Joy Hartigan: Taking the strategic view at Microsoft Joy Hartigan: Taking the strategic view at Microsoft

Joy Hartigan: Taking the strategic view at Microsoft
06 Feb 2018

Joy Hartigan is employed by Microsoft to think strategically about payroll. But the software giant’s director and payroll global process owner, who has presided over a huge, international standardisation initiative, is also a great believer in the power of communication - at every level.

Here she talks to editor Cath Everett about what Microsoft has been up to, the rationale behind it and what the future holds. But she also shares some secrets to success in managing a globally dispersed team and how to work effectively with people from very different cultures.

Q. How do Microsoft’s global payroll operations work?

Global payroll in Microsoft is made up of two parts: there’s the domestic US side, which is an efficient in-house service on an in-house SAP platform that functions well, and there’s also the international side.

Some years ago, Microsoft said it wanted to do global payroll here, but as part of my previous role as a consultant at Accenture, I had to say ‘it doesn’t exist’. There’s no single payroll provider with one platform that will let you do that, but what you can do is have a global way of working.

So Microsoft and Accenture have worked together to build and develop the ‘OnePayroll’ framework, which has a single data administration model for providing global payroll. The business interacts with payroll through Accenture and we’ve consolidated more than 50 payroll providers down to three global ones, which means that 100+ countries will work with three suppliers. Accenture manages the metrics, governance and employee queries, which are all raised in the same way. So the fact that the country or service provider may be different is irrelevant to employees and managers as everyone in the business gets the same experience.

The programme started about four years ago and there are 79 countries that are live on the new system today, which covers about 40,000 staff. But there are 105 countries remaining so we are just starting the last phase now. The plan is to have it all done by the end of the fiscal year.

Q. Why did you decide to go down this route?

Having standardised ways of working, which includes standardised controls and processes, was a big driver. We’ve been able to drive good practice in areas like data processing, removing risks and improving controls over who manages or touches payroll data.

Standardisation will also help a lot in dealing with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation which comes in next year as it’ll be clearer where data is going and where it’s managed. As a result, there’ll be much less to worry about as we won’t have to go to each individual country to see what they’re doing.

But we also have more visibility into payroll operations and can see what’s happening when. In the past, if there was a risk to the business in a given country, we wouldn’t necessarily have been aware of it at a global level. For example, some countries had chosen a certain pay date for employees as it worked for them, but we found it didn’t when we looked at the bigger picture. So it wasn’t best practice, but we wouldn’t have known that until we started to centralise the service.

In addition, payroll is always a cost to the business, but while it doesn’t make money, it can save money in terms of how you manage contracts, changes to scope, resources and the like. So just because company headcount increases, you don’t necessarily have to increase payroll headcount in order to deliver.

The global payroll team originally managed about 22 countries plus the US, but we now manage 80 standardised ones with no additional staff. Even when we get to 105 countries, we won’t add more. It’s about being more efficient and effective so there isn’t an increased dollar cost for resource every time something changes.

Q. How did you get into global payroll in the first place?

Like a lot of people, I got into payroll by chance. I was working for the UK civil service, for the Land Registry, and it was the first government department to move payroll from the Chessington Computer Centre to an alternative payroll provider. At the time, many years ago, the rules around payroll providers and the civil service were changing. I got to work on the project and it was a steep learning curve.

But it shaped the direction in which I was to head in payroll and, over time, I became a supervisor. Next I moved into payroll management and became the then head of shared services, before undertaking payroll project management in various roles and companies. I then moved onto Accenture as a subject matter expert and my role became global.

To get the global piece right, it’s all about appreciating what is the same and what is different. So while no one can ever know the intricacies of payroll in each country around the world, you can understand what needs to be considered and what questions need to be asked.

I did consulting for a number of years before moving to ADP as a relationship manager. I then came to Microsoft about three years ago. I’ve done payroll delivery, consulting, implementation and standardisation and I now own the global process, so really this role is a culmination of everything I’ve done to date.

