Global payroll implementations project – tips to succeed

June 8, 2021 | 5 Mins David Daly


A global payroll implementations project is a hugely important initiative that can add major operational and strategic value to any multinational company with ambitions around scaling into new countries.

The Payslip team have lots of experience with global payroll implementations projects and are in a great position to advise on some strong best practice guidance as well as point to the potential pitfalls that you should work hard to avoid.

The subject of global payroll implementation projects was the theme of our latest webinar and we were delighted to have Payslip fintech client Wave join us for a discussion on the best ways to approach a global payroll implementation.

It was a broad and varied discussion, but there was a heavy focus on the things you can do to make your life easier and ensure that everything goes smoothly when preparing for and delivering a payroll implementations project designed to onboard new countries and local vendor providers for multi country global payroll.

Below is a selection of some of the topics, tips and good advice that was shared by Payslip’s Client Success Manager, Aneta Dobrowolska and Travis Saville, the HR Systems Lead at Wave, who provided an insight from the global employer perspective.

Define your needs

It can be difficult to measure results unless you first define your needs- what we’re talking about here is to get very clear on the reasons why the global payroll implementations project is happening, what do you hope to achieve from it and what will define success? Talk to all stakeholders involved, get clear on what is feasible and achievable, make concessions for what is unlikely to get done this time around and then document everything and share with all stakeholders. This ensures everybody involved in the project is clear on what is trying to be achieved, they then have full context on what to expect in terms of outcomes.

This document will prove to be a very valuable part of the RFP selection process- it will really serve to narrow down the specific questions that you want answered and help you assess the suitability of local country vendors as well as the capabilities of any global payroll technology partner you are enlisting to help you deliver multi-country implementations.

“Figure out what your narrative around change management is - why do we want to do this now? E.g., by doing this now are we going to have a more scalable and transparent process? Establish the narrative and stick to it”

Travis Saville, HR Systems Lead at Wave

Organize your stakeholders

Organizing stakeholder involvement is crucial at the beginning of a global payroll implementations project. This is about more than simply gathering opinions, thanking them for their time and then proceeding with the project.

For the project to succeed, all stakeholders do not need to be directly involved in it, but they do need to be kept appraised of progress, challenges and outcomes. This is more about ensuring that those stakeholders are committed to the long-term success of the project long after their initial buy in has been achieved.

First, you need to get the right people in the room- key stakeholders include global payroll professionals and human resource professionals, especially the Head of People. IT Project managers and data security analysts can also be consulted- and these days it is always a good idea to have cloud specialists who can offer their opinion on things like integrations.

Aneta pointed out that ongoing communication is crucial- they always need to be kept in the loop otherwise they risk losing sight of the reasons why an implementation that enables multi country global payroll is so important to company stability and growth. She also discussed the importance of not forgetting about the company employees, they are stakeholders too and should have an interest in payroll beyond their salaries simply hitting their bank accounts, especially if it is the case that a new implementation project will result in a better employee experience- for example, self-service access to their payslips and year-end tax information.

“Involve your teams and let them know why this is so important - aligning technology to overall corporation goals so everybody in the company can be successful is a really key aspect of implementations”

Aneta Dobrowolska, Client Success Manager, Payslip

Prioritize the planning stage

Both Aneta and Travis agreed about the importance of the planning stage when it comes to a global payroll implementations project- they both felt that if enough time and effort is put into this crucial stage, then everybody involved has a good chance of success. Conversely, if you rush it and don’t fully outline and define the basic needs- then you are off to a rocky start and are creating unnecessary complications for yourself.

Establish milestones and who is going to be involved at what stage- make sure you have all the information from the relevant teams- all the pieces need to fit in the project- making sure these are part of the scope right from the start will help you meet your timelines and manage everything on budget – if budget overruns then time overruns too- it is also best to allow some scope and room for changes and additional resources but do your best to keep within scope and within timeline. And don’t forget to document everything for any compliance confirmation and documentation that could be required at a later stage.

