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Since opening in 1955, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute has built a reputation for offering the public an opportunity to view a wealth of art and artifacts.

Less artful were the systems that supported the Williamstown, Mass., institute’s business processes. The museum’s human resources system—a manual system that was largely disconnected from the institute’s other business systems—remained in the Dark Ages. In addition, the museum relied on a costly service bureau to provide payroll services—using money the institute could have spent on more valuable resources.

The museum turned to longtime solution provider JMT Consulting Group for advice on how to automate its HR system.

Rather than simply receive paychecks from its payroll service, the museum wanted to closely integrate its payroll and HR systems. The new HR system would capture employee data that had previously been locked away in filing cabinets, said Bob Gniadek, the museum’s finance director.

“We did a cost-benefit analysis, and it made sense for us to bring payroll in-house,” Gniadek said. “The new system has a database that links with the payroll system so we can enter employee information in one place and it flows over to other payroll modules.”

By integrating the two systems, the museum would be able to print paychecks that clearly outlined HR information. The new system also would provide the ability to generate payroll reports on demand, said Gniadek.

JMT introduced its customer to solution provider Cost Management Services, which had brought HR systems to other shared clients. “We had been a longtime EDP payroll customer, and we were looking to gain more control of our payroll,” said Gniadek, adding that getting paychecks from the outsourced payroll service that was used was a lengthy process. “We inquired with JMT, and they sent us to CMS.”

A History of Help.

A History of Help

The Clark Art Institute began working with JMT in 2000, when the solution provider had installed Sage MIP Fund Accounting. JMT kept in contact with its customer and provided software updates and functionality extensions to the accounting system as the museum needed it.

“They also provide occasional training as people come on board,” said Gniadek.

In late 2004, the museum decided to move away from using an outside payroll service, which was expensive and often time-consuming. The institute turned to JMT to explore its options.

“Clark Art had been a client of ours for quite a while,” said Jacqueline Tiso, president of JMT, in Brewster, N.Y. “Our customers look to us as a trusted adviser who has a relationship with them, and they know they can depend on us to make recommendations in their best interest. They called us and said they were interested in addressing payroll and HR.”

The solution provider discussed the capabilities and functionality of two different systems.

“The Sage Abra HRMS [human resource management system] seemed more functional and durable, so we decided to pursue that,” said Gniadek. “We wanted to be able to get payroll reports on demand without additional charges. Our [existing] service provider charged us for every report.”

JMT specializes in implementing Sage Software accounting systems for its nonprofit customers. But the solution provider knew that specialized expertise was needed to implement and integrate new payroll and HR capabilities. It suggested CMS, which focused on helping nonprofit customers with these sorts of systems, just as it had since the two providers began sharing clients several years ago.

“We both have the same philosophy in that we consider ourselves experts in our particular field and are not trying to go out and be everything,” said Tiso. “A lot of times, in our industry, companies try to be all things to all people. We understand that HR/payroll is a specific skill set and that it complements ours.”

CMS and JMT met through a Sage Software regional product manager. “He suggested that there were good synergies between our organizations,” said Brian Kelly, president and owner of CMS, in Farmington, Conn.

At that time, JMT was actively seeking partners with expertise in complementary areas. For example, JMT has loose alliances with other solution providers that specialize in POS (point of sale), time management and billing management solutions, said Tiso.

“We wanted to identify a partner with the same ethos and that complemented our skill set,” said Tiso. “We went out and had a lunch and spoke about our firms, our service delivery and our cultures, and we realized we were very similar and that we were a natural complement to each other.”

Since the introduction, the two organizations have shared 10 customers.

“We trust that if we recommend them or they [recommend] us, we will handle it in a professional manner,” said Kelly. “We have built that trust over time.”

The In-House Advantage.

The In-House Advantage

CMS worked with the institute on the capabilities of the Sage Abra HRMS system and to make sure the needs of the museum were understood, said Gniadek.

“Clark Art’s HR systems were completely manual, and the museum wanted to make sure they automated the process and put in compliance measurements,” said Kelly.

“They also were looking for a full solution to replace their outsourced payroll in order to save money,” Kelly said. “Finally, they wanted integration between their accounting, payroll and HR systems.”

The museum needed to provide information—such as accrued time off and paid time taken by employees—directly on employee pay stubs, another option for which the external service provider charged extra fees.

“We found that there was a charge every time we wanted to access these sorts of features,” said Gniadek. “We did a cost-benefit analysis, and it made sense for us to bring payroll in-house.”

In addition, the museum wanted to computerize its manual HR systems and have them closely linked to its accounting system.

“We considered having our human resource database customized and written for our own purposes, but the Abra solution allowed us to avoid that,” said Gniadek. “The new system has a database and links with the payroll system so we can enter employee information in one system and it flows over to the other.”

In addition, CMS staff stayed on-site to train two HR, four finance and two IT employees on how to use the system.

“We like to configure the software to meet client requirements first and actually get them almost to a live setting and then bring them through on-site training using their own people, own configuration and own operational procedures,” said Kelly.

Finally, CMS converted the payroll information from the service provider into a format that could be read by the new system.

The project proved straightforward and was finished in a matter of weeks, which is typical, said Kelly. “Our organization has been putting in employee systems for over 20 years, so there are not too many things we haven’t faced before,” he said.

“We installed the new software in November 2004, tested it and ran it parallel with the service bureau,” said Gniadek. “We cut over to our first payroll in January 2005.”

“CMS had a very thorough understanding of how our current system worked and what our objectives were,” said Gniadek. “They did a fine job of explaining how this product would meet our needs.”

Masterful Return.

Masterful Return

The new payroll and HR system paid for itself within the first year, Gniadek said.

Cost savings can be traced to eliminating redundant tasks caused by manual systems, as well as the cost of the payroll service bureau.

“There’s also the question of the cost of an employee walking out the door with the entire knowledge base in their head,” said Kelly. “When processes are manual, the knowledge is lost when someone leaves because it’s not captured by any corporate system.”

Time savings were similarly notable.

“We also managed to speed the payroll process up,” said Gniadek. “We can now complete payroll on Monday and have checks ready for Tuesday. The service provider started on Monday, and we were sometimes biting our fingernails in the hope that checks would arrive by payday on Friday.”

Working Together

JMT and CMS have found these shared engagements are a win-win for themselves and their clients.

“Together, we offer a complete solution, and that’s really attractive to customers,” said Kelly. “We have helped customers see that working with two organizations has a benefit. The two components—accounting and payroll/HR—are special animals, and they each need specialized knowledge. We provide that higher level of service for clients and focus on those unique business elements.”

JMT and CMS continue to look for ways to help each other and work together.

“If I’m at a trade show, I’ll put up their logo,” said Kelly.

The two companies also attend each other’s user-group meetings and trade shows and have done some co-marketing. In addition, JMT and CMS co-sponsored a seminar for current and prospective customers about the basics of accounting and payroll/HR solutions.

The secret to their success is simple: a similar corporate philosophy, complementary skill sets and a commitment to staying in touch, said Tiso.

“Communication is really critical,” agreed Kelly. “If you want a relationship, you have to continue to talk on a regular basis.”

Both solution providers plan to continue the alliance.

“We have had such great success with this relationship that it is absolutely going to continue,” said Tiso. “And we’ll probably expand it to other customers.”

Meanwhile, the Clark Art Institute is moving ahead in mastering and extending the capabilities of its new system. “There are things that this system can do that we haven’t taken advantage of,” said Gniadek. “However, the system is working nicely.” ´

Hailey Lynne McKeefry is a freelance writer in Belmont, Calif. A partner in, she can be reached at