Are Your Payroll & Benefits Processes Both Efficient and Documented?

Are Your Payroll and Benefits Processes Both Efficient and Documented? Your Payroll and Benefits departments may be working hard to get everything done each week, but are they working efficiently?  Are there too many manual processes, and too little time for auditing or control mechanismsAre your processes “in someone’s head,” undocumented, and unable to be completed if said resource is out of the office?

There are missed opportunities for cost efficiencies and process improvement for companies that are not assessing data from prior payrolls to improve the quality of future payrolls.  Consider other potential impacts to your bottom line:

  • Do you pay employees incorrectly while they are on approved leaves of absence?
  • Does your team have the time and resources to do pre-audit reviews?
  • Are you keeping track of workers comp and FMLA eligibility each month?
  • Is your 401k plan compliance in jeopardy because the 401k eligible wages don’t match the actual deductions taken from employees’ paychecks?

Try explaining that to the auditor…or to the CFO.

Payroll and benefits managers are not seeking to avoid the problem, but it’s a case of sheer resources.  We expect them to do more with less.  As one executive put it, “Companies that are running lean staffs don’t have the manpower anymore to do proper auditing without working 70 hours per week.”  And that’s why you need to talk to Clockwork.

Clockwork Technology has a track record of documenting and improving processes, providing a deeper look into the needs of payroll and HR services, and in developing the software and solutions necessary to meet and exceed these needs.  We partner with your team to identify an attack the gaps that the typical team simply doesn’t have time to address.  This can provide the company thousands in ROI in hard costs, efficiency savings, and/or avoidance of fines and penalties.

To discuss a 60-day “boot camp” to get your organization assessed, your payroll, HR, and/or benefits processes documented, define an action plan, and/or get your systems into shape, talk to us.


Payroll: Just a Twice Monthly Check….Or Are You Losing Thousands, or More?

Are Your Payroll and Benefits Processes Both Efficient and Documented?In today’s lean economy, efficiency is not only an expectation, it is required.  But what would you do with an internal department that loses potentially millions of dollars per year?  Would you be surprised to learn this internal department is the payroll or human resources department?  While not usually run as a “revenue center,” payroll has a much larger impact on the bottom line than most realize.

Companies rely on their valuable payroll teams to keep the engine of business moving, but payroll, compensation, and benefits are increasingly a technical challenge.  Your payroll department may be the pillar of efficiency, but for some it can be the source of a slow bleed of which no one is aware.

One of the biggest issues lies in the answer to one of the most basic of questions:  does your company overpay workers?  Almost every executive would say no, but a 2010 survey of major corporations by the American Payroll Association found some disturbing results on how top companies routinely overpay employees:

  • 71% of companies studied routinely overpay on termination
  • 50% incorrectly pay while employees are on approved leaves of absence
  • 29% (more than one in four companies) simply apply the wrong pay rate

Equally disturbing:  32% of over payments are never collected.  And these are the top performers!

“Multi-state taxation in the United States is a major challenge in the are of tax filing and payments,” it reads.  “Yet 79% of companies…do not use a time and attendance system (or any automated system) to track the work location of employees.”

Try explaining that to the auditor…or to the IRS.

Payroll professionals are often some of the hardest working and most dedicated employees, working nights, weekends, and on holidays just to ensure the payroll is processed in a timely and accurate manner.  Payroll managers are not seeking to avoid the problem, but it’s a case of sheer resources.  We expect them to do more with less.  As one executive put it, “Companies that are running lean staffs don’t have the manpower anymore to do proper auditing without working 70 hours per week.”

And that’s why you need to talk to Clockwork.

Clockwork Technology has a track record of providing a deeper look into the needs of payroll services and in developing the software and sourcing solutions necessary to meet and exceed those needs.  We partner with your team to identify and attack the gaps that the typical payroll team simply doesn’t have time to address.  This can provide the company with thousands in ROI in hard costs, thousands in efficiency savings, and/or avoidance of fines and penalties.

Payroll is much, much more than a twice monthly check.  To discuss a 60-day “boot camp” to get your organization assessed, your payroll process documented, define an action plan, and/or get your systems in shape, talk to us.

Hire an Employee or use Clockwork Rapid Resources℠

bigstockphoto_Needle_in_haystack_6380917You are running with a lean staff and have to justify new headcount.  But it’s not just salary, it’s benefits, taxes, training, and time for your new, “really needed” resource to get up to speed and make a contribution.

