberger’s IT Manager, about the details of and lessons arising from the project.
Would you tell us how payroll accounting used to be done here and, since you were forced to change, what difficulties arose in the process?
Wienerberger has 15 facilities in different regions of the country. Payrolls were previously carried out at a local level, meaning that each of the 15 facilities calculated and processed its salaries locally using its own payroll administration program, which nevertheless originated from the same producer. The group-wide data was subsequently summarized by payroll staff at the administrative center in Budapest. Administrative staff at the facilities were minimal, so if any software or personnel problem arose, it was very difficult to resolve from the center. Because the payroll accounting program did not support a networked solution the center simply could not immediately see what was happening at the facilities, or what was causing any problem in calculating the payroll at the works. Correcting errors in local systems was in practice impossible; when combined with the increasing number of employees the introduction of a new, modern payroll accounting system became all the more urgent. In practice, we wanted to set up a system that ran over a network to replace the multiple local solutions.
Apart from not being able to account wages through an integrated network, what were the problems that finally broke the camel’s back?
In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, there were two main reasons for us to change programs. Our previous software supplier did not effectively correct reported program errors, and couldn’t satisfy our customization requirements. Further, the large increase in staff posed new challenges for us in the area of payroll accounting, so in the summer of 2004 we decided to look for a modern human resources information technology system which would finally resolve the problems which we had been having.
For us NEXON really is a constructive solution.
What were the specifications of your call for tenders and what were the criteria for selection?
We didn’t invite tenders in the traditional sense. Instead, we decided to set up an expert team involving all stakeholders to assess the market together, and to identify those service providers with whom we could start a dialogue to jointly find a solution. Although we had clear notions about the introduction of the new program, we were open to ideas and suggestions as to how to improve efficiency. After thoroughly probing the market, we began negotiations with two companies we thought had the relevant experience. Regarding the second half of your question, the payroll accounting system had to meet several criteria set by us. On the one hand the old system we worked with was operated locally at each facility, so it was very hard for staff at the center to help with payroll accounting at each facility. It was also difficult to keep up with changes in the law and to individually update each site’s software . We wanted to make it easier to identify and remedy potential errors, so that we could effectively support our colleagues working in the provinces. An important additional requirement was that the new applications should be compatible with our existing Microsoft based IT environment, which operated well for us. A further consideration in choosing the solution was that it should be customizable. Learning from previous mistakes, we didn’t want to go with an “off-the-peg” solution that covered the basics, but was a little short in the sleeve and somewhat tight across the shoulders.
Obviously no two companies are the same, but what was the reason that those providers of payroll management programs less able to support individuality fell out of the running?
Over 30 different employment arrangements operate across Wienerberger in Hungary. If we had chosen a solution that could not provide for, or in the long term only bridged these needs, we could only partially realize the required improvements in efficiency. That's why the ability to make developments to support specific needs and the possibility for extensive customization were important considerations for us. Last but not least, another important component of our decision process was that the company we selected should have the right credentials. These considerations, in total, formed the thinking on which the NEXONbér payroll management program was finally chosen. NEXON’s standard solution includes payroll management for a concern with multiple premises, it is effectively and promptly supported and is perfectly compatible with a Microsoft environment. It can be easily customized, and has impressive references.
I believe that your dialogue with the potential service providers eventually led to the renewal of another area closely linked to payroll accounting…
We were originally only looking for a payroll accounting system, but when we sat down with the service providers the issue of recording working times also came up. At the time this was being done manually on paper, however it seemed logical to switch over to electronic processing. Because it would be highly beneficial if the two systems could operate together in an integrated manner, we also asked for the offer to include this. The package offered by NEXON was better in every respect, so we decided to introduce the NEXONtime entry and working time registration system alongside NEXONbér.
A further consideration in choosing the solution was that it should be customizable.
Let’s talk about the actual implementation – how did getting the new system ready for action go?
We made up our minds in September 2004 to introduce NEXONbér and NEXONtime. At the end of October we began to analyze the situation together with our colleagues from NEXON, and as a first step developed a project plan following NEXON’s guidelines. On Wienerberger’s part the joint work began with the involvement of people in payroll and IT. For us, it was highly positive that NEXON appreciated our individual requirements and we also liked how the NEXON team tailored the system to meet these needs, which was exactly what we wanted. We expected maximum support throughout the implementation process, and that’s what we got from NEXON. It was particularly helpful that they were present for the payroll preparation during the first three or four months, when various settings had to be made and parameters defined.
