This is for the ones who find payroll interesting, but are not sure where to start. It’s also for the ones who find payroll intimidating and would rather steer clear! Either way, here’s my two cents on how to up your payroll game:
Start with the fundamentals
Leave SAP aside, to begin with. Just try to understand what payroll comprises, what payments and deductions are, how net gets calculated from gross. There are two aspects to any payroll solution – statutory and company-specific. Familiarize yourself with both.
Every country has its own set of laws that employers need to comply with. Focus on one country and get acquainted with its statutory requirements. Keep yourself up-to-date with the amendments as well.
Hit the SAP books
Once you’re reasonably confident about what payroll entails, try to correlate what you’ve learned with how it’s done in SAP. Understand what gets delivered through the standard solution, what you can customize as a functional consultant, what can be changed through ABAP coding and what must NOT be changed (yes, there is that last category, even if your customer demands otherwise).
Hone your analytical skills
“Thinking analytically is a skill like carpentry or driving a car. It can be taught, it can be learned, and it can improve with practice. But like many other skills, such as riding a bike, it is not learned by sitting in a classroom and being told how to do it. Analysts learn by doing.“
– Richards Heuer Jr.
My favorite approach to understanding how the payroll driver works is to simulate payroll and trace through the log. I hear you, it seems tedious and time-consuming. Quite the contrary, actually. Here’s why I find it useful:
a) It gives you an in-depth understanding of the payroll driver that the textbooks do not.
b) You can simplify complex issues by identifying the exact point in the log where the error arises.
c) From start to finish, you can connect the dots – see which infotypes get read, how wage types get modified, how new wage types are derived.
Isn’t it annoying having to scout for an ABAP consultant for the slightest tweaking of logic? Introducing Personnel Calculation Rules – a functional consultant’s key to independent working! You’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish through a well-written PCR. It calls for earnest effort and tons of practice, but you know the old adage – no goal was ever met without a little sweat.
How would you know if a payroll requirement can be achieved through a PCR? My rule of thumb is this – if it’s logical, it’s possible. So if you can write your calculation logic on paper, most likely, you can translate it into a PCR. There are a myriad operations you can use in a PCR. Hit F1 on any operation or access the documentation through PE04. My advice is, don’t bother memorizing the operation or the syntax. Instead, focus on understanding what the operation can do and how you can apply it. You can make a note of the most useful operations, or, like me, simply turn to Google when in doubt.
Call me biased, but I’d say this applies more to Payroll than to any other area of SAP HCM (with the exception of Positive time management, perhaps). After all, we’re talking money here. So, while this shouldn’t deter you from making customization changes or writing PCRs, be aware of the responsibility that comes with it. Test each change you make & ensure you cover all test scenarios. The importance of thorough, complete testing cannot be overemphasized.
Learn, practise, learn, practise…
Nobody ever became a payroll consultant overnight, and most of us are still learning something new each day. There is a whole lot to payroll, even for a single country. So commit yourself to a continuous cycle of learning & then applying that knowledge every chance you get. And, hey, have fun along the way!