Payroll and HR software specialist Softline Pastel Payroll has a Connected Services division that enables SME companies to extend their desktop payroll with an online solution that will ease the growing burden of HR managers and payroll administrators.

Connected services includes a web-based self-service tool that enables employees to manage and maintain their own information online and thereby carry some of the overall HR administration responsibility as they are able to make on-line applications for leave, loans, bursaries, travel claims, view their payslips and update personal information no matter where they are so long as they have an internet connection.

“The internet is here to stay and its capacity and connectivity have tangibly improved recently, providing an increasingly compelling service at progressively competitive prices although South Africa still has some way to go in terms of truly competitive pricing,” says Philip Meyer, technology director at payroll and HR software specialist Pastel Payroll, part of the Softline and Sage Group plc.

“Generally accepted standard online applications – those which many people are comfortable using on a daily basis such as internet banking and online flight reservations systems, news feeds and social media sites are all being complemented by steady streams of new online business applications and services.”

Meyer says the adoption rate of online business software for new entrants into the market is increasing, posing the question of how to bridge the gap between the growing trend towards online software adoption and the traditional desktop application users in the same market segments.

“The adoption of what many consider to be commoditised uses for the internet is seen as a steady evolutionary process and the switch from legacy desktop applications to the cloud is proving to be a gradual adoption rather than a rush to jump on the bandwagon.”

The advantages and conveniences of connected services can aid and expedite the many benefits of dual-deployment business software models such as client-side hosted applications with significant connected services capabilities and functionality together with a seamless upgrade path to ultimately complete cloud-based models facilitated by vendors.

Connected Services has workflow capabilities based on the organisation chart or a specific workflow order per online form. Once an employee applies for leave online and the manager approves it, the payroll system is automatically updated. The software also provides for leave scheduling, which is particularly practical over traditional December holidays when “skeleton staff” are required. The program helps to manage minimum staff levels by providing system warnings.

Meyer reckons frictionless updates are another example of connected services that enable traditional desktop applications to seamlessly update over the internet with minimal intervention from the end-user of the software. “Customers no longer need to visit a website to download and install updates manually and install CD versions, the software now does it all for them. The days of CD-based updates and disruptive installation and implementation cycles are over.”

Another component of Connected Services allows HR managers and payroll administrators to receive RSS feeds to their desktops notifying them of legislative and tax changes and new system software releases so that the company is always on track and up to date.

“The internet and, more specifically, cloud-based and online business applications constitute some of the most compelling opportunities for streamlining the way business is conducted in the 21st century. It is reassuring that the optimisation of internet capabilities will almost certainly not amount to a one-size fits all models.

“It is rather the incremental evolution of traditional desktop software, leveraging the internet where it is appropriate and business enhancing, that will play an important role in the evolutionary shift to complete cloud-based business software provisioning, billing and deployment. This will provide a flexible and extensible migration path to the cloud taking into account preferences of individual business requirements, as will pure cloud-only offerings,” concludes Meyer