HR Magazine, January 2001: Software Reviews

By Jim Meade & Gary Meyer Jan 1, 2001

HRIS, Payroll Serves Multiple Locations

You have 500 to 15,000 employees spread across multiple locations. You don’t want to have a full-time HR professional in each place but employees at all locations need information about benefits, time off, paycheck history and more.

Your line managers travel and are not always at a central site. They want to check on the progress of performance reviews, training certifications, employee pay and the myriad other details managers track.

To meet such needs, you might turn to UltiPro from Ultimate Software of Weston, Fla., an HRIS that specializes in multiple-location, mid-sized clients, provides web-based employee self-service and manager self-service and integrates HR with payroll.

Though Ultimate Software positions its product as mid-market software, interestingly, its main competitors are huge HR software players like PeopleSoft and Lawson.

Asked what particular problem UltiPro is supposed to solve, Ultimate Software vice president of marketing Linda Miller says, “A lot of it has to do with the ‘remote thing’—so many offices, so many remote employees and managers—and the ability to communicate with all of them.”

Strong on Reports

UltiPro serves both HR managers and employees. An HR manager can find data on individual employees, reports, analytic tools and recruiting help.

Employees readily locate not only their own personal data but also key career information such as a list of training required for their jobs, training they have completed, their own job histories (including licenses, education and awards) and details of their benefits.

UltiPro prides itself on reporting, with 400 built-in reports covering benefits, compensation, reviews—you name it and it’s here. Particularly useful are the software’s reports that let the user analyze trends in any topic from turnover to benefit costs, according to Laura Perkins, vice president of product marketing.

Payroll Help Available

A particular strength for UltiPro is its payroll capability. Separately available payroll software from Ultimate integrates with the rest of the package and lets the user call up complete payroll information such as a year-to-date summary and a complete pay history.

Ultimate’s strengths in payroll software carry over to HR. UltiPro is far better equipped than your average HRIS package to handle compensation reporting.

For instance, have you ever wondered what it’s like to calculate the complex deductions for highly paid athletes who travel among numerous states and pay taxes in all of them?

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns sports teams have to worry about just that. The sports organization’s payroll manager, Sheila Guy, says that UltiPro is the only software she has found that can handle her pay needs.

Responsive Support

Equally outstanding in UltiPro is its understanding of HR in mid-sized, often complicated companies.

Barry Shorten is CEO of Alcott Staff Leasing of Farmingdale, N.Y. Alcott is a professional employer organization or, in other words, a company that provides payroll, benefits, liability and other professional services to a collection of small- to medium-sized companies. He needs industrial-strength HR software. “We bought UltiPro because of its extensive HR reporting capabilities,” says Shorten.

Recognizing that demanding HR environments require outstanding support, UltiPro provides strong support. “We selected them after an extensive process because of what we felt was that corporate philosophy of taking care of people,” attests Shorten. “They’ve been very responsive to our needs.”

Among its many other strengths are easy, browser-based use, strong security based on “roles” (security profiles for various members of the organization) and an integrated workflow model that expedites the movement of information within the system.

Software Demands Preparation

If you are going to implement a multi-featured package like this one, you’d better be ready to commit.

“Don’t have any unreal expectations that implementation will be easy,” cautions Shorten. Users say that you need to plan thoroughly in advance of installation and ensure that your deadline for installing the HRIS is not too short.

Guy likewise cautions that installing a program with the virtues of UltiPro is “truly a commitment. If you can make [HR installation] your project and delegate a whole bunch of other responsibilities, that will pay off in the end,” Guy advises.

Some of UltiPro’s strengths can require commitment from your side.

The software’s workflow, for instance, means that you either have to invest time to define and outline your current workflow patterns or, even harder, manage your company so that it follows the software’s workflow patterns—patterns that may be new to you.

Roles-based security, which sets up access based on job titles, also can be a somewhat exacting practice requiring you to define roles at setup.

The positive side is that you can set up strong security tailored for different needs or even different locations. Shorten has used UltiPro’s roles-based security to create separate security protocols for each of his client companies.

‘Web Native’

Ultimate says UltiPro is “web native” except for payroll. Some competitors claim to be ahead of UltiPro in web engineering. You might want your information technology people to check that the web implementation will mesh well with other programs you use.

UltiPro goes after the tough problems and solves them. If you’re serious about solving tough problems, particularly those involving payroll and multiple locations, UltiPro may well be your solution.

