North Bay Indigenous Hub

November 2, 2020

The North Bay Indigenous Hub (NBIH) is a new service provider that offers Primary Health Care and Early Childhood Development and Learning Services to First Nations, Inuit and Metis People, without distinction of status, non-status or residence. The NBIH aims at increasing positive outcomes of the Indigenous community in North Bay and for its partners, the Nipissing, Dokis and Temagami First Nations and the North Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre.

The NBIH began setting up operations in early 2020. In that short time they have grown from 25 to nearly 40 employees. They had already decided that Sage 300 would be their finance/payroll system and were working with Nicole Boileau of The Solution Provider Inc., a Sage business partner with extensive experience implementing Sage 300 in First Nation organizations. Nicole has other clients using info:HR and interfacing it with the Sage 300 payroll module. She commented, “I’ve been working with info:HR and the implementation team for several years now and I know how much day-to-day work my clients can save in the Payroll department with the two systems sharing data. For the NBIH we were starting from scratch for both systems, which was ideal – we could be sure to configure both systems in a manner that would take the fullest advantage of both of them.”  The NBIH would be using info:HR’s Employee/Manager Self-Service (ESS) and Online Timesheets modules to collect attendance and absence data for passing to Sage 300 payroll.

At the NBIH both Sarah Iahtail, Finance Officer, and Krystal Meawasige, Bookkeeping Clerk, took part in the info:HR decision and both subsequently would play key roles in the implementation. From Krystal: “Knowing what info:HR could do in working with Sage 300 made it the top contender. The ease of use perked us all up. Having all our employee data stored in one place, eliminating paper files, giving employees access to the system whether they are inside or outside the office, these would be huge benefits for us.”  Sarah added, “Being a small organization at the beginning, we didn’t have the luxury of having someone dedicated to HR responsibilities – the duties were spread across all of senior management, including our Executive Director, Laureen Linklater-Pizzale.  We wanted a system that would alleviate the manual administrative work that she was doing so she could devote that time to more strategic initiatives.”

The NBIH chose to have HR Systems Strategies host info:HR for them on their cloud server in Toronto. HRSS staff completed the provisioning in early March of this year and training started immediately. The current approach to training sessions is to schedule short, frequent sessions of two hours, each followed by a “homework” assignment – data entry/update work in info:HR that complements the training just conducted and prepares for the next session. The two-hour time frame is much easier to schedule than a full day session and doesn’t result in information overload for the attendees. Barbara Chicago, Manager of Client Services, conducted the sessions and noted, “Sarah and Krystal were a pleasure to work with. They learned quickly, easily picked up the concepts, asked intelligent questions and got the homework sessions done on time, which let us keep to our aggressive schedule. All in all, the implementation went very smoothly.”

The NBIH wanted the Sage 300 interface to be up and running as soon as possible, so work on it started even before the first training session. Jerry Rowland, Chief Technology Officer, and Frank Shen, Senior Software Engineer, have implemented Sage interfaces numerous times in the past several years, so they knew how to get the ball rolling even as Sarah and Krystal were taking their first training sessions. Said Jerry, “We anticipated that the interface work for the NBIH would go very smoothly since both info:HR and Sage 300 were new applications to them. There would be no questionable legacy data to have to reconcile – and that’s exactly how it turned out.”  Krystal pointed out, “Because we were new to Sage 300, in the beginning we didn’t know exactly what we would need. And, as we grew, we saw features we could take advantage of to provide even more automation in the interface. Having Jerry and Frank there to recognize those situations and then include them in the interface has made a world of difference.”  Jerry stresses, “Don’t be fooled – no HRIS can offer such a thing as a “right out of the box” data transfer to payroll. Each one is unique to the client using it, even if that client has the same payroll system as the organization next door. For that reason, every payroll interface project requires some level of configuration and programming customization to capture client-specific uniqueness and ensure the interface operates per that particular client’s payroll system requirements. That work is done as a standard part of any interface implementation project and we test that together with the client to confirm that the customization operates as expected. In the case of the NBIH we were fortunate to have Nicole participate as the resident payroll expert.”

As Sarah and Krystal expanded their use of info:HR and rolled out the ESS and Online Timesheets modules to all staff, they took advantage of HRSS assistance. Krystal remarked, “Support has been excellent – any time I need a question answered help is literally just a phone call away. At first, we were unsure since it was all new but, with the aid of the info:HR support team and the great little how-to’s that Barbara gave us for our own use and to provide to our people, Sarah and I can deliver assistance to the rest of the staff. Thankfully, we had good training and we are able to feel confident in providing that help.”

The organization is now seeing the results that they had hoped for six months ago. The Sage 300 interface is fully operational, transferring employee master and timecard data from info:HR to Sage. Employees are using ESS to keep track of their time-off balances and submit their absence requests. And for Laureen it has worked out well. She is dealing with much less HR paperwork than before after Sarah and Krystal showed her how to use ESS to respond to the time-off requests that come her way. In fact, she became the first user there of the ESS mobile version, using her phone to check on and respond to those requests.

As for the future, Sarah plans on investigating the use of document attachments, where employee documents can be associated with the employee’s profile and stored in and retrieved from the info:HR database. She will also explore automatic email follow-ups for future-dated activities like performance reviews and certification renewals, to eliminate the need for Outlook calendar entries and paper to-do lists. Krystal would like to roll out the new Online Timesheets mobile data entry / submission option to make it available for staff who might be away or otherwise not in the office to get their timesheets in for payroll processing. She is also interested in exploring the upcoming ESS feature for employee location tracking (described elsewhere in this newsletter).

When asked if they had any advice for new clients, Sarah suggests that the HR/Payroll staff take all the training available to them. The more you know about what the system can do, the more you can reduce and eliminate manual administrative effort and let the system do it for you. Krystal recommends that you start small, plan and prepare for the implementation, and think ahead for growth – you’ll use the system more than you ever thought you would.

And, as Sarah and Krystal grow and expand the use of info:HR at the NBIH, we at HRSS will be with them to assist as needed every step of the way. They both have proven to be excellent users, so we look forward to hearing about their accomplishments.