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Wodonga TAFE

About Wodonga TAFE

Carolyn Davis, Director of Human Resources, at Wodonga TAFE is passionate about the education industry and the integral part that her TAFE plays in her local community and beyond. Located on the border of Victoria and New South Wales, Wodonga TAFE is situated in one of the fastest growing regional economies in Australia.

Wodonga TAFE pays up to approximately 550 employees, delivering over 2.5 million student training hours every year, and with a growth strategy plan, is looking to build on this capacity in the future.

Wodonga TAFE also has diverse of office locations throughout Victoria, Sydney and Hobart – and it was identified some years ago that the antiquated HR and payroll system and procedures could no longer support the long-term goals of the TAFE. They needed a new system that would introduce efficiencies and cost savings and to streamline the time-consuming administration and manual processes.

To stay viable in a very competitive environment, it was essential that the TAFE improved its productivity and it was at this point that the working partnership with Ascender started.

To stay viable in a very competitive environment, it was essential that the TAFE improved its productivity and it was at this point that the working partnership with Ascender started.

Identifying the issues

Wodonga TAFE’s old system needed a major overhaul

The TAFE’s original payroll and HR system was a patchwork of manual and outdated stand-alone systems and processes. A basic payroll product combined with a separate records management system, manual staff history cards and various spreadsheets were a nightmare to maintain.

“Our basic payroll product had no HR component, no integration, no ability to manage leave, it was a very straight-forward ‘pay your staff product’ with no additional functionality,” Carolyn explains.

Solution Approach

What Wodonga TAFE wanted from its new payroll system

Wodonga TAFE conducted a rigorous tender process with clear, specific objectives. The requirements for their new payroll system included:

  • An integrated payroll and HR database that could capture and store historical data and allow for a transparent audit trail.
  • High quality, robust, work ow-enabled solution that could integrate with other software packages.
  • Powerful self-service capability.
  • The ability to support performance reviews and professional development activities.
  • Functionality to deal with multiple enterprise agreement awards and superannuation funds.
  • Standard and ad hoc report capability.
  • Robust security with the ability to allow for selective security permissions.
Why did Wodonga TAFE choose Ascender?

The initial tender process conducted by Wodonga TAFE in 2006/07 was highly competitive. Following are some of the key factors that contributed to the TAFE partnering with Ascender:

  • Ascender’s established industry experience – several other Victorian TAFEs were already using Ascender Pay and these reference sites provided a good working knowledge of its capabilities.
  • Payroll functionality – date-driven; leave management; ability to pay increases and backpays based on rosters; superannuation management; and interfaces with General Ledger (GL), Oracle SQL and other add-ons.
  • Employee self-service and reporting functionality were both key drivers.
  • Ability to add functionality as needed.
  • Ascender’s strong client support structures from the implementation stage through to go-live and beyond.
  • The fact that Ascender has a strong Australian footprint with local account managers and supporting resources.

“If I had to summarise Ascender’s strengths, it would be the powerful work flow capabilities, dealing with electronic forms and timesheets, and having the HR modules,” Carolyn says.

Wodonga TAFE went live using Ascender Pay in November 2007 on a perpetual licence agreement. In August 2009 the TAFE upgraded to a hosted Ascender Pay client service. This arrangement has many benefits for Wodonga TAFE, as Ascender now hosts the IT infrastructure and is responsible for the running and maintenance of the payroll system, unburdening TAFE resources from this responsibility.

Ascender’s strengths… powerful workflow capabilities, dealing with electronic forms and timesheets, and having the HR modules.

Achievements / Benefits

Cost savings

Total cost savings for salaried staff equalled approximately $160,000

  • Moving to the hosted client service saved around $60,000 to $70,000 in annual salary plus on-costs. One of the biggest bonuses of moving to the hosted service arrangement meant that Wodonga TAFE didn’t have to deal with the difficulty of attracting and retaining an Oracle specialist to manage the payroll system (especially given their regional location). As Carolyn comments, “If we employed someone with Oracle skills, they didn’t stay long because they could go somewhere else and earn a lot more money. So to go with the hosted option eliminated the real hardship of being able to maintain
the person with the required skill level within our own workforce.”
  • Annual salary savings of $60,000 achieved when Wodonga TAFE absorbed Driver Education Centre of Australia (DECA). As part of the TAFE’s growth strategy, DECA was integrated and 170 new employees were on-boarded. By using Ascender’s existing Web Self-Service (WSS) and Casual Online Timesheets, Wodonga TAFE could grow its business substantially from 380 to 550 staff, without additional payroll resources. “We saved one full-time employee (FTE) as there wasn’t a business need because of the functionality of the system,” Carolyn explains.
  • The automation saved an annual salary of approximately $40,000. Carolyn estimates the ow-on effects of system streamlining and automation – ie eliminating the large amount of paper-based data entry, processing and ling – as saving close to another FTE position (estimated at $40,000 annually).

Savings from Ascender Pay’s reporting functionality is estimated at $20,000 for every audit request.

The TAFE’s stringent rules on maintaining its training organisational status requires audit reporting (eg to produce a report to show teaching staff qualifications are up-to-date). Carolyn estimates that using the old manual system to produce such audit reports (eg manually checking led staff cards and working in spreadsheets) would cost the business approximately $20,000 per audit request in labour and time hours. With the implementation of Ascender Pay this cost has been eliminated, as regular audit reports are now set up in the system and run as needed – very quick, simple and efficient.