A February 2013 article by CNNMoney illustrates the “extra” costs associated with hiring an employee — benefits, training, social security, Medicare, state and federal unemployment insurance, health care insurance, and 401k benefits.  They estimate that benefits and taxes alone will add another 18 to 26% on top of the salary of the employee to the employer’s costs.  And that doesn’t count lost time of a new hire to get on board, get trained, get up to speed, and start contributing.

And that is why you need to talk to Clockwork.

Hiring Clockwork on a temporary, or project-at-a-time basis can get projects completed, back on track, or ahead of schedule using just the talent you need for just the time you need it.  Need our help full time while you build bench strength?  Only need a part-time resource for an important project that cannot justify a full-time project manager?  We can provide the right resource for your situation.

With Clockwork Rapid Resources℠ service, we deploy BA, QA, PM, or developer resources to you in as little as 24 hours for on-site or remote needs.  With no on boarding or training expense, you can bring in Clockwork resources ready to go as seasonal or business demand warrants.  Our new Clockwork Rapid Resources℠ program is an ideal solution to short term business needs without long term headaches or additional costs associated with hiring a full time employee.

Contact us today to discuss how Clockwork Rapid Resources℠ can meet your needs.

To read the article from CNNMoney entitled “You make $70k but cost your boss $88k,” click



The Myth of The Efficiency Expert

When the phrase “efficiency expert” first appeared in American business in the 1920’s, there was a certain modernity about it, that an expert must, by sheer definition, be a positive impact to companies and their employees.   By the 1990’s, however, authors like Michael Hammer gave it a more draconian meaning—if a job is not bringing value to a company, it is neither worth automating nor worth keeping.  In short order, an efficiency expert became a synonym for a job cutter.

And business process consulting became a synonym as well.  “You have to interview with this consultant. They call them efficiency experts but what you’re really doing is interviewing for your own job!”

But there is a better view out there of what in business process and workforce efficiency can do.  It’s not about cutting but optimizing.

We understand the difference.

Clockwork has developed a series of workforce optimization tools helping businesses large and small do a better job with the resources they have—not with fewer, not with more, but with what they have.   (To our knowledge, anyway, it’s not a tool to lay off anyone. )

Instead, by understanding the time commitments of workers and their jobs, a better path can be offered and refined to manage the needs of the employees with the needs of the work at hand.  Properly positioned, workforce optimization provides for efficient work, efficient down time (and every employee needs some of this), and the ability to more easily reallocate resources without incurring the higher marginal costs of attrition, losing experienced workers, or having to recruit, train, or reeducate others to do the same job that was competently being done by employee(s)  that were variously burned out, run off, or just too discouraged to do much more than what they are already doing.

Some Clockwork tools are fairly straightforward:  a company has a certain number of employees, a fixed set of work, and a need to use them where it is most effective.  Other situations are more complex but ultimately more valuable for a company—how to balance work, personal time, corporate training and development, peer education, and volunteer opportunities, all within the context of a vibrant and forward-moving corporate environment.

Workforce optimization is, at its core, a function of logistics—the right person at the right place doing the right thing at the right time.  It’s not guesswork.

Of course, you can take a guess and a guess is all you’ll get.  You can hire an “efficiency expert” and realize that the half of what’s left of your office will now be expected to do twice the work, which will inevitably leave the office with much left undone in the process.

Or, you can enlist the support of a comprehensive workforce solution such as what Clockwork can offer.  We’re not looking for someone to justify their job—it’s a poor use of their time and of ours.  With technology, just as with teamwork, everyone can achieve more.

Why D-Commerce Matters

Electronic commerce is king….but for how long?

For 15 years, businesses large and small have embraced the concept that e-commerce, primarily through the Internet, has fundamentally changed the way that goods and services are transacted.  As late as 1997, people still used the Sears catalog, the Yellow Pages, or an airline timetable to conduct business.  Not any more.

But there is a change underneath the feet of e-commerce that companies need to be preparing for, now.  Clockwork is focused on this next change, what is called digital or d-commerce, and how it can affect your prospects for growth, efficiency, and success.

My first experience with an e-commerce environment came in the transportation industry, where a web site was seen as a means of moving people from a higher cost per transaction (i.e., having to buy a ticket with an agent at the counter) to a lower cost of sale, by having them perform the same basic keystrokes through a computer.  A customer didn’t need to be trained in the duties of an agent, as the web site performed many of the same tasks behind the scenes.

Fast forward to 2012.  A travel customer wants more than the ability to book a ticket.  He or she also  wants gate information, hotel bookings, car rentals, upgrades, on-board snacks…and not from a personal computer, but a phone, or a tablet, or a device at their seat.

