The implementation of Sarastia, the human resources and payroll system
The goal of the assessment
The City of Helsinki introduced Sarastia, the human resources and payroll system, in April 2022. The Audit Committee decided to include the topic in its assessment plan after serious problems arose with the city’s salary payments. The Audit Committee heard the Mayor, several officials, Sarastia’s Chief Executive Officer and staff representatives. Documentation and an external report commissioned by the city were also available.
The procurement of the human resources and payroll management system was prepared within a short timeframe. Due to the scheduling pressure, there was not enough time to prepare for Sarastia’s introduction. The city was forced to adopt Sarastia as an incomplete system, but on the other hand, the city itself was insufficiently prepared to start using the system. System testing and the training provided to users were insufficient. The conversion data transferred to the system contained many errors, which worsened the situation. What was critical for payroll and city employees was that there were more errors than Talpa could correct. Payroll errors have complicated the daily lives of city workers and have caused the city a loss of reputation and significant additional costs.
The city’s introduction of Sarastia was not sufficiently invested in implementing and managing the change throughout the organisation. There were deficiencies in the implementation process, including management, staff competence, Sarastia’s availability and capabilities, and the lack of a requirement for a common operating model at the city level. Initially, the project was not assigned an owner who would have had the responsibility and resources to ensure the entire project’s successful implementation. Rather, the responsibility was shared between the City Executive Office’s Human Resources Department and the Digitalisation Unit.
The City Executive Office failed in both internal and external communications. The division of responsibilities for communication was perceived to be unclear and communication with staff and the City Council to be insufficient, for example. According to the employee organisations, communicating via the intranet only reaches some staff.
the City Executive Office should
- ensure that management responsibility for city-level projects is clearly assigned to a single executive director.
- invest in change management throughout the organisation when carrying out city-level reforms.
- invest in internal communications that will reach all the city’s employee groups.
- invest in external communication in situations where potential damage to the city’s reputation is identified.
The City Executive Office and the Financial Management Services enterprise (Talpa) should
- develop human resources and financial management processes to minimise payroll errors as much as possible.