Australian Payroll: Chris 21

One of the reasons I have been so busy over the last few months is a specific client project I have been working on: a payroll upgrade and implementation of a new time & attendance system. While I not going to cover the details of the engagement I want to touch on the payroll system that is being implemented: Chris 21 from Frontier Software .

This is the first time I have worked so closely with the Chris 21 product, so I have been learning lots about what it can and can’t do. Overall I am impressed with the product (excluding the employee and manager tools, more on that later) based on what needs to be achieved for the client.

For Australian readers you might be wondering why I am impressed as I like many hear horror stories of tier 2 payroll implementations from all vendors. One reason: the administrative tool kit allows significant configuration and customisation of the core product to meet a client’s needs.

The downside is most clients are unable to take full advantage of these functions as it requires significant Chris 21 and technology knowledge to use the tools. For many clients I suspect the implementation consultants have locked them out of these sections as in the wrong hands you payroll system could easily be broken.

Additionally the integration options on paper are very robust, the product includes the ability to track data changes for outwards integration into message based platforms like an EAI. Inbound integration is a little harder and to achieve fully automated integration requires IT support and potentially custom development. Inbound processing is completed using General Transaction Requests (GTR) a specific data integration language provided by Frontier Software. GTRs allow clients to build complex integrations with their Chris 21 system, however IT support is a must.

The Employee and Manager offerings within the HR21 product are limited in usability, however this is due to the HR21 product being built on an older technology platform. The biggest issue is the lack of configuration offered to clients, without having to engage Frontier Software. Frontier Software is actively working to build a replacement based on more recent technology offerings. But, and a big but, HR21 implemented in an innovative manner could provide significant benefits to an organisation.

A final note I am not commenting on specific payroll processing functionality as this is very client specific.

18 thoughts on “Australian Payroll: Chris 21

  1. Great to hear that you found working with the chris21 GTR process a positive experience. Following attendance at our in-house training session, many of our clients re-engineer their processes to use GTRs to assist with handling their data entry processing requirements on a regular basis. We have also had Frontier Software clients report that they use the GTR tool to extract data for reporting or use in 3rd party system. I’m assuming from your post that you have installed HR21 version 2. On 3rd June we released version 3 for HR21(Employee and Manager Self Service) – offering the ability for clients to configure their own systems, create their on pages and modify the views for various groups of staff – you must have just missed out! Good news is we are providing this as a free upgrade to clients currently running version 2 – so perhaps you could contact your client and let them know that this is now available. (We’d be happy to arrange for one of our consultants to provide you with an overview of what this product can do!) Look forward to reading your post on the new version of HR21.

  2. After reading about the payroll software Chris 21, I would very much like to learn about how to use this system. I am already quite proficient at MYOB software, having used it for four years for payroll and in the future I would like to become a payroll officer. However, I don’t really know where to go to learn howto use this type of software. Would there be any sort of freeware that could give me a tutorial on this software? Could you also please tell me where I might find tutorials for other major payroll software such s people soft, micropay, attache etc? thank you.

  3. We have been using Chris21 since 2007, unfortunately we are not utilising it too its full potential. Can this product be centrally located, i.e. in Australia, and used globally. Also how does the HR Kiosk function and more in particular the OH&S module. What does this module offer that some SharePoint development could not provide.

  4. Frontier Software has a multi country system that can be run on a single database located anywhere in the world!
    Please contact your Professional Services Manager or call Helpdesk on 1300 555 884 and ask them to put you in touch with your Professional Services Manager for more information.

  5. I am trying to use GTR to retrieve data but the process is not robust. Does anyone have sample code to parse through GTR response and get a CSV list out of it.
    Processing of returned string takes ages to conver it into columns.
    Has anyone used Web services option? Does it provide nicely formatted output in XML format?

  6. The best way to get data from chris21 in CSV format is to use the report designer. You have many options for output of data and it is fast and easy to use.
    Please contact your Professional Services Manager or call Helpdesk on 1300 555 884 and ask them to put you in touch with your Professional Services Manager for more information.

  7. What do you think about the situation where a company has on-charged employees and an existing recruitment/payroll/invoice system?

  8. I’ve been using Chris 21 for years; the product is ideal for Australian requirements and is extremely logical in its functionality.

    If you are a HR practitioner / payroll co-ordinator then this product is a “must see”.

    I’ve seen relief payroll temps with no experience come in and get a good feel of the payrol product within a couple of days and all have commented how easy it is to use. For HR practitioners, the Chris 21 modules are well designed and cover the fundamental HR processes demand without any real need for customisations. (The Chris21 Customisation course is available and easy to follow if needed.)

    Data upload (via the GTR process) is simple and so too is the reporting functionality that produces a range of output including CSV, txt and other Microsoft formats.

    If your using any other HRIS product or poor cousin module in a financial product then I feel sorry for you.

    I dont own the company – I just love the product !!

  9. It may well be a good HR package but its total lack of flexibility with using existing payroll systems means it is useless to us.

  10. Good luck to all CHRIS 21 users. Chris Scheduler is just not good enough. Basic functions like scheduling a report multiple times during day is lacking (solution is to create as many reports as schedule). They have web services options but company policy does not allow any demo version. How good is that? I think frontier lacks a strategy about its product from technology point of view. EOY updates are available just one week before financial year end, thanks to all the planning. If I start writing flaws against the product from technology perspective…it will take few hours…i would certainly mark this product falling into “red zone” for technology.

  11. I find the salespeople to be pretty arrogant too. I looked at Chris and when I asked technical questions they’d shout me down with rhetoric like “your HR people will have a system they love, they can manage all their people and reports from one single interface”. Sure, we want the same ideal but let me evaluate whether your system genuinely does it, dumbass! The salespeople think they can just win business by repeating the same motherhood statements ad infinitum.

  12. Let me start with a disclaimer that I’ve worked with (but not for) Frontier in a few different capacities over the years, including as a partner (representing a rostering software company) and as a client. One comment I would make is that a great consultant can make all the difference.

    From a user interface perspective, they integrated the concept of 3-letter mnemonics (“TCB”, “PDT”, etc) which were necessary in CHRIS5, to accommodate users upgrading from that system – and this can be frustrating to those users new to Frontier products. The trick is ensuring that the consultants configure the menu rather than teach you the mnemonics during the implementation. Once you have an intuitive menu structure, power users will tend to gravitate towards those shortcut keys – but all users will be able to navigate around the system.

    Overall though, CHRIS21 is a powerful system – Frontier has been around since 1983, has global reach, and has a policy of investing a proportion of their revenue back into the product. It’s definitely a solid solution and, while not all systems will suit all organisations, selecting an HRIS without at least taking a look at CHRIS21 would be akin to selecting an icecream flavour without considering Chocolate.

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