Risk in work unit business planning: Payroll example of firming up objectives

Parent article: Risk in work unit business planning: Firming up the objectives

This table shows the original note of each objective (in the left column) and the firmed version (in the right column). In the middle is a description of the issue that was resolved by the change.

There are examples of change based on each of the four qualities, Necessity, Sufficiency, Ownership, Independence.

The firmed version of the objectives (third column) will be carried forward to examples for later stages.

For consistent presentation, the edited objectives are shown in a consistent style, for instance, all beginning with a verb like ‘maximise’, ‘minimise’, ‘avoid’, or ‘maintain’.

Original objective Issues Firmed objective
Benefits: What does the organisation expect the unit to deliver in exchange for the cost of maintaining it?
  1. Get employees paid correctly
Think through what that means, exactly (i.e. improve precision).

Asked the question ‘why does this matter’. Found there were two basic drivers. One was purely about legal correctness, and the other was about making employees feel that they are being looked after. So split the objective into two.

  1. Maximise the timeliness and accuracy employee payments employees in line with proper management decisions and legal entitlements
  1. Maximise the employee perception that this organisation is a good employer
  1. Comply with union pay agreements

    Complying with agreements is part of paying employees ‘correctly’, so this objective will be combined with the objective get employees paid correctly.

    1. Pass the annual financial statement audit
    Think through the what the unit does that influences the outcome. Arguably the original objective wording is fine.
    1. Maintain auditable records to support all payroll costs
    1. Introduce quality control

    Quality control would be an internal initiative, not an outcome for the organisation. The goal of quality control is to maximise accuracy and timeliness, which is now clearly included in the first objective.

    Nothing on quality control is needed for this list of objectives, though quality control remains a strategy.

    Costs: What costs does the organisation incur in maintaining the unit?
    1. Minimise unit salary costs
    Added precision, then decided that the unit salaries and ICT costs are not the goal in themselves. The real goal is to minimise total costs per paid employee.
    1. Minimise total payroll service costs per paid employee (including ICT costs)
    1. Minimise payroll ICT costs

    During review, remembered that the CFO and the boss have been more obsessive about meeting budgets than about real-world cost-performance. They would not be happy if we did everything else but went over budget.

    1. Stick to the approved unit budget
    Dangers: What unintended consequences could arise from the unit’s activities (and are best avoided)?
    1. Fraud by employees or payroll unit members
    Add precision to the unit’s responsibilities
    1. Prevent fraud against the organisation by employees or by payroll unit members
    1. Fraud or cyber-attack by outsiders

    The unit has almost no role in preventing cyber-attacks, whether or not they lead to payroll fraud. Left to the cyber security area after verifying that payroll was adequately recognised in the enterprise security risk assessment.

    1. Too much unrecorded absence
    The initial note was not in the form of an objective, more like a known problem. It would be better as Reduce the average balance of unrecorded leave.

    But then it broke the ownership principle. The payroll unit is not well placed to reduce the pattern of unrecorded leave. This issue will be mentioned to the boss, and excluded from the payroll unit objectives. The boss may later re-define the role of the payroll unit, at which time the objective may be added again.

    1. Confidentiality breaches
    Add precision to the unit’s responsibilities. Recognised that the unit can potentially breach confidentiality itself, or allow others to do so.
    1. Prevent and avoid violations of confidentiality expectations around payroll

    The business plan police required that organisational values be addressed in each business plan, so we also include it in the objectives for risk.

    1. Prevent and avoid actual or perceived unit violations of organisation values and codes of conduct
    Capabilities: At the end of the plan period, which unit capabilities need to be as good or better than they are now?
    1. Maintain capability to pay employees
    Explored what ‘maintaining’ means when we are planning a big change.
    1. Maintain the organisation’s capability to pay employees correctly indefinitely, even if there are changes in the way payroll services are provided
    1. Move payroll to the new system as identified in the strategic plan
    Just moving to a new system isn’t really success. Explored what success means.
    1. Move to a new payroll system and service arrangements with the long-term benefits identified in the project brief.

    Parent article: Risk in work unit business planning: Firming up the objectives

    Index to the series

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