Wednesday, March 27, 2013

PeopleSoft 9.2 feature review - Timesheet lockdown

Payroll processing in a company with a PeopleSoft Payroll module, Time and Labor and/or Absence Management will be an iterative, sequential process. Payroll, Time and Absence are separate modules in PeopleSoft and data flows from one module to another during a typical payroll cycle. This siloed architecture calls for detailed audits and data 'finalisation' in each of the upstream modules (upstream modules to payroll in this case are Time and Labor and Absence Management), before the actual payroll calculation can be finalised. Given below is a graphical representation of the data flows between the various modules when Payroll for North America, Time and Labor and Absence Management are used together. 
More information on the integration of Time and Pay modules in PeopleSoft, including a similar diagram for Global Payroll, can be found here.

The need to maintain data integrity in individual modules during payroll processing is a challenge faced by most payroll processing teams using PeopleSoft. As payroll processing involves multiple audits and data transfer programs in PeopleSoft, payroll administrators prefer to 'freeze' data in a certain module once all audits and calculations for the pay period for that module has been done. Prior to  PeopleSoft 9.2, there was no specific feature in Time and Labor, to allow administrators to prevent employees from making changes to time for a certain pay period during payroll processing.
In PeopleSoft 9.2, Oracle has introduced a new feature called 'Timesheet Lockdown'.

What does this new feature do?
The Timesheet Lockdown feature can be used to 'lock' timesheets for employees and managers for all periods prior to the start of the current pay period.

What does 'lock' imply?
Lock in this context means that the timesheet will be read-only to employees and managers during the time frame the timesheet is locked.

How is the current pay period determined?
The current pay period is defined as the pay period intersected by the current date. This information is retrieved from the pay calendar table for employees on Payroll for North America/Payroll Interface and from the calendar period table for employees on Global Payroll. So, assume that the employees are on a Monthly pay period. In this case, if the timesheet is locked by administrators today, then all dates prior to 1st March, 2013 (i.e. start of current monthly pay period) will be displayed as read-only to employees and managers.

How can administrators 'lock' a timesheet?
The new timesheet lockdown page can be accessed from:  
Main Menu > Time and Labor > Report Time > Timesheet Lockdown

A sample of the page is given below:
Locking and Unlocking the timesheet is as simple as selecting a checkbox. But, the important point to note here is that locking is done at the pay group level. The Timesheet Lockdown page displays all active pay groups in the system (includes all active pay groups from Payroll for North America, Payroll Interface and Global Payroll) and administrators can select the pay groups have to be locked. Once the checkbox to lock a timesheet is selected, the timesheet for employees falling in the locked pay groups will be displayed in read-only mode. Administrators can unselect the checkbox to unlock the timesheets after payroll processing. 

Will employess be notified when the timesheet is locked for processing? 
A message will be displayed on the timesheet if timesheet locking is in place. The new HR Announcements framework could also be utilised to notify employees when timesheet locking is in place.
A sample screenshot of a locked timesheet is given below:

Can Administrators continue to Edit the timesheets when locking is on?
Yes. Timesheet Locking is applicable only to employee and manager profiles. Administrators will continue to have edit access to timesheets during the locked period.

Important observations, limitations and notes:
While this is a useful enhancement provided by Oracle, there are some fine points and limitations that need to be kept in mind.
  • As the Timesheet Lockdown feature is implemented at a pay group level - it is necessary that the employee is enrolled in a pay system in Job data. This means that those customers who are using time and labor without enrolling employees into a pay system will not be able to use this feature.
  • The definition of the period used to lock-down the timesheet is not flexible enough to cater to global requirements. As detailed earlier, the timesheet will be locked down for all dates prior to the start date of the current pay period. Here, current pay period is the pay period intersected by the current date.This means that the timesheet locking feature is suited for organisations where payroll processing is done after the end date of the pay period being processed. An example of this would be, processing the payroll for March in the first week of April. This is true to a good extent for payroll processing of hourly (non-exempt) employees in the US, where payroll processing happens after the end date of the pay period. But, this is not true in most instances outside US. For eg. in Europe and Asia, it is common to have payroll for a period processed prior to the actual pay period end date. For eg. the payroll processing for a monthly period ending March 31st, might happen from 21st March to 24th March. In this case, payroll administrators would ideally want the entire month of March to be locked down. But, with the current design of the timesheet lockdown page, March will remain open as it is the current pay period being processed. Let us take another payroll processing scenario - it is common in APAC to have a different processing period for Time and Labor and Payroll for the same run. For eg. in the payroll period from 1st March to 31st March, time entries from 16th February to 15th March will be processed. This implies that when the payroll period ending March 31st is processed, administrators would ideally like the period from 16th February to 15th March to be locked in Time and Labor. In the current design, the period from 16th February to end of February will be locked, but the whole of March will be open. This is a major limitation of this functionality that reduces it's utility in certain geographies. A more appropriate design would have been to provide a page where administrators could enter either the Calendar Group id of Global Payroll or Pay Run Id of Payroll for North America to lock timesheets. This way, the framework could get to know the time period to lock the timesheets. This could have also addressed the scenario where time and labor period differs from payroll period.
  • Global Payroll User security is not considered while displaying the Global Payroll pay groups to be locked, in the Timesheet Lockdown page. This means that any user who has access to the Timesheet lockdown page, will be able to lock/unlock timesheets of employees in pay groups that the particular user has no access to. This can be an operational security issue for organisations running multiple country payroll in PeopleSoft.
  • For customers using both Time and Labor and Absence Management, it would have been appropriate if this lock down feature was extended to absence management as well. From an operational perspective, both Time and Labor and Absence Management need to work together and a lockdown for payroll processing should have meant restriction of editing both time and absences.
  •  While looking at the code used to populate the pay groups in the Timesheet Lockdown page, I noticed that even Payroll Interface pay groups are printed as Payroll for North America.
  • An informational message is displayed in the timesheet page when the locking is in place. When a certain utility is locked/shut down, I think it is useful to also convey when the utility will be available again. So, instead of just displaying, 'The Timesheet is currently locked down', it would have been more useful to have a message like, 'The Timesheet is currently locked down and it will be available at 2pm PST on Thursday'. We drilled down to find out the message catalog which is used to print the delivered message and it is Message Set: 13504 and Message Number: 89.
So, in conclusion, the timesheet lockdown feature is an enhancement that will contribute to further payroll processing accuracy and will be welcomed by a number of payroll processing administrators. But, the limitations with respect to the dates that will be locked down will have to be kept in mind during an implementation. I suspect that this limitation will make the feature less popular outside North America (unless customised!).

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