The simple act of commerce electronically is evolving into a much more customer-focused and customer driven process.  If companies aren’t responsive to that change, they risk losing the very customers who so effortlessly (and at very little cost to the client) migrated to the new platform.

It’s also more than just buying something.  Consumers increasingly see commerce as a fluid process, and want one means—one payment process, one refund process, one consumer interaction process—to drive their product decisions.  iTunes is one example of emerging digital commerce.  Netflix is another.

It’s still a little too much for some customers to get their hands around, however, and the industry isn’t doing its part to make it simpler.  I visited a marketing web site that attempted to define what they did in the d-commerce space.  They wrote:

 “Our proactive and practical advice targets the unique challenges created by the integration of customer-centric solutions into the technology landscape…We create immersive, loyalty-inspiring, consistent and persistent branded experiences that bridge platforms, devices, location and spontaneity.   And we do it while remaining true to project parameters including budgets, resources, timeframes and revenue projections.”

(In English, please. Our customers do not speak advertising-ese.)

“We build engaging customer experiences across multiple touchpoints that use the breadth and depth of technologies available in the commerce ecosystem.”

(Yes, much better.)

Digital commerce is about a range of islands in the consumer stream—awareness, shopping, purchase, post-purchase, repeat business, customer loyalty and ultimately retention—that expect  the same level of service in one as they get with any of the others.

Plenty of companies offer great sales experiences online and next to no post-purchase support, little or no customer loyalty, and little chance at retention.  The concept of “churn”, the marketing buzzword of the 1990’s which reflected the inevitable loss of customers to better-positioned opponents, does not apply in d-commerce.  If you do it right, you keep your customers for the long haul. Apple gets this. Dell, unfortunately, does not.

Digital commerce has significant consequences for today’s business climate, and it’s more than just building a web site.

The king is dead.  Long live the king.

Considering An IT Consultant

A recent issue of CIO Magazine offered an insightful look into some of the questions that small and medium-sized businesses face when engaging an IT consultant.  It’s not only worth reading, but it’s worth a few words about how Clockwork Technology meets—and exceeds—the concerns raised by columnist Rich Hein in his article.

“There a number of reasons you may need an IT consultant, including training on a new piece of software, equipment or technology,” Hein writes. “Maybe you need an unbiased review of internal procedures or SEO. Regardless of the reason, finding the right consultant can mean the difference between success or failure. Add to that the legalities involved and it’s easy to see how challenging this task can be.”

Legal issues cannot and must not be overlooked when considering a consulting relationship. At Clockwork, there has been a concerted effort to make the legal conditions of our consulting relationship as clear and as concise as possible. And in reviewing Mr. Hein’s suggestions for an optimal relationship with a third party firm, we’re pleased to note that Clockwork takes a proactive role in each when entering into a new relationship with a client.

His seven suggestions, and our response to each:

1.” IT Staff Employee or Consultant?”

At Clockwork, consultants are our responsibility, not yours.  Companies often wade into the weeds when issues of taxation and benefits cloud the distinction between being a contract employee versus a consultant.  All Clockwork consultants are paid on a strict 1099 pay rate.  When you pay Clockwork, you don’t pay extra for the work.

2. “Protecting Your Intellectual Property”

In technology, intellectual property is one of the most important assets a company can maintain.  At Clockwork, we spell this out from the start so there are no misunderstandings going forward.  Unless otherwise agreed to, the work we do for a client is “work made for hire”—we do it, you own it.  Period.

Why does Clockwork do this?  Unless Clockwork is bringing its own proprietary technology to the table, we understand that  the work we perform is in developing or refining existing technology you as a company may be operating, and we‘re not in the business of legal claims to what we bring to that relationship.  Settling this up front allows for a better business relationship going forward, especially after the consulting engagement when a future business partner asks “So, who owns this?” Our agreements make that clear from the start.

3. “Conduct A Thorough Interview”

Adding an independent consultant sometimes can be just as time consuming as adding an employee.  When you work with Clockwork, the consultants we engage are experienced and ready to go.  Our consultant base averages between three and seven years service with Clockwork and are not the “here today, gone tomorrow” stereotype found among many IT consulting operations.  We’ll be glad to bring a consultant in to talk with you, but if you’re just ready to get things done, we can do that, too.

4. “Know Your IT Consultant’s Methodology”

A Chevy dealer isn’t going to hire a mechanic that only fixes Hyundais, so why would you hire a company that is focused on only one methodology for tech services?  At Clockwork, we employ a number of tools so that what works best for you, works best for us.   If Agile doesn’t work for you, fine—we’re not going to fit a square peg in a round hole just for you to be “an Agile shop”.

