by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 4 June 2013
With its assortment of forms and calculations, payroll processing and taxes are a headache for most businesses. They distract from the main business. Excel sheets can help but are messy and unwieldy. Tax software is expensive and aimed at large corporations.
In this ZenPayroll review, we will look at its features, interface and see how it can be of use to you.
Having started companies earlier, ZenPayroll's founders experienced the pain of payroll processing. "They were shocked by antiquated tax software available in the market," says Erin Colbert, marketing manager with the company. "There hasn't been any innovation in payroll for decades and as a result, current solutions are overly complex and unnecessarily expensive," she says. "We knew that we could build a better solution." So, they assembled a team of incredible software engineers, designers and payroll compliance experts to build ZenPayroll. Throughout the development process, the team at ZenPayroll was fueled by a passion to help small businesses, according to her. The company has attracted an impressive list of investors, which includes the CEOs of Yammer, Dropbox, Yelp and Yammer and more.
Colbert defines ZenPayroll as a "modern, delightful cloud-based payroll software." Delight, in this case, translates into software that is easy-to-use and setup. What's more, the solution also results in significant savings of time and money. It does this by automating your payroll tax processes. Using the solution, your small business can process payroll, calculate and pay taxes, and complete government filings and tax deposits. "Since our public launch in December 2012, we've processed tens of millions of dollars in payroll for our customers," says Colbert.
One of the more interesting things about ZenPayroll is that it serves multiple constituencies and customers. For example, small businesses can use it to automate their payroll processes and file taxes, as well as pay and report on independent contractors. Similarly, entrepreneurs, who are otherwise focused on building a great product, can use the solution to handle payroll within minutes.
Finally, its simplicity and elegance also makes the tool a great fit for accountants and bookkeepers to serve multiple clients at the same time with their free dashboard, ZenPayroll for Accountants. They also seamlessly integrate with popular accounting tools like Quickbooks and Xero.
As Colbert mentioned, setup is fairly easy and quick. A customer - entrepreneur Jonathan Friedman- timed the process to run payroll and found that it takes three clicks and 103 seconds. That process is a composite of several tasks such as adding employees, entering your company bank details and tax information, and entering salary information and employee benefits.
While I did not time my setup process, I have to admit that the setup was fairly simple and easy. The solution helped me through the setup process by suggesting options and providing pertinent information (such as applicable tax rates) during the signup process. Once I defined employees, salaries and benefits within the system, ZenPayroll got into action. It applied deductions, employee contributions, and estimated payroll taxes.
For example, ZenPayroll uses information from the Company Forms tab to determine appropriate dates for filing a form. It completes the form and uses validation from signatories (that have been assigned by the process owner) to e-file that form.
ZenPayroll takes the concept of Zen further by helping you find vendors for specific tasks. For example, if you are just starting out your business and do not have specific vendors defined, the solution suggests vendors to you like workers compensation, health benefits, 401(k) plans, and more.
Because tax and payroll information is critical for employees, cloud-based solutions are not particularly amenable to this aspect of your business. The interesting thing about ZenPayroll is that it offers 256-bit SSL security. In addition, the solution has a two-step authentication layer built into its system.
Colbert says they encourage their customers to enable the two-step authentication. The process provides an extra layer of authentication to the system by sending out a six-digit code from ZenPayroll. "It reduces the chances of having their account accessed by an unauthorized person, as they would need to have their email, password, and their phone to gain access," she says.
Besides this, Colbert says the solution uses "bank-grade security and the highest encryption standards available" to ensure security for their customers. "Our data centers maintain several layers of security, as well, including biometric scanning for controlled access, as well as keycard, retina scan, and PIN number restrictions," she says.
ZenPayroll is also helpful for employees. Once they have a ZenPayroll account, it stays with them even as they change jobs. They can generate their own set of analytics and view past pay stubs without ever having to contact their HR department.
ZenPayroll is one of the more interesting and thoughtful solutions that I've reviewed in recent times. Automation is a much-abused word in SaaS. Practically, every solution claims to automate your business. However, not much thought goes into the so-called automation process. Too often, automation involves replication of an offline process into an online one.
ZenPayroll is different in that it has thoughtful little details that integrate offline tasks with the convenience of an online process. For example, the solution handles mundane tasks such as the registration and application processes of critical forms for first-time entrepreneurs. Thus, if you are an entrepreneur located in California, ZenPayroll will apply for the state's Employer Identification Number (EIN) on your behalf. Similarly, ZenPayroll will automate your new hire reporting to the State.
Also, the setup and actual payroll processing really does take very little time. Finally, the interface is a delight with its seamless transitions between multiple screens. I especially liked the thoughtful quotes and the nifty dashboard that displays important tasks and deadlines.
An area where the solution could add more thought is on small businesses making the transition between systems. For example, the system involves manual entry of employee details. For small businesses that have over 100 employees, this represents a considerable expense of effort and resources. A file-uploading feature that allows small businesses to upload pre-populated spreadsheets will help them.
Similarly, expanding the ecosystem of their integrations will help small businesses move seamlessly between multiple applications. For example, integrating with Office365 or Dropbox will enable small businesses to access a wealth of documents and files, though they do currently have an integration with Google Docs. Finally, analytics, which is currently restricted to three reports, could also be enhanced to provide richer detail (considering that tax filing has a significant impact on a company's finances).
ZenPayroll's simplicity paradigm is carried over to its pricing structure. The solution has a flat charge of $25 plus $4 for each employee up to ten employees. Subsequently, all employees are charged at $2 per employee. Thus, if you are a small business with ten employees, you end up paying $65 per month on payroll processing and taxes.
ZenPayroll is a thoughtful and delightful solution. Simplicity is baked into the solution and is reflected in its design, processing and pricing. I would highly recommend the solution, if only to release your from the stress of payroll processing and taxes. After all, peace of mind was never this affordable!
Ratings: ease of use 5/5, features 5/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 4.5/5