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SAP-IBM payroll system woes fouled up nurses' pay

By Chris Kanaracus
July 14, 2011 01:58 PM ET

IDG News Service - Problems with an SAP software implementation led by IBM consultants have resulted in six months of erroneous paychecks for nurses in Nova Scotia, although now officials say the issues have been resolved.

The problems cropped up since the Victorian Order of Nurses, Canada's largest nonprofit home and community care organization, turned on the SAP system in January, said Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union.

While many nurses have been shortchanged in their paychecks, others have received double the pay coming to them, she said. But such massive deviations aren't her biggest worry.

"My concern is with the nurses that got $100 more," Hazelton said. "They may not have noticed it. Our pay is never the same. Nursing paychecks can go up and down by as much as $400 or $500. If it's a direct deposit into your account, you may not even notice. Or some might get short-changed, and never realize it."

VON has tried to fix the problems "as well as they can," and has "thrown a significant amount of manpower trying to fix this problem," Hazelton said. "They are absolutely as frustrated as we are. They're trying. But they purchased something, expected it to work, and it's not working."

The organization "must have been given assurances" that the system would work properly, Hazelton said. "Surely, they didn't tell VON 'we're going to go live and we're going to have hundreds of errors and everyone's going to be cranky with you.'"

"They say they did [test the system], but apparently there's a whole lot of issues that can only be dealt with once it's turned on," Hazelton added.

The system "did have some issues initially that are typical with any system change of this magnitude," VON Chief Operating Officer John Gallinger said in a statement. "It affected our staff and we reacted to correct the situation. We are now operating at a level of accuracy and service equal to or better than pre-system change."

SAP's payroll module is sound, well-tested technology, according to Jarret Pazahanick, a consultant with long experience working with the software. But implementing it is a complex task, given the many fine details involved in calculating pay for different workers, all of which must be accurately mapped over from a legacy system to SAP.

However, "there are ways you can ensure you have a successful payroll project," he said. One crucial step is to conduct a "parallel run" of the old system alongside the new one, to make sure there's parity, he said. "For me, when I get past that stage of the process, we're home free."

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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