As our web site notes, “Our project methodology is based on industry standard project management and software development life cycle (SDLC) guidelines.  We tailor the methodology to the client’s preferred level of detail…Our collaborative approach to systems design and implementation provides for a system transition that does not disrupt current operations and minimizes post-implementation remediation.”

5. “Have a Detailed Contract”

There’s no hidden camera behind Clockwork and its agreements—we’ve posted the master service agreement (MSA) on our web site so that prospective clients know the rights and responsibilities of all parties.  It’s detailed, sure, but that protects all parties and in the end, it’s the right thing to do.

6. “Use Confidentiality Agreements”

Clockwork doesn’t require additional confidentiality protection because it’s already included in our MSA.  We’re “confidential” right from the start.

7. “Ensure the IT Consultant Will Train Your Staff”

Clockwork understands this more than most firms. We are not here to run your business.  As we’ve noted before, we will come in, assess the situation, and tell it like it is.  We’ll do the work and move on to the next project.  We’ll even tell you if you don’t really need us, or if you are better served with another alternative to meet your objectives in less time or with less cost than your original plan.

Post-implementation training is part of every relationship we engage.  Some companies want a lot of training, and frankly, some do not.  We work with what’s best for you, not for us.

For more of the article, visit it at


Look To The Cloud

Many years ago, Bank of America faced a data crisis in the growth of the check industry. By 1952, check usage in its branches doubled to over 21,000 per day, or 8 billion instruments per year.  Internal estimates pegged the growth to hit 20 billion by 1966 and the army of bookkeepers it employed to manage and record every check (with a high degree of accuracy) simply could not keep up.  The banking industry went to electronic recordkeeping, a means that changed the way American did business. It was literally a sea change, and today that same industry handles a staggering 300 million transactions every 24 hours.

Such is the sea change facing today’s business community-not in checks, but with data.

One of the most challenging cost centers in today’s tech climate is the cost of maintaining information. From ETL’s (extract, test, load) to short and long term storage, the cost of hardware, middleware, and software needed to keep up with a continuously expanding data universe is scary to many companies.

And it should be. Decisions made with 2012 in mind may be all but useless in a few short years.

In 1981, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates was quoted as saying that “640K (memory) ought to be enough for anybody”.  Like many good quotes, Gates never said it, of course, but the decision at the time was discussed.  “I have to say that in 1981, making those decisions, I felt like I was providing enough freedom for 10 years,” Gates said in a 1989 speech.  “A move from 64k to 640k felt like something that would last a great deal of time.  Well, it didn’t – it took about only 6 years before people started to see that as a real problem.”

The technology industry has grown beyond all expectations in the shadow of a phrase every C-level executive should be familiar with—“Moore’s Law”, which states that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. Memory grows, costs decrease, more power to the end user.  A cellular phone in 2012 has more processing power than the Apollo space capsule did a generation go.

Such rapid changes place particular stress on the capital investment of tools needed to store an ever increasing data requirement.  The client-server architecture which so many companies have relied on since the dawn of the technology age is straining to stay afloat, even as the cost of data storage has plummeted.  In 1980, he cost of storing one gigabyte of data cost $2 million.  Today, it is around four cents. The trouble, of course, is that people need a LOT of gigabytes, terabytes, and  yes, petabytes (1,000 terabytes, or approximately 1 quadrillion bytes of data) to run today’s businesses, and mere servers are a poor way of housing such enormous (and increasingly valuable) sums of data.  Years ago, we had a saying in IT for server decisions: “Today’s investment, tomorrow’s door-stop.”

Cloud computing and cloud storage are, for many clients, a means by which a firm can achieve the cost efficiency of data storage without the capital expense of investing in physical servers that will never be enough for the future. To other clients, the concept of the “cloud” is, well, cloudy.

Is it secure?  Is it safe?  What if it isn’t there anymore?  Is it economical in the short and in the long run?

These are all legitimate questions, and there isn’t always one answer.  But these are questions that must be asked by companies straining to meet the increasing needs of a customer base that not only demands access to data, they expect it.  Clockwork Technology has been “in the cloud” for a number of years now, and while we don’t run the cloud, we can provide the resources necessary to introduce you to the products and services which do.

Where would the banking industry be if it manually handled each check, each ATM transaction, each online purpose?  Where will your business be if it relies on yesterday’s technology to solve tomorrow’s challenges?


Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 2)

 Mobile_ClockworkAs airlines move customers to mobile ticketing, similar opportunities for rail, bus, and transit offer even more economies of scale to the traveling public, if the industry standard as a whole can overcome three distinct hurdles to converting to a mobile standard.

1. A mobile device is not a web site.  Customers don’t need a mobile site to learn about legal terms and conditions, they need “the three Bs” — book, buy, and board.  To an increasingly tech-savvy audience, simplicity sells.

2. A mobile site can’t be a vanity project.  To embrace economies of scale, m-commerce must be fully integrated with existing ticketing and payment systems.  Building a mobile site and simply treating it as a “one-off” misses the point.  The success of Boltbus, a deep-discount carrier in the Northeast which leverages mobile and web ticketing together, allows it to be more competitive in the market with the established legacy carrier, Greyhound.

3. A mobile solution is not independent of an overall strategy.  The additive costs of technology, from scanners to wireless accounts, must be part of the total cost of ownership.  Simply building an m-commerce site will not meet expectations for revenue collection and recognition that are not easily quantified after the fact.  The ability to balance this opportunity with existing operations remains a challenge across many travel providers.

Lastly, the industry must not underestimate the transformative power of GPS in m-commerce.  E-mail opened a significant B2C opportunity, but it pales in comparison to knowing where a customer is at any one time.  This is especially valuable for partnerships in the hotel and tourism sector.  GPS will make today’s web marketing obsolete, and the time to talk about it begins now.

An AT&T commercial shows the parents of a future U.S. president meeting on a train, but only after re-booking the ticket on a mobile phone.  This isn’t science fiction–embracing mobile thinking today can literally change an industry (and a nation) for the next generation.

Take a look at your m-commerce strategy.  How many of your customers are missing the train?

John Reagan is a senior consultant for mobile solutions at Clockwork Technology, LLC, Plano, TX.  Reach him at


See the previous post in the series here: Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 1)


Have Phone, Will Travel (Part 1)

Over the past decade, the travel industry has been fundamentally changed by technology–a perfect storm that reconfigured the buyer-seller relationship, pulled back the curtain of price elasticity, and consigned the downtown travel agency to an endangered species.

Lightening is about to strike twice.

Not that long ago, an “e-ticket” meant a ride at Disnelyand.  Today, it is the accepted mode of travel for tens of millions of air passengers and an increasing number of bus and rail consumers.  Now, in the midst of a move to mobile, transportation companies must be careful not to repackage the past, but to build to the future.

The expectations of the mobile generation are not to read a web site on a phone, but to embrace app technology and personalization.  Without it, travel sites are missing the forest from the trees.

Too many airline mobile sites can best be called a “screen scrape”, displaying a web-based page on a phone but little else.  These sites struggle to build share and reach.

It’s more than just airlines, however.  The combined traffic of rail, bus, and public transit in the U.S. exceeds 300 million trips a year, much of it relying on paper tickets and labor-intensive processes.  It’s not a question of when mobile will energize this sector, but how.

As airlines move customers to mobile ticketing, similar opportunities for rail, bus, and transit offer even more economies of scale to the traveling public, if the industry as a whole can overcome three distinct hurdles to converting to a mobile standard.

In part 2, we’ll discuss these three hurdles and how Clockwork Technology can help you get a “jump” on your competition.


John Reagan is a senior consultant for mobile solutions at Clockwork Technology LLC, Plano, TX.  Reach him at


Mobile: Looking or Booking?

Mobile_ClockworkThere are many tracking studies that chart the rise of Android and the iPhone/iPad versus the decline of the Blackberry and Windows Mobile.

In December, about 25% of mobile devices used the iPhone, 25% the iPad, about 21% on a Java-based tablet, 17% on an Android phone, and 3% on a Blackberry.  But that’s only half the story.

According to a December report by the analytics firm RichRelevance, an astounding 92 percent of online purchases through a mobile device came through an Apple product (iPhone, iPad).  The PadGadget web site concluded that “even though more people are using Android phones, it’s not Android owners who partake in mobile online shopping.  iPhone and iPad owners also tend to spend more when shopping on their mobile devices.  On average, iDevice users are spending 19% more than those using Google’s platform for mobile purchases.”

As our clients are investigating mobile options, which one is right for them?  Studies like this suggest that if your audience sees mobile as an informational  tool, a variety of choices are available and should be pursued — one size (or platform) does not fit all, particularly internationally, where Android adoption outpaces Apple.  If your audience sees mobile as a transactional  tool, well, you had better be looking at the Apple world as your first (of many) mobile decisions.

Clockwork is ready to help you with your mobile initiatives.  Contact us today at