Turn Time Data Into Business Gold

What could businesses as diverse as a greenhouse, construction company, bank, sportswear manufacturer and social service organization possibly have in common? All these businesses use the same automated timekeeping solution, TimeCentre by Konetix Inc. of Boulder, Colo.

TimeCentre enables users to complete payrolls in hours and in compliance with the users’ own compensation rules. TimeCentre gives businesses a way to detect anomalies in timekeeping reports and to analyze labor costs.

TimeCentre is a little different from other software usually reviewed in these pages because it is a combined software and hardware approach. Konetix sells various data collection devices including bar code readers, telephones, PCs, time clocks and even hand-held readers, all of them used to capture employees’ time data and to transmit it to a host PC. Then the software edits and performs calculations on that data using a customer’s specified guidelines to ensure an accurate payroll.

TimeCentre software is designed to work with Konetix’s own data collection devices, from which customers can select the type most suitable to their environments. Konetix has, at times, adapted the software to accept time data from other vendors’ devices, but the company does not recommend such approaches. Potential customers with a need or desire to use data collection devices other than those Konetix sells should expect added costs for custom engineering.

The TimeCentre software and hardware approach can save HR time in collecting data and administering payrolls. Plus, the array of easily activated reports for tracking labor costs and productivity can contribute significantly to an organization’s overall profitability. This product’s reports could help make HR more of a strategic player in the eyes of top management.

Easy To Navigate

A user logging on to TimeCentre sees the “switchboard” screen, the hub from which you access all the system’s functions, such as edits and processes, time card reports or management reports.

A click on the chosen bar delivers easily understood menu options and screen templates to add an employee or a job code or to view and correct a time reporting error. The switchboard also contains fields for entering the date, job, department and other parameters for reports.

You can enter information about each employee on a screen that provides areas for detailed compensation items such as shift differential, pay rate, holidays and pay policy. Up front, you’ll need to key in about a dozen entries such as an ID number and department codes, to create an employee record.

Another screen lets users set up their particular pay rules. Here you can define guidelines such as when to pay double rates or half rates of pay. You can configure multiple pay policies to cover distinct categories of employees such as those in different union bargaining units or those covered by different benefits.

Keeping Time Data Clean

TimeCentre applies these rules and other logic to edit time data thoroughly. The software will alert you when records show that employees’ “punch-ins” on their time collection devices are incomplete, duplicated or overlapping. If any other anomalies show up in timekeeping records, the system flags them for a manager to examine. The system can generate daily reports for each department or for each supervisor’s workers.

TimeCentre includes 60 reports that provide a wealth of information. Among the reports: hours spent by employee per job, customer, task or work order; employees approaching overtime; department-by-department time comparisons; time cards by employee; current attendance and more.

From the payroll standpoint alone the potential rewards from this system are impressive. The capabilities for editing time data virtually eliminate clerical involvement, eradicate mistakes and time-reporting abuses and give supervisors an easy way to monitor time reporting. That all adds up to a reduction in administrative costs.

Time data can be mined and organized using TimeCentre’s reports or Microsoft Access. Users can track labor costs by variables such as project, activity type, product line, store, department, shift, etc. The numbers will show clearly where precious labor dollars are being spent.

The reports serve other useful purposes by, for example, identifying absent employees. With that information, a manager would know immediately about a staffing shortage at a large construction site, multi-building warehouse complex or sprawling mega-store. Another report can tell a supervisor which people chronically arrive late or leave early—excellent supporting documentation in a disciplinary meeting or performance review.

Employees will appreciate one interesting feature. At a time clock, they can initiate a request for a time card report so they can view the hours they have logged for the pay period. This is particularly useful in environments where people have flexible or irregular schedules.

TimeCentre interfaces with popular payroll service bureaus for actual paycheck preparation. It also will mesh with various HR software programs.

TimeCentre provides quick relief from the tedious burden of collecting and processing time reporting data. The system simplifies payroll preparation by saving money on clerical effort. TimeCentre serves with equal adeptness as a tool for tracking labor use. Managers can use this software to convert time data into valuable business intelligence.

Jim Meade, Ph.D., based in Fairfield, Iowa, is an author and HR software consultant specializing in software selection. He is currently preparing The 2001 Guide to HR Software with Harcourt Professional Publishing. E-mail him at

Gary Meyer is a freelance writer and software reviewer based in Cincinnati.


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