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5 implementation steps to ensure your outsourced payroll transition goes smoothly

The prospect of handing over responsibility for your payroll to an outsourced partner can be daunting enough, without having to worry about something going wrong during the transition. That’s why implementation has to go smoothly.

Any reputable managed service provider should be able to walk you through what to expect, however. They will take you through the process step by step and help to calm any nerves.

The first thing to note is that the transition shouldn’t be a case of handing over the keys and leaving them to it. This is a change project that will involve the implementation of new technology and processes - and it will impact your people.Your outsourced payroll provided should be with you every step of the way. 

As with any change project, for it to be successful you’ll need to bring everyone affected along with you on the journey. For example, anyone who may need to access payroll data, to fulfil any part of their role, will have a vested interest. So they can’t be an afterthought.

The last thing you want is to go live and for someone to find that a crucial report they rely on no longer exists. The key is to keep all stakeholders involved through each phase of the project. Each payroll partner may manage the implementation and go live process differently but there are 5 major steps that are likely to be the same:

The Launch

During the launch phase you are likely to work with a project manager who will create a plan of action for the implementation. They will start by building an understanding of your current processes and practical knowledge of your existing technology – this includes whether there are any third party integrations and when any licenses are due to expire.

They will also look at who your key people are. Who needs to be kept involved and what will their availability be over the coming weeks? All of this information will help them pull together a timeline of activity.


Before any new payroll system can be set up, your managed payroll provider will also need to understand your workforce, how and when they get paid and if there are any idiosyncrasies that make your business unique.

They will also be looking to develop standardised, repeatable and automated processes that will enable your payroll system to be as efficient and accurate as possible. They will want to confirm this course of action with you before continuing. So, expect to go through this in a workshop – where your chosen partner will explain how the new system will work and all the data that will be required.

The set up

With everything agreed, it will then be possible for your payroll provider to configure the system to your specific needs. This will take everything into account, including pay, pensions, benefits, etc.

While this is happening, they will also be looking to bring your team up to speed with your new technology platform, to show you how it will work in practice. So, there will need to be a training programme at this stage. This will also help people understand the full capabilities of the system and where things may differ from before.


Once the system is configured and people know how it works, there will be a period of testing. This will give your team the opportunity to review the interface and for your provider to evaluate user acceptance, before you migrate your payroll data.

With this information now migrated, the new system can be fully assessed as if it were live, while your existing payroll system continues to function. This parallel testing allows both sides to check that the system is performing as expected. It will also help the testers identify any data anomalies (not an uncommon occurrence as migrated data is not live data) and why those differences exist, before you go live.

Go live

At this stage, your payroll provider should be encouraging you to communicate what’s about to happen to your team and wider employees. This is the opportunity to provide people with instructions, login details, etc. – and to remind them where they may experience differences.

Once you are live, you should also expect a period of ‘hyper care’ from your new payroll partner. It’s likely you will feel some trepidation in the build up to your next payroll run. Given that this is a sensitive moment, you’ll want to know you have support on hand, at a moment’s notice, should you need it.

Change is often nerve-wracking, and moving your payroll is no exception. But, if you take this phrased approach you can ensure both you and your new partner are moving forward at the same speed – and there are no surprises.

It’s also important to keep your people in mind every step of the way. The adoption of new processes and technology may command your attention during implementation, but if you have kept your team on board throughout the acceptance will be higher, disruption will be minimised and you’ll ensure a much smoother transition.

    Want to learn more about what happens when you outsource your payroll?

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