My current team consists of four people and we’re just recruiting another person, but there are only 34 internal employees in the Global Payroll department. They handle payroll on behalf of approximately 150,000 people, 60,000 of whom are in the US alone. But there are 130+ people working on One Payroll in Accenture and many more if you include everyone else working for outsource providers on behalf of Microsoft’s Global Payroll team.

Q. Where are you and your team based?

We’re a truly global team. For instance, my boss is based in Madrid, Spain. My team is based in Asia and the US, and I’m based in the UK. I do get to travel to the US quite a lot and to other parts of the world too. When I first joined Microsoft, my plan was to live and work in Seattle. But Europe is in the centre of the Asian and US time zones and so it makes it easier to talk to people across both time zones without losing too much sleep.

It does mean that I have a long day though as I tend to do my first round of emails when I wake up and my last round last thing at night. But if you’re working globally, it isn’t so much about focusing on the hours you spend at work – it’s about performing the role, which is certainly not nine to five.

Q. How do you manage such a dispersed team effectively?

Remote working, or management, is a very different way of operating and it’s not for everyone. It takes a certain type of person - you’ve got to respond well to emails and be available for a quick chat or virtual meeting when required. You’ve also got to be very disciplined in sending out information and communicating, and be prepared to ask for what you need, but not take it personally if someone doesn’t respond immediately.

If anything, I try to overcommunicate as you can find people don’t always pick things up as easily when they work remotely. But there’s also a lot of trust involved that people will do what’s asked of them.

And they need to be mature too – not necessarily in years but in outlook – as they need to take responsibility for their role and deliverables. You can’t direct them in the same way as when you’re in the office together. So you have to think a lot more about your communication. That means letting people know where you’re at with things and what you’ve done and not simply assume they know – that helps a lot.

Ultimately, however, my aim is to take my team to a level where they can function without me, which will enable me to be completely strategic. Part of their professional development is that they can own their own areas. The next piece is to build a structure where they don’t need me on a day-today basis.

It’s about empowering them to deliver in their own areas of responsibility and to do their work on their own. It’s not that I won’t be there, but it’s about having the confidence and capability to do something themselves. Then they can say to me ‘these are our options and here’s what we can do’ rather than me saying ‘can you see this or that coming?’ or ‘here’s what we should do next’.

A lot of it is about watching and assessing and providing continuous feedback and development. So we’re online all the time. I’m in contact with each member of my team either verbally or by email most days, and we have regular one-to-ones and more formal feedback sessions every six months. This means that performance-wise, there’s nothing that they’re not aware of because the feedback is all ongoing.

Q. What is the secret to global payroll success in your opinion?

With payroll, it’s not rocket science. You’ve occasionally just need to stop, think and plan. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the whirlwind of everyday activity and forget the bigger picture. But the important thing is knowing how to deal with something if it goes wrong.

If everything works well in payroll, you will rarely get a ‘thank you’. But how you resolve a problem or handle a difficult situation, and how you communicate and manage employees and stakeholders when things go wrong is what you’ll be measured on.

Uncertainty is the killer and people don’t like it so you need to communicate what you’re doing and be prompt about it. Everyone’s concerned if they’ve not been paid or have been paid incorrectly, but if you explain to them what’s happening as soon as you can, they’ll be much happier than if they don’t know what’s going on.

So you need to communicate, communicate and communicate again, especially when you’re working globally. Different cultures have different expectations regarding information. They also have different ways of reacting and responding so you have to be mindful that one size-doesn’t-fit-all.

Depending on how and why and where you’re talking to someone, it can really affect what you do and how you do it, and you have to have the resilience to deal with that. I can almost read an email these days and know which country or region it comes from. But it’s worth remembering that what may come across as harsh or abrupt to you isn’t necessarily the sender’s intention.

