I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about payroll lately. Not only because I’m a business owner, but because we are seeing payroll become a hot topic in the human capital space. When you really think about it, payroll is the foundational transaction between employer and employee – it defines what is a job from what we do on a volunteer basis. But today it’s so much more. It’s a key process in collecting data that sits at the core of business analytics. It’s a complex reporting and compliance tool. And it’s even a catalyst for employee communication and a key component of the employee experience.

The world of payroll can be confusing, which is why many organizations look to solution providers for help. There are a huge variety of providers, serving different business needs. It’s important to consider not only how many employees you’re paying, but how many in each country where you operate, how many countries you operate in, your organizational capacity to handle payroll processes in-house, and myriad other considerations. It’s no longer a game of finding the lowest cost per check. It’s about finding a provider who matches your needs, level of complexity, and operating realities.

Payroll is becoming an increasingly strategic process, which I discuss in my recently published paper Strategic Payroll: Where Employee Relationships Start. Will also be looking at the topic in-depth in our upcoming Aptitude Index report on payroll. This report will not only help organizations understand the complexity of the payroll process, but learn to ask the right questions so they can find a provider that will meet their needs. The report will also address key trends, and the different buyer personas that are served by solution providers in the space.

As this payroll space heats up, it’s interesting to see how organizations are differentiating themselves. From Ultimate Software and their focus on providing information to put the paycheck in context, to Ceridian bringing functionality that provides visibility into payroll process status, to the recent partnership between Ramco and CloudPay (formerly Pattersons) that brings together global capability and managed services, to ADP and their focus on integrating payroll data and business analytics, and many others. Accurate calculations, total compliance and customer service have become table stakes. As the defining process of the employer employee relationships, the stakes in the payroll world continue to rise.