Monday Management Minute: Managing Your Headcount with Accounting Software


Accounting and finance managers are often involved in decisions concerning technology purchases. They may be asked to help evaluate products or to sign off on a purchase decision.

One request that is likely to cross their desks is for human resources technology — specifically, accounting software that allows functional areas and organizations as a whole to get a complete and real-time view of their headcount by employee, department, business unit or specific project. This can prove very helpful if, for instance, your business is considering redistributing workloads and responsibilities. Some programs also enable other workforce-related tasks, such as talent management.

The need for this type of accounting software has become more critical as technology and other factors continue to reshape the modern workforce. These trends include an increasingly mobile workforce that doesn’t always work in traditional ways; global operations that transcend countries and time zones; and a growth in alternative types of workers, including temporary professionals, outsourced workers and third-party providers.

The need for organizations to carefully manage their headcount in light of these trends calls for new HR applications that help workforce planners in the following ways:

  • Understand work patterns: where people work, the nature of their jobs and the costs associated with them.

  • Anticipate emerging business changes and support decisions on headcount levels and timing to stay ahead of demand patterns.

  • Identify gaps in capabilities or staffing that signal the need to increase hiring, improve succession planning or reallocate workers.

  • Enable greater staffing flexibility by making it easier to scale headcounts up or down.

The new breed of HR automation products can deliver a wide range of benefits, and choosing the ones that best meet your company’s needs is key. Here are some questions to ask yourself when selecting HR technology:

  • Does it support business strategy? Make sure that the motivation behind a technology purchase isn’t just to upgrade or add a capability that might be nice to have but is not essential to advancing your strategic goals. For example, if the company is eyeing global expansion, a new HR system might be necessary for managing talent and workflows on a global scale. Or, if your company wants to increase its reliance on temporary professionals, an application that can improve your ability to track headcount and analyze work patterns may be what’s needed to support your goals.

  • What’s the true cost/benefit picture? Don’t just focus on the price tag of a technology purchase, as financial professionals are naturally inclined to do. Also consider the benefits in terms of time, efficiency and productivity gains, which could more than justify the cost. For instance, the ability to immediately reshuffle the schedules of shift workers based on certain variables could potentially save managers a good deal of time on scheduling while keeping a manufacturing plant operating at peak capacity. Discussions with managers in other areas can help establish what tasks your company really needs to improve or automate to realize time and efficiency gains.

  • Does it address real needs or just add features? When buying technology, it’s easy to get wooed by a long list of capabilities. Stay focused on understanding your company’s specific needs and evaluating options that primarily perform those tasks. This can keep you from falling for expensive technology that offers bells and whistles that your business doesn’t need or won’t use. Recognize that some HR tools are better suited for large, sprawling companies, while others are aimed at smaller firms.

With new technology products continually coming to market for tracking headcount and automating other HR tasks, it can be difficult to sort through the various options and capabilities available. Take the time to really shop and speak with enough vendors to gain an adequate overview of the differences among products. Don’t be shortsighted: Does the proposed system have the capacity to grow with your business? What level of support can you expect from the vendor? In short, which system best fits your specialized needs — now and in the future?

Have you shopped for HR software for your company? What features impressed you? Discuss what you've found in the comments below.