So it’s all about learning as you go. Some of it’s about business culture and some about the culture of the country. But there are different challenges in different areas and being able to adapt and respond to them is a big part of whether you will succeed in global payroll or not.

 

Joy Hartigan is employed by Microsoft to think strategically about payroll. But the software giant’s director and payroll global process owner, who has presided over a huge, international standardisation initiative, is also a great believer in the power of communication - at every level.

Here she talks to editor Cath Everett about what Microsoft has been up to, the rationale behind it and what the future holds. But she also shares some secrets to success in managing a globally dispersed team and how to work effectively with people from very different cultures.

Q. How do Microsoft’s global payroll operations work?

Global payroll in Microsoft is made up of two parts: there’s the domestic US side, which is an efficient in-house service on an in-house SAP platform that functions well, and there’s also the international side.

Some years ago, Microsoft said it wanted to do global payroll here, but as part of my previous role as a consultant at Accenture, I had to say ‘it doesn’t exist’. There’s no single payroll provider with one platform that will let you do that, but what you can do is have a global way of working.

So Microsoft and Accenture have worked together to build and develop the ‘OnePayroll’ framework, which has a single data administration model for providing global payroll. The business interacts with payroll through Accenture and we’ve consolidated more than 50 payroll providers down to three global ones, which means that 100+ countries will work with three suppliers. Accenture manages the metrics, governance and employee queries, which are all raised in the same way. So the fact that the country or service provider may be different is irrelevant to employees and managers as everyone in the business gets the same experience.

The programme started about four years ago and there are 79 countries that are live on the new system today, which covers about 40,000 staff. But there are 105 countries remaining so we are just starting the last phase now. The plan is to have it all done by the end of the fiscal year.

Q. Why did you decide to go down this route?

Having standardised ways of working, which includes standardised controls and processes, was a big driver. We’ve been able to drive good practice in areas like data processing, removing risks and improving controls over who manages or touches payroll data.

Standardisation will also help a lot in dealing with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation which comes in next year as it’ll be clearer where data is going and where it’s managed. As a result, there’ll be much less to worry about as we won’t have to go to each individual country to see what they’re doing.

But we also have more visibility into payroll operations and can see what’s happening when. In the past, if there was a risk to the business in a given country, we wouldn’t necessarily have been aware of it at a global level. For example, some countries had chosen a certain pay date for employees as it worked for them, but we found it didn’t when we looked at the bigger picture. So it wasn’t best practice, but we wouldn’t have known that until we started to centralise the service.

In addition, payroll is always a cost to the business, but while it doesn’t make money, it can save money in terms of how you manage contracts, changes to scope, resources and the like. So just because company headcount increases, you don’t necessarily have to increase payroll headcount in order to deliver.

The global payroll team originally managed about 22 countries plus the US, but we now manage 80 standardised ones with no additional staff. Even when we get to 105 countries, we won’t add more. It’s about being more efficient and effective so there isn’t an increased dollar cost for resource every time something changes.

Q. How did you get into global payroll in the first place?

Like a lot of people, I got into payroll by chance. I was working for the UK civil service, for the Land Registry, and it was the first government department to move payroll from the Chessington Computer Centre to an alternative payroll provider. At the time, many years ago, the rules around payroll providers and the civil service were changing. I got to work on the project and it was a steep learning curve.

But it shaped the direction in which I was to head in payroll and, over time, I became a supervisor. Next I moved into payroll management and became the then head of shared services, before undertaking payroll project management in various roles and companies. I then moved onto Accenture as a subject matter expert and my role became global.

To get the global piece right, it’s all about appreciating what is the same and what is different. So while no one can ever know the intricacies of payroll in each country around the world, you can understand what needs to be considered and what questions need to be asked.

I did consulting for a number of years before moving to ADP as a relationship manager. I then came to Microsoft about three years ago. I’ve done payroll delivery, consulting, implementation and standardisation and I now own the global process, so really this role is a culmination of everything I’ve done to date.