Could you tell us a little about the technical side of the implementation? What were the actual challenges the new system had to cope with?
The challenge from a technical viewpoint was creating a link between the wages system and the variety of employment arrangements. As I’ve already mentioned, there are thirty different employment arrangements at Wienerberger, as we operate continuously in 3 shifts. These patterns of work also vary from factory to factory, so the data about them had to be gathered individually and then entered into NEXONtime. In conjunction with this, the codes we used in payroll accounting had to be unified. Over the years different codes for the same thing had appeared at payroll accounting for the different facilities. These codes had also to be standardized.
Finally in January 2005 we began testing the system, and in February 2005 we prepared our staff payroll using NEXONbér. During the implementation the company’s IT specialists worked together with payroll staff, and for the first few months did the accounting jointly.
What did the people in payroll accounting think of the new system?
One of the employees in payroll had used the NEXON payroll management program in a previous job, albeit an earlier version, and this experience was a great help in developing the different areas of NEXONbér. Our staff came to really like the system, and the help that they received from the support center, which was a key requirement, worked brilliantly. If a problem occurs at one of the facilities, you only have to look at a screen in Budapest and the problem can be identified and corrected. Doing the payroll takes about 5-6 days a month, which means sticking to a very tight schedule. Luckily the application’s reliability and its ability to keep abreast of legal changes are a guarantee that mistakes don’t creep into the accounting, which has also been proven by our experiences over recent months.
To what extent does the NEXONtime entry and working time registration system simplify your work? How far have you been able to exploit the potential of the system?
The recording of working time used to happen locally; the new system now does this centrally. At the same time we also changed over from paper based processing to electronic processing. Data about working times are automatically transferred from NEXONtime to NEXONbér at the end of each month. Entry gates operated with a NEXON card were introduced in the Budapest center in the first phase. The first year is always a year of consolidation during which employees become thoroughly familiar with the new system. We intend to implement further developments continually, because introducing the payroll accounting and working time registration systems together made great demands on time and energy this year.
As a computer specialist, how do you see the introduction of the NEXON applications? Have they made your work easier?
Technically, a centralized system was the right solution for payroll administration, so it’s become much more efficient and easier to manage. Back-up is faster and more secure, and the only problem that could occur is that the network or the server stops working. This, however, can happen anywhere at any time, and is a risk inherent within every IT system.
You said earlier that problems occurred in complying with the necessary changes in the law on payroll accounting, because of the lack of integration and your previous service provider’s awkward attitude. Has the NEXON solution resolved such difficulties?
Yes, since then the process of updating the application is faster, much simpler and perhaps most importantly done according to the legal requirements of payroll accounting. Based on our agreement, NEXON advises us by e-mail of the latest updates which we then download, and within a few minutes the new version is up and running. For security reasons the application cannot be accessed during an update, which means a break of 10-15 minutes in total before the application can be used again. Moreover, we just have to do this once, centrally, and it is immediately available at all of our premises.
What positive feedback have you had about the system from people working with it and other employees?
From the employees in general, the positive feedback lies in the fact that they didn’t notice any change. Salaries are important for everyone, they should be paid on time, smoothly and as stipulated in the employment contract. In our business, NEXONtime does a particularly good job, as with this program we plan the working time of those employees who work according to individual work schedules. Another very positive feature of the system is that whereas bank transfers used to be made from many locations, they now all originate from just one. The data gathered will certainly be useful for management, but we will only take advantage of this at the end of the first year, once the data required for various analyses has been gathered.
What lessons have you learnt, or perhaps I should say what advice would you give about the implementation?
Both NEXONbér and NEXONtime are user friendly systems. The programs are feature rich, created for Hungarian conditions and continually updateable. Further, we’ve found NEXON to be a reliable and professional partner who is also proactive, notifying us of changes in the law and software so that we don’t have to bother tracking these ourselves. All in all, I believe that we have successfully reached our goals by implementing NEXON’s human resources IT management systems, as the project was completed within cost and time limits and has produced the expected results. For us NEXON really is a constructive solution.