Ask virtually any accountant or bookkeeper when you should switch payroll providers and they’ll all tell you to wait until the end of the calendar year. But if you then ask which payroll software they recommend, the answers won’t be quite as unanimous.
That’s because finding a new payroll software is a lot like the tale of Goldilocks looking for a bowl of porridge that’s “just right.” Often times, payroll providers excel in one area, but need improvement in another. As a result, accountants and bookkeepers usually end up doing a bit of trial and error in order to find a payroll software that fits “just right.”
With many accountants and bookkeepers about to embark on their own year-end search for a new payroll provider, we decided to ask two of BC’s best bookkeepers for their advice. We asked them what today’s cloud accounting professionals are looking for in a payroll software and why they both choose Knit as their provider of choice.
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As the owner of Woodennickel Solutions Inc., Paul has spent the past 15 years helping charities and medical offices with their bookkeeping and payroll. In that time, he’s seen things evolve from “picking up and dropping off stacks of paper files” to cloud-based software that allows organizations to automate tedious bookkeeping tasks. Today, his top priority is helping clients transition to cloud technology and go fully paperless.
Sherri-Lee shares the same goals for her own clients. Having worked for an accounting firm and then run her own bookkeeping firm, Balsam Way Bookkeeping, since 2009, Sherri-Lee is a big believer in leveraging new technology to help small businesses succeed. She’s especially passionate about clean data and making sure the entry of the numbers is as accurate and timely as possible—something that’s particularly important when it comes to payroll.
“For my bookkeeping customers, the biggest thing is making sure that their numbers make sense to them, and part of that is using cloud systems that can help them get as close to realtime numbers as possible.” Sherri-Lee Mathers
Finding a Payroll Solution That Fits
With decades of experience between them, Sherri-Lee and Paul know all too well that payroll software is never a one-size-fits-all solution and both have experimented with more than a few different providers to find a solution that fits. Based on their experience, they’ve found that the best payroll solution for accounting professionals is one that can hit what Sherri-Lee refers to as “the trifecta.” By this she means that bookkeepers want a payroll software that’s easy to use, always produces the correct calculations, and will be up and running when you need it most.
“We’re looking for reliability, accuracy, and a great user interface.” Sherri-Lee Mathers
Sherri-Lee stresses that this idea of reliability is particularly crucial, as every accountant and bookkeeper knows the all-too-familiar panic that comes from having an app go down at a critical time—something that’s especially important when it comes to tight payroll deadlines. And as Sherri-Lee points out, a platform that runs painfully slowly is just as bad as one that’s constantly going down.
From Paul’s perspective, this trifecta is something that most bookkeepers are looking at from the moment they begin using a new software. He explains that first impressions are important and that “a lot of people just look at that first screen and say: ‘How easy is it for me to punch in this information?’” If the first screen they see when setting up payroll is enough to draw them in, “then it's simply a matter of how easy it is to pull the information out and what kind of reporting is available.”
“Easy import and a straightforward data entry screen is where it all starts.” Paul Burns
Finally, accuracy and the ability to view and compare payrolls is valuable for planning purposes, as well as for checking for payroll fraud.
In short, bookkeepers and other accounting professionals simply want a payroll platform that does what it’s supposed to do, and allows them to do what they are supposed to do.
One Payroll Platform, Two Niches
Though their criteria for a great payroll software may seem straightforward, Sherri-Lee and Paul have found that only a handful of payroll platforms are able to deliver on that trifecta of reliability, accuracy, and a great user experience, while also offering all the features they need to serve their specific clientele. In their experience, one of the few platforms that has been able to check all the boxes is Knit. Though the two bookkeepers have very different clients, each with their own unique payroll needs, both Sherri-Lee and Paul agree that Knit is the right fit for their firms.
Working primarily with non-profits, Paul has long been on the hunt for a payroll software that offers the ability to divide up an organization by class and then produce reports that show totals for each of those classes. Paul is able to carry out this crucial task in Knit, which makes life a lot easier for his non-profit clients (and for Paul).
Similarly, Sherri-Lee also appreciates the ability to segment different departments with Knit—a feature that comes in handy when dealing with her roster of brewery clients. From the manufacturer to the taproom, she can set up different departments in Knit and manage each one individually.
Beyond the ability to divide classes and departments, both Sherri-Lee and Paul agree that Knit’s employee self-onboarding tool is their favorite feature. Unlike many other payroll platforms, Knit allows employees to go into the employee portal and add their own personal information, such as their address, bank account details, SIN, and more. This means accounting and payroll professionals like Sherri-Lee and Paul simply need to input the employee’s name, wage, and start date—the employee can take care of the rest. For Paul, this feature is particularly invaluable in the spring when non-profits are hiring droves of students through the Canada Summer Jobs Program.
“The self-onboarding feature is the cat’s meow. It’s the absolute best. I can’t say enough about it.” Paul Burns
Sherri-Lee adds that the self-onboarding feature takes a lot of time-consuming and tedious data entry off of a bookkeeper's hands. This means no more “chasing after people for their SIN,” or “translating an employee’s chicken scratch to determine if they have written a five or a six.” Self-onboarding makes the employees accountable for correctly inputting their information into the payroll system so they can get paid—which is a pretty good incentive.
Preparing for the Future
Of course, both Sherri-Lee and Paul have their eyes on the future and the evolving needs of their clients. This often means thinking beyond payroll to look at other ways they can provide their clients with the support they need for business success. In some cases, this means helping businesses get a handle on their HR.
Sherri-Lee recently began using Knit’s HR features to manage the need of her brewery clients. Like many other small businesses, these breweries have no need for a robust and expensive HR system, meaning Knit’s straightforward HR module covers their basic back-office needs.
Sherri-Lee points out that with breweries, there’s a lot of important policies and certifications required in order to serve food and beverages. She uses Knit to collect e-signatures on important documents such as Employee Contracts and Company Policies. The custom fields allow for data base tracking of key dates, as well an upload of copies of each employee’s Serving It Right, Food Safe Certificates, driver licenses, and TD1s direct into their employee file. Knit’s cloud storage option makes it simple and safe to keep all these pieces of information in one secure place, so there’s never a risk of misplaced documentation or missing employee details.
“Having all your HR department in the cloud is invaluable for small business owners.” Sherri-Lee Mathers
And this shift isn’t unique to breweries. Paul has also observed the charities he works with becoming increasingly cloud-based and paperless with all of their processes, not just payroll. Indeed, for many companies and other organizations, a changing tech stack is increasingly necessary to keep pace with the way we do business today.
When asked about their own recommendations for bookkeepers or accountants looking for a new payroll software, both Sherri-Lee and Paul are quick to recommend Knit. Though they point out that there’s always room for improvement, both bookkeepers believe that Knit is “just right” when it comes to meeting their client’s payroll needs, and they encourage others to consider Knit on their own Goldilocks-esq hunt for the perfect payroll partner. As Sherri-Lee puts it:
“I would say, if someone hasn’t looked at Knit in the past year, they should definitely take a look again. There are so many big changes.” Sherri-Lee Mathers
By Katherine Pendrill on Oct 21, 2019