Error reduction

Carolyn explains that the Ascender’s system is very reliable and accurate and that system errors were “extremely minimal”. Ascender Pay features such as Threshold reports were also useful to help identify mistakes that could lead to overpayments due mostly to human error (eg where 
an inflated pay rate classification was assigned to the wrong payee).

Savings in time

Two and a half days per fortnight saved in data entry and checking time. Since the on-boarding of DECA, Carolyn estimates that they have saved half a week a fortnight in manual payroll administrative tasks by using Ascender Pay’s automated processes such as the Casual Online Timesheets.

Web self-service translates to huge time savings. “Of course web self-service didn’t exist in our old system and the efficiency gains we now get are just huge,” Carolyn says. “The WSS Kiosk is just gold. The accessibility anytime, anywhere for our staff to log into that service and be able to put in a casual timesheet or leave request, update their personal details, or print their Payment Summaries – where there’s no data entry required, it’s such a huge efficiency.”

Automated email notifications have streamlined processes enormously. The previous system had no ability to generate email notifications, so all processes were manual, time-consuming and labour-intensive. “The Ascender system is fantastic in being able to generate date-driven email reminders – this has eliminated the administrative side of the process which is great efficiency for us,” Carolyn says.

At least two days a year saved in the management of Payment Summaries. With Ascender Pay’s WSS functionality, Payment Summaries are now available online, where employees can view and print them for themselves saving on the time and cost involved for printing and posting the Summaries.

Ascender Pay’s OH&S module is a fantastic timesaver. The benefits of the OH&S module are enhanced by Ascender Pay’s email notification and ad hoc report writing functionality. As Carolyn comments, “We use the OH&S module to record all of our health and safety incidents and hazards. With the email notification capability, if there’s a task associated with a hazard, when that task is due, it generates that email notification to the relevant people involved. Now that everything is in the system, we have a Discoverer report that we generate for our OH&S Committee meetings. So time wise, there is a big saving.”


Being a hosted client means that Ascender has the responsibility for maintaining Ascender Pay’s IT infrastructure and payroll system. “When any changes to tax scales or superannuation are introduced, none of this is a worry anymore, because as a hosted client we know that Ascender is taking care of the updates in the background for us, so that’s a bonus,” Carolyn says.

Client support

When Carolyn started working for Wodonga TAFE, there was a Ascender plan in place to continually improve the operation and functionality of Ascender Pay. The upgrade that the TAFE undertook in 2009 to move to the hosted client arrangement was a major project that Carolyn was involved in. As in any major IT project, there were some hurdles that had to be resolved, but the Ascender team were on hand to make the process as smooth as possible. “They did their absolute best for us, they were great from my experience,” Carolyn says.

Ascender Pay provides great value for money

Ascender provides Wodonga TAFE with a payroll system and service that is well positioned to build on its benefits as the business grows. Expanding functionality for the future will include the activation of the Training and Development module and the introduction of online timesheets to the whole business. “We know we can get more efficiency from the system, and that’s what we’re working towards. We love that we haven’t reached our full capability yet, so as we build on the functionality it will become more and more cost- effective for us,” Carolyn explains.

Useful reporting

Carolyn finds Ascender Pay’s ad hoc reporting tool, from which Discoverer reports are set up, extremely useful and a big timesaver. Instead of having to extract and cross-reference information from employee cards, spreadsheets and various other sources, “we now have a lovely report that is set up, we run that report, manipulate a little to fit the requirements and away it goes,” Carolyn explains.

The reporting functionality is very versatile, producing reports that are used for many aspects of the business: audit responses; monthly board meetings (inventory of head counts, hours worked, FTE workforce counts, recruitment, turnover, enterprise agreement compliance aspects); OH&S Committee meetings; workforce planning; budgeting and general enquiries.

Organisational charting is also very simple using Ascender Pay’s Navigo Org Plus tool. The previous system had no capability so charts had to be produced from scratch using Microsoft Visio. “But now we are able to create different types of org charts using the Org Plus tool so that’s a nice bonus for us,” Carolyn says.

Improved employee satisfaction

Carolyn believes that the Ascender system has improved employee satisfaction, especially the web self-service and online timesheets. It is now so much easier for employees to submit their hours, apply for leave, view their balances or payslips, or print Payment Summaries online, rather than having to contact the HR department. Anecdotally, Carolyn commented that simplifying and streamlining these processes has improved employee satisfaction.

You don’t have to be in the education industry to use Ascender Pay. If you are a medium to large sized organisation… and you are willing to invest the time to set it up, it gives you what you need.


Carolyn feels Ascender Pay could be a great solution for other clients from any industry, “You don’t have to be in the education industry to use Ascender Pay. If you are a medium to large sized organisation looking for a product to give you efficiency, and you are willing to invest the time to set it up, it gives you what you need. That’s what we’re getting out of it now. We’re able to grow and not build on our payroll costs.”

One of the highlights of the system for Carolyn is the comprehensive functionality — features such as web self-service, online timesheets and email notifications – “that may not sound like much to some people, but it saves us so much time in admin and labour costs.”

Ascender provides Wodonga TAFE with great value for money — it may not have been the cheapest option during the tender process, but Wodonga TAFE was forward- thinking enough to consider more than just cost. It chose Ascender because of the overall service provided, as well as being able to meet the TAFE’s business goals, both in the short-and long-term.

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