We caught up with Lexia Solutions Group’s Payroll Manager Kerri Francis, to find out how she’s getting on with Summit’s Managed Timesheets module and the difference it’s making to her working week.
Formed in 2004, Lexia Solutions Group is the holding company for three businesses: Rhodar – asbestos removal and abatement; Thermac – construction and asbestos equipment sales, hire and service; and Bagnall UK Ltd – demolition and asbestos abatement services. Based in Leeds, Lexia provides centralised services to the three businesses, which have a combined annual turnover of £50 million and a combined workforce of 575.
Why did you decide to change the way you were managing timesheets?
The system we had before was quite antiquated. The main issue was that it was incredibly slow, especially when it came to moving between screens. I used to spend a lot of my time watching that little whirring symbol – the ‘ball of death’, as I call it. Also, what we would find is that if more than one person was trying to work in the same area of the system, this would cause it to crash or have other issues.
Thankfully, now that we have Summit, everything’s a whole lot faster. And we can have as many users as we like in the Managed Timesheets part of the system, all working on it at the same time, and it doesn’t crash.
Were there any other drivers for the change?
Yes. We have eight regional offices. A lot of them end up lending or borrowing labour from other offices, depending on their business need. Under the old system, matching all of that up was very difficult to do, and very time-consuming. In effect, we were having to enter the information twice, which was slightly bonkers: once by the office that was borrowing the labour; and again by the office that was lending the labour.
Whereas with Summit, there’s no longer any duplication. The information just has to be entered once – but we do have to make sure that we use the correct job number, of course.
How did you check the weekly payroll before you migrated to Summit?
In some respects, we still do things in the same way. For example, the supervisors still collect the paper timesheets and hand them to an administrator in their regional office who enters the data onto the system. And the labour manager still signs off the information for that office before I see it.
It’s down to me to check that there’s nothing untoward going on with the data that comes over from the eight regional offices. Before migrating to Summit, there was no way for me to do this other than by eye. It was an almost impossible task, with sometimes as many as 1,400 timesheet lines to go through. The trouble is, after a while, you can become number blind and that’s when there’s a risk of letting something slip through the net. If I failed to spot an error, we’d only know there was an issue once the guys had received their payslips in the post. This would usually be on the day that they were paid.
What used to happen if an error was discovered?
If something had gone wrong, we wouldn’t know about it until the bank payment had gone through. We would then wait until the following week to make an adjustment. Or we might have to make an additional payment to one of the guys, which was quite a labour-intensive task: I’d make the adjustment; a manager would load it to the bank; another manager would authorise the payment; then I’d have to make sure that the amendment showed on the following week’s payslip. It was an awful lot of work, believe me, and we routinely made several of these adjustments every week.
What’s different, now that you use Summit to manage your timesheets?
The regional offices still enter all the timesheet information on Monday and get it signed off by a labour manager. Then by 2pm that day, each office confirms that they are ready for me to export the data.
It’s simple to use; I double-click ‘repost’ in the payroll menu and it moves everything from the Managed Timesheets module into payroll. I then run a load of checks on the Timesheets, to make sure that everything looks like it’s been entered correctly. It’s so much easier and more efficient than trying to do the checks by eye; it’s all automatic.
With Managed Timesheets you can set up rules and the system then flags up anything that falls outside those rules. For instance, we have rules whereby if there’s anyone who has logged fewer than five days (work, annual leave or sickness) or more than seven days, the system will flag it up to us. Any anomalies like this are highlighted in colour, so we’re able to see very quickly that something’s not quite right. We can then investigate it in more detail, to find out what’s going on and take action if needed.
I understand you used to post out the payslips?
Previously the regional offices had a deadline of entering their timesheets by 4.30 pm on Monday. My team would then spend the Tuesday processing, and then the Wednesday processing and making payment. We would print the payslips, stuff them into envelopes and post them out on Wednesday to the regional offices for onward distribution.
Most of the guys would usually get their payslips on Thursday or Friday, but a lot of them worked away from home, so wouldn’t receive theirs until a few weeks later, when they returned home. Of course, that meant if there was a payment error, it wouldn’t be spotted for some time. We used to spend quite a lot of time talking to the guys about what they had been paid that week because they couldn’t see their payslip.
And now you’re sending out payslips and P60s by email?
Yes, we now press ‘send’ before we go home on Monday and all the payslips get emailed out automatically. The guys can now access their payment information immediately on their smartphones, wherever they are. The electronic payslips are password-protected, so it’s all very secure. Switching from posting physical payslips to emailing electronic payslips has saved us around £9,500 a year in time and postage costs alone.
