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Local vs Global Data: Why One System for Everything Isn’t Always the Best Solution

In the pursuit of efficiency and streamlined operations international companies often aim to implement a single system for managing their payroll data. The appeal of one central HR system that handles everything, offering simplicity, uniformity, and reduced administrative overhead, is substantial. However, the reality may not always match this ideal. This article explores why a single-system approach may fall short and discusses alternative strategies for better results.

The Appeal of a Unified System

The concept of one system for everything is desirable for multiple reasons. It proposes a simplified approach to data management, where all information is stored, processed, and reported via one platform. This could potentially minimize errors, enhance compliance, and increase overall process transparency.

“HR and payroll directors I consult with often think all their problems will be solved by choosing the right system.” – Bart van der Storm, CEO at Payrollminds

International companies are frequently sold on the idea that a comprehensive HR and payroll system, like Workday or SAP, will meet all their needs. The appeal of a one-stop solution is considerable, especially when handling the complexity of managing payroll across different countries.

Real-world Challenges

However, implementing a single system often presents multiple challenges. The primary issue is the diversity and complexity of global payroll requirements. Every country has unique regulations, data formats, and compliance needs. A single system might struggle to address these effectively without significant customization.

For instance, local tax laws, labor regulations, and reporting standards can vary widely. A system created for payroll in the United States may have difficulty complying with the complex payroll regulations in Japan or Brazil without substantial modifications.

Moreover, the cost and effort required to customize a global system to satisfy local needs can be excessive. Companies might end up investing more time, money, and resources than expected, and still end up with a system that doesn’t fulfill their requirements.

The Need for Flexibility

Flexibility is crucial in managing global payroll. Instead of depending on a single system, companies should consider a hybrid strategy that utilizes various systems customized for specific regions or functions. This approach provides the security of local data and compliance management.

“You need to draw a line between what is done in the central HR system and what remains local.” Katinka Sleyffers, Consultant at Payrollminds

For instance, a central HR system can handle global data and processes, while local payroll systems manage country-specific requirements. Integration tools and middleware can facilitate seamless data flow between these systems, ensuring accuracy and compliance.

Success Stories

Companies we consult have effectively managed their global payroll by embracing a flexible, multi-system strategy. They’ve realized that one system can’t meet all their needs. Instead, they’ve concentrated on integrating different systems to establish a unified payroll management framework.

One such example is a major retailer that initially attempted to implement a global payroll system. After encountering numerous challenges and high costs, they shifted to a hybrid approach. By using a central HR system for global data and local payroll systems for specific country requirements, they achieved better compliance and efficiency.

Another example is a technology company that uses Workday for its global HR processes but relies on local payroll providers in each country to handle specific payroll needs. This approach has allowed them to maintain compliance and manage payroll more effectively.


While the idea of a single system for global payroll is attractive, it is often impractical due to the diverse and complex nature of local payroll requirements. A flexible, multi-system approach can offer better results by leveraging the strengths of both global and local systems. By integrating these systems effectively, companies can achieve compliance, efficiency, and better overall payroll management.

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Multinationals lose a significant percentage of their paid wages due to ineffective payroll operations, causing disruptions, dissatisfied employees, and compliance risks. We help them transform payroll into an efficient, reliable, and scalable operation that supports business growth.