Monmouthshire County Council in Wales is changing the face of its human resources (HR) function as part of a digital transformation programme.
It chose to make a move to the cloud with its already existing supplier, Zellis, as an early adopter of the supplier’s Zellis HCM Cloud service.
Peter Davies, deputy chief executive at Monmouthshire County Council, who has been using an early access version of the service since the start of 2021, says: “Like many other local government organisations, we’re increasingly focused on using technology to transform our processes, particularly in critical areas like payroll and HR.
“There is a strong synergy between our digital transformation plans and Zellis HCM Cloud – especially its focus on employee experiences, automation and ease of integration with solutions we already use.”
The critical element, he says, was “moving to a cloud-based solution, for reasons of resilience and system performance”.
“Also, with regards to Zellis, moving away from a supplier-customer relationship to being in more of a partnership. Zellis Cloud has come at the right time for our digital transformation. It gives us the capability to move forward,” he says.
“Redesigning front-line services digitally for residents means you have got to make that same leap for your own workforce. We’ve got over 4,000 employees, including hundreds of managers. That ‘customer’ experience is vitally important for them, too. People have to be drawn towards the system, it needs to be Netflix or Amazon-like.
“We are also a very agile organisation, with a workforce spread over a rural county, needing often to go to somewhere in their home. Pulling data down, putting data in, updating expense forms – all that is a whole lot easier in a cloud environment.”
The Welsh council had been a long-term customer of Northgate NGA, an international HR and payroll group, which sold its UK and Ireland division to Bain Capital in 2018, to be a standalone company, under the name Zellis. In September 2020, the supplier launched Zellis HCM Cloud, a development of its ResourceLink payroll and HR system.
“We looked across the market and decided we would make greater gains not in just staying with Zellis, but being one of the first to move the cloud,” says Davies.
“The thing that swung it for us was what they have in their pipeline and their broader direction of travel, their vision. The analytics is crucial, in the way it sits on top of Microsoft Power BI and Dynamics.
“Also, the onboarding [aspect] makes it easier to recruit new talent and put ourselves in the shoes of those people, who want to do everything online. We haven’t got 4,000 people from the Dark Ages working for us – these are bright young people who have certain expectations.”
“Zellis Cloud has come at the right time for our digital transformation. It gives us the capability to move forward”
Peter Davies, Monmouthshire County Council
The council has a cloud-first policy across its IT estate, he explains. Cost efficiency is also important. “We are the lowest-funded council in Wales per capita, which means have to be resourceful and go for cost-effective solutions,” says Davies.
For his part, John Petter, CEO, Zellis also adduces employee experience, and for young workers especially, as critical: “This is the big transformation affecting many companies, The company culture represented by workplace tech needs to be consumer grade.”
Petter spent just over 13 years at BT, where he was the chief executive of the consumer division, and was, among other things, leader of the BT Sport app team.
He underscores that, although Zellis is a relatively new company, because of its heritage as NGA, it is the largest provider of HR and payroll in the UK, by means of which five million workers – one in six of the working population – are paid.
“Payroll should not be an afterthought, it has to connect to everything in a business: it is the central nervous system of any company or organisation,” he says.
He adds that what they call the Zellis Intelligence Platform acts as a “data integration layer that brings together Zellis applications, Microsoft Office 365, and so on”. The core idea, he says, is to deliver “modern digital experiences in the flow of work, making the HR software invisible”, and to leverage Power BI to make accessible payroll data.
“Employees should always be in a pay-ready state. Traditional processes work in a batch way. We’ve built automated checks into the solution through Power BI so that inaccuracies – due to, say, employees taking unpaid leave or doing extra shifts – do not build up. It supports more agile ways of working,” he says.
In a press statement, Petter stated: “We don’t think that businesses should have to compromise on any of their HCM needs; we think we can prove they don’t have to. We have spent two years developing Zellis HCM Cloud. It offers next-generation functionality for business-critical payroll and core HR processes, with all the flexibility and customisation that businesses need.”
The cloud service provides what Zellis describes as a: “HR Director Dashboard and embedded Power BI insights, empowering HR teams to unearth workforce trends, pinpoint the specific drivers behind them, and make evidence-based decisions.”
Zellis Agile Payroll is also said to “provide a route to dramatically improve speed, accuracy and flexibility in the way companies process their payroll cycles”.