Occasionally there’s an entry error made by an office, or perhaps someone forgets to send in a timesheet, so we like to leave a bit of time to be able to make any necessary corrections before the payments are made on Tuesday afternoon.
Would you say that Summit has been good news all around, then?
Life’s a lot easier for the labour manager at each of our regional offices. They used to have to physically go to the office review the timesheet information on the system and sign it off. Whereas now, the data can be exported to a spreadsheet within a matter of seconds and can be emailed to them – so they can then view it wherever they are, at any time and on any device. That’s a big change.
The guys are obviously happier because they know far sooner exactly how much they are getting paid. And they know that if anything’s gone astray, we’ve got time to put it right on the Tuesday, rather than having to wait until the following week for it to be corrected.
It’s been really good news for the Payroll team too. Whereas previously we used to have to do several complex adjustments after the payments had been made, this hardly ever happens now. All in all, I’d say it’s saved us around a day a week.
How did you approach the implementation?
As I see it, just because you’ve always done something a certain way, it doesn’t mean you always have to do it that way. We didn’t just translate from the old to the new system. We used the implementation as an opportunity to tidy up some of the pay rates we no longer use and make it all a bit more user friendly. Our Consultant, Ishbel Wise, was a big help with this. She was here a lot and went through the different payment types we have. She helped us build the new system.
For example, we had two pay types for absence: authorised and unauthorised. But this is not actually something that we report on, so we simplified it to just the one pay type: ‘absent’.
Ishbel was instrumental too in adding a new section that flags up if someone’s timesheet hasn’t been entered on the system at all – previously that might have fallen through the cracks, leaving that person with no wages for that week.
How was Ishbel?
She was great, she was really hands on in terms of training and consultancy. When we ran the initial few weekly payrolls she was here on-site in case there were any issues. For the first month, we did parallel runs on both the old and the new systems, to ensure that everything was calculating in the way it should be, with no surprises, and that nothing had been missed. So yes, lots of hand-holding from Ishbel, but we needed it, I think!
You mentioned running parallel systems for the first month. How did that go?
It was fine. And very useful – we found that we’d missed a few pay types and that we had a few people whose tax codes hadn’t been transferred across correctly. But because we were running in parallel, it meant we could fix those issues before we made the payments.
Running in parallel wasn’t too difficult. The Managed Timesheets module creates a CSV file, which is converted into a file that our other systems can read. It was reasonably straightforward, to be honest, and at least we weren’t keying it all in twice – that would have been absolute madness.
How much training was involved?
The initial training was just for me and the Group IT Manager and it all went very smoothly. Because we had offices around the country, we felt that it made sense for RedSky to train us and then leave us to feed out the training to the teams, which we did via webinar.
Initially, there was a lot that was new to people because we’d changed how we made up some of our day rates. There were quite a few phone calls, during which I had to log onto the system to see the screens people were looking at. It was nice to have Ishbel in the background, in case we had any queries. Even when she wasn’t on-site, we knew that we could email her and she’d always get back to us that same day. That was really helpful – with payroll, you can’t afford to get held up, you have to stick to the deadlines.
In fact, I ran a training session today for two people who are new to the business so aren’t aware of our rate types or anything like that. It took under two hours and they are ready to now input timesheets onto the system. It’s just so user friendly – all the staff who’ve had the training have found it very easy to pick up.
Has Summit given you greater insight into ways to improve the business?
The management information we get from the system is great. We’ve now got much better visibility of the different payment types and can run more reports.
For example, once everything has been entered for the week, we can export all of the entries as a spreadsheet. We actually use a workbook each week that we can drop that info into. It’s got pivot tables set up to tell us how many man-days on each project have been worked that week. Although you can find that information on other parts of the system, this just gives us a very quick way of seeing exactly what’s going on… before the week has even been closed.
We have another set of pivot tables that highlights anything that’s not billed to customers, such as days taken as annual leave or sickness. So we’re able to spot any emerging trends in certain offices and can start to ask questions about why that may be. We can also see how productive each office is, and offer support if needed.
The labour managers use the management information from Summit to make sure that projects are running along as expected – they can see very quickly if they are over or under their estimated number of days. They can access the information on their pc, desktop or phone. I also email it to all the directors and managers every week as a backup.
Final question: how would you describe your relationship with RedSky?
It’s a partnership. If we ever have issues, I always know that Ishbel and Rob Mullins will be very quick in coming back to me.
Sometimes my questions can be random. Once I asked: ‘What is your hold music on your phone system?’ And Ishbel went to the trouble of finding it out for me. That’s above and beyond!
I’d definitely describe our relationship with RedSky as a partnership… they are there to help make our business work better.
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