Accountability matters

Travis noted how it is always good to find somebody who will hold you accountable and be there to support you too- this person or group will be there to celebrate with the shared success that comes with a successful implementation of a global payroll project. This accountability really matters when it comes to following up on tasks, monitoring commitments and ensuring that specific deadlines are met. When both sides hold each other accountable, it is much easier and keep the pace of the project on an even footing – when there is no accountability, then there is a risk of momentum slipping and you want to avoid this – as forward momentum is one of the things that gets the project done.

On-boarding new payroll countries can be a lot of work but there’s a lot of reward at the end of it so it always helps to specify an end date and let everybody know that the project will eventually end! Communication is a key part of this accountability exercise with internal and external stakeholders. Progress reports can be useful documents here as they help everyone involved to cover what is going well and not going well, especially when things are happening quickly.

Research potential ICPs.

Unsurprisingly, the subject of ICPs and doing detailed analysis and scrutiny came up. Obviously, you want to develop a relationship with an ICP that is the best fit for your organization. The responsibility here lies with the global employers and it is really about asking searching and detailed questions so that you get all of the information you need to make an informed decision.

Strong due diligence is required here. Travis recommends asking for recommendations if you’re dealing with a new country- people will talk to you- find out how this ICP is best able to support your specific needs. Let them know that you do not have expertise in this specific country, that this is going to be a new experience for you, and you simply don’t know what you don’t know!

A good ICP will be understanding, forthcoming with information and transparent. They will point out the positives but not be afraid to let you know about potential negatives. The more honest and open they are, the more likely you are to establish a strong relationship with them. It is also a good point to consider some of the specific challenges you may have had in other countries- use these as examples in conversations you are having with new ICPs and ask them how they would handle a similar situation- this will give you a strong insight into how they deal with challenges.

Aneta recommends finding out about local team language proficiencies- of course, their sales team will be able to discuss the ICP capabilities with you in English or your preferred language, but this is not a guarantee that the actual payroll processing team at the ICP will have the same language proficiency. It is also a good idea to get a clear picture on their working hours especially when it comes to customer support- will the ICP be able to support you out of hours, if you the global employer is located on a different continent? You need to understand how quickly they can respond to queries and resolve any challenges you may be experiencing.

Measure success

“One of the things that Payslip has done, and we've been able to say, as a success is that not only can we see at any point of the month, where our payroll processes are at, but we can also say we're now empowered to have a lot more visibility into our data, and make informed decisions”

Travis Saville, HR Systems Lead at Wave

Although sometimes long and complex, a global payroll implementation of multiple different countries is always a very worthwhile project. For starters, it is often the case that it simply has to be done- a global employer may have scaled into new territories and regions and simply needs global payroll capabilities in these countries. This creates a necessity to onboard local country providers to ensure the employees in that country get paid accurately and on time.

Despite the fact that the whole project is simply necessary, it is still always important to measure success, record results and document everything. Several months or longer could have passed by since the original project started- people sometimes have short memories and it is useful to remind them of the reasons why the project happened, and it is even better to show them the positive results in action.

“Define what success would look like before you start so you have a benchmark to measure against, and document this - better visibility into global payroll is always a good one- being able to see at any point of the month where the payroll process is at in terms of progress”

Travis Saville, HR Systems Lead at Wave

It is about reminding the wider business why you did this implementation in the first place and what successes have been achieved. For example, crucial general ledger data going across to the finance team much quicker is one great benchmark. Or you can show how a joiners and leavers report being generated means the HR team does not have to pull it manually- this is a big win for them. An online payslip being available to an employee in a country where this facility was previously unavailable is a real bonus point for employees in that country.

The statistics and evidence will always be there- select ones that are relevant for particular stakeholders and highlight them. Measuring success matters, it validates the whole global payroll implementation project, and helps to bring attention to the business-critical nature of global payroll. Despite operating efficiently and quietly in the background, nobody should ever underestimate the importance of global payroll and everybody should be aware of the great work carried out by diligent global payroll professionals at multinational organizations around the world.


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