“When you look at a city, it’s like reading the hopes, aspirations, and pride of everyone who built it.”
This quote, by American architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen, perfectly captures what makes cities so amazing. Each is a unique expression of the people who live there and the ways they choose to live, work, and play.
The same characteristics that make cities beautiful and attract people to live there also make them complex to manage. For a city to run smoothly, each cog – from public works to finance, recreation, emergency and social services – needs to be working hand in hand and communicating. Taking care of a city’s workforce is essential to its operations.
That reality has been on the minds of the staff of Parkland County in recent years. Parkland County is a municipal district in Alberta, Canada, with a population of just over 32,000 residents. It borders the province’s capital city of Edmonton and covers an area of approximately 2,300 square kilometers, encompassing several dozen localities. It’s home to a large industrial park and several hundred commercial operations, mining operations, golf courses, campgrounds, and two provincial parks.
The district employs approximately 500 people, half of them full-time and 80 seasonal, as well as full-time and on-call volunteer firefighters. For years, each department’s payroll was processed separately. This meant that the County’s HR team was responsible for processing seven different payrolls, many with different frequencies. Payroll staff would pull a time and attendance file from the County’s legacy system, upload it into Microsoft Dynamics 365 (Dynamics 365) – its ERP system – manipulate the file, and then process payroll. The task was extremely time-consuming, error-prone, and created a lot of frustration.
“The unique thing about municipalities is that it's a bunch of businesses on one cloud. When you're trying to run 15 or 20 different businesses all together, you really need to have a connection between them,” says Marc Ficht, Director of Strategic Initiatives.
Parkland County began searching for a different way of doing things that would allow them to align payroll processes across the district, eliminate unnecessary administrative burden, and free up HR staff to focus on taking care of the workforce.
“We used to be very departmentalized. Each department went and did their own thing. It got to a state where multiple systems were doing the same thing,” says Ficht. “What we really wanted to do is pull everything together and get everybody on the same pay schedule.”
In 2019, Parkland County began looking for a unified system that could serve its entire workforce. Ficht and his team deliberately engaged all departments in the process from the very start, meeting with them to understand their business processes and needs. In addition to better reporting and automation, one of the County’s top requirements was that the new system needed to integrate its existing HR and finance systems. Directly integrating the two systems would eliminate delays and errors caused by file manipulation.
After nearly a year of research, the municipality selected Dayforce. The team saw that Dayforce could help them achieve their vision of a streamlined process. “One of the main reasons Ceridian was the winner was its ability to integrate into Dynamics 365,” says Ficht. “Payroll is our largest cost as a municipality. In the past, our payroll information would sometimes come in weeks or even months after the fact. It’s really hard for our staff to manage projects when their largest costs come in that late. What we wanted was on-time information.”
One key aspect of the implementation’s success, says Ficht, is assigning a dedicated team to lead and manage the project.
“Sometimes people think, ‘Oh, we'll do these projects on the corner of our desk.’ And they wonder why they're not successful,” he says. “Having this dedicated group that just looked after the implementation allowed us to make sure that we really listened to the business.”
The process of engaging internal stakeholders started before the RFP was issued and continued throughout the implementation phase. A committee of departmental leads provided critical operational information to ensure the implementation would meet everyone’s needs. “Instead of saying, ‘Here's the technology, go away and use it,’ we actually went to the business, and let the business decide how they wanted to use the technology,” Ficht describes.
Members of the committee also acted as project champions, keeping their departments apprised of the project’s progress. Ficht’s team used a train-the-trainer model to give champions the knowledge they needed to support their teams and teach them to understand and use the system.
As part of the implementation, Parkland County’s finance department also redid the general ledger (GL) codes in Dynamics 365 to better align the two systems. It’s an effort with big benefits. “Now we have one code that will travel through every piece of information, from the employee, to pay, back to finance, and back to projects. We’re talking about potential savings of a considerable number of hours,” says Tom Watts, Director of Employee Services.
The Parkland County team relied heavily on Ceridian’s support throughout the implementation to maximize the benefits of the system and its customizations.
“The partnership [with Ceridian] was really good,” says Ficht. “Everybody came to the table when we needed them. I think we really challenged Ceridian at times, and in the end, I believe they came through for us.”
East Shore Pelican by Reg Faulkner
Several months after implementation, Watts says there has been impressive adoption of Dayforce across departments. Employees still put their time into Dynamics 365, a system they’re familiar with, which has made the change less jolting. And they’re now able to view their pay stubs, vacation balances, and benefits in Dayforce. In addition, the direct integration between Dayforce and Dynamics 365 has removed a significant burden from the employee services team, allowing them to streamline payroll processes.
Being able to access payroll information instantly means staff no longer have to guess at payroll numbers for budget planning. Dayforce and its integration with Dynamic 365 has given staff and departments the opportunity and responsibility to track their own hours and submit their own data on a weekly basis, relieving pressure from the payroll team.
“Before, our payroll department would have to check in with everybody to make sure that they got their time in and that everything was done right. That's what a system should do, not our individual people. So, we've moved that accountability a level down,” says Ficht.
In the past, the operations team had to pay a consultant to generate overtime reports, a process that was costly, time-consuming, and inefficient. Dayforce has eliminated that need. “From what we had in terms of the [legacy system] to what we have now for reporting and overall ease of use and sophistication, I think the team is quite happy with it,” says Watts.
With these newfound efficiencies, Watts estimates his team will save 5 to 20 hours a week. “Twenty hours is quite a bit of time. My team will be able to spend more time advising and supporting people, and communicating about our benefits plan, which is a really good plan. We’ll get to repurpose some of those hours in a couple of different areas and be more strategic.”
“The biggest thing for us now is to let the system do what it's supposed to do,” adds Ficht. “We’ll put in the rules and parameters and let the system run. Then we can give our people time for more value-add activities within the organization.”
Taking on a project of this scope isn’t a decision a municipality makes lightly. Getting the implementation right requires sustained effort and keen attention to change management and communication. By engaging with internal stakeholders, properly resourcing the project, and maximizing the support of the Ceridian team, Ficht and his team succeeded in the first phase of the project and brought their vision of increased efficiency and streamlined processes to life. The municipality is now looking forward to maximizing its use of Dayforce and the integration with Dynamics 365, which will free up the workforce’s time to focus on efforts that can make Parkland County a great place to live, work, and play.
“My opinion is you should only do one payroll project in your life because it'll age you incredibly,” jokes Ficht. “One of the biggest reasons we chose Ceridian is that we don't want to go through this again, so we picked a system and partner that we can grow with.”