My current team consists of four people and we’re just recruiting another person, but there are only 34 internal employees in the Global Payroll department. They handle payroll on behalf of approximately 150,000 people, 60,000 of whom are in the US alone. But there are 130+ people working on One Payroll in Accenture and many more if you include everyone else working for outsource providers on behalf of Microsoft’s Global Payroll team.

Q. Where are you and your team based?

We’re a truly global team. For instance, my boss is based in Madrid, Spain. My team is based in Asia and the US, and I’m based in the UK. I do get to travel to the US quite a lot and to other parts of the world too. When I first joined Microsoft, my plan was to live and work in Seattle. But Europe is in the centre of the Asian and US time zones and so it makes it easier to talk to people across both time zones without losing too much sleep.

It does mean that I have a long day though as I tend to do my first round of emails when I wake up and my last round last thing at night. But if you’re working globally, it isn’t so much about focusing on the hours you spend at work – it’s about performing the role, which is certainly not nine to five.

Q. How do you manage such a dispersed team effectively?

Remote working, or management, is a very different way of operating and it’s not for everyone. It takes a certain type of person - you’ve got to respond well to emails and be available for a quick chat or virtual meeting when required. You’ve also got to be very disciplined in sending out information and communicating, and be prepared to ask for what you need, but not take it personally if someone doesn’t respond immediately.

If anything, I try to overcommunicate as you can find people don’t always pick things up as easily when they work remotely. But there’s also a lot of trust involved that people will do what’s asked of them.

And they need to be mature too – not necessarily in years but in outlook – as they need to take responsibility for their role and deliverables. You can’t direct them in the same way as when you’re in the office together. So you have to think a lot more about your communication. That means letting people know where you’re at with things and what you’ve done and not simply assume they know – that helps a lot.

Ultimately, however, my aim is to take my team to a level where they can function without me, which will enable me to be completely strategic. Part of their professional development is that they can own their own areas. The next piece is to build a structure where they don’t need me on a day-today basis.

It’s about empowering them to deliver in their own areas of responsibility and to do their work on their own. It’s not that I won’t be there, but it’s about having the confidence and capability to do something themselves. Then they can say to me ‘these are our options and here’s what we can do’ rather than me saying ‘can you see this or that coming?’ or ‘here’s what we should do next’.

A lot of it is about watching and assessing and providing continuous feedback and development. So we’re online all the time. I’m in contact with each member of my team either verbally or by email most days, and we have regular one-to-ones and more formal feedback sessions every six months. This means that performance-wise, there’s nothing that they’re not aware of because the feedback is all ongoing.

Q. What is the secret to global payroll success in your opinion?

With payroll, it’s not rocket science. You’ve occasionally just need to stop, think and plan. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the whirlwind of everyday activity and forget the bigger picture. But the important thing is knowing how to deal with something if it goes wrong.

If everything works well in payroll, you will rarely get a ‘thank you’. But how you resolve a problem or handle a difficult situation, and how you communicate and manage employees and stakeholders when things go wrong is what you’ll be measured on.

Uncertainty is the killer and people don’t like it so you need to communicate what you’re doing and be prompt about it. Everyone’s concerned if they’ve not been paid or have been paid incorrectly, but if you explain to them what’s happening as soon as you can, they’ll be much happier than if they don’t know what’s going on.

So you need to communicate, communicate and communicate again, especially when you’re working globally. Different cultures have different expectations regarding information. They also have different ways of reacting and responding so you have to be mindful that one size-doesn’t-fit-all.

Depending on how and why and where you’re talking to someone, it can really affect what you do and how you do it, and you have to have the resilience to deal with that. I can almost read an email these days and know which country or region it comes from. But it’s worth remembering that what may come across as harsh or abrupt to you isn’t necessarily the sender’s intention.

So it’s all about learning as you go. Some of it’s about business culture and some about the culture of the country. But there are different challenges in different areas and being able to adapt and respond to them is a big part of whether you will succeed in global payroll or not.