How Humanised Shifted to Serving Payroll Service Companies and Got Their First 5 Chartered Accountancy Firms in 6 Months

Based out of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Humanised is a cloud-based payroll software company that kicked off in early-2020. Popularly known as Humanised Payroll, they’ve gained a reputation island-wide for their payroll-focused technology and services, a first in the local market offering value through simpler, faster, and error-free payroll capabilities.
Below, we take a look at one of our most interesting engagements to date, where we dove deep into Humanised’s previous system before exploring their market in full and understanding what to build and where best to position for better performance.

Swimming Against the Tide in a Red Ocean HR Market Solving an Overserved Need

Operating in a red ocean market can be a scary prospect, particularly for a tech start-up selling HR software in Sri Lanka, considering the country’s many well-established players. With loose focus, the company had decided to go the all-in-one small business HR solution route, going onto build the full product while having their assumptions about the problem, market, and the opportunity validated only minimally.

Their efforts at scaling were stopped midway as they experienced low interest from all types of small businesses. ‘Could it be that our feature set doesn’t match?’, their team wondered. ‘Have we built for the right market?’. Gaining market share had become a growing concern.

Payroll, one of Humanised’s main features, had received a bit more traction than other aspects like contracts and leave. Still, they struggled, swimming against the tide, building yet more features but unable to secure any significant customers to at least test. Could payroll be their saving grace? It was when Humanised was in this fix that we first engaged with them.
Ideation across segments: mapping out potential segments and issues

Problem & Segment Deep Dive to Build, Position and Market Accordingly

The Beta Launch modus operandi when it comes to solving tech problems and establishing product-market fit was resorted to. We assigned 3 full-time resources to perform discovery on the potential HR market, with a focus on payroll. Our early conversations with direct customers such as cafes and boutique clothing stores indicated quickly that their need was more roster-focused and they were happy with their basic paper and Excel-based payroll systems due to the relatively low staff numbers.

We took the payroll market and went in deep to understand the landscape in full while identifying all stakeholders. Here, we segmented the Chartered Accountancy market closely, segmenting it into the Big 4, second-tier global firms, established local CA firms, management consultancy firms, and so on. Next, it was about understanding their individual problems through continuous discovery efforts one-on-one to understand where best we could offer value, while prioritizing the features to build accordingly. As a precursor, the key decision-maker and user personas were considered so the outreach process would be smoother and we could resonate better.
Ideation across segments: mapping out potential segments and issues

Payroll Services Demand High Locally Reveals Online Research: Ample Room for Payroll Service Providers to Automate, Streamline and Grow Payroll Business

Our parallel online research across segments revealed the significance of the payroll services market and the huge opportunity therein. Here, both the global and local markets were considered, and a growing pattern of payroll outsourcing by small businesses was seen, together with increased adoption of digital payroll systems such as Humanised by payroll service providers globally.

With both the supply and demand sides of the market considered closely, the reasons for increased outsourcing by local SMEs were confirmed both online and offline. Changes to income tax regulations made it more difficult for small firms to handle payroll and related taxes in-house and many had begun outsourcing to specialist firms, thereby growing the payroll services market.

Insight Gained Through Research

Our offline and online research, primarily our discovery efforts directly with the various segments identified, allowed us to decide in coordination with Humanised that the payroll services market was a good fit for the product, its present functionality, and potential future trajectory.

It represented a niche amid what was otherwise a red ocean market. The payroll services niche was colourful and vibrant and presented much untapped opportunity that Humanised could capitalize on through deeper specialization and unwavering focus.

And the fundamental problems in the market were clear, our research revealed. Errors, related fines, time taken to process payroll each month, manual payslips and salary payments, inability to manage multiple payroll clients simply and grow payroll business were some of the major ones. With the problems understood, Humanised knew just what to build and for whom.
Ideation across segments: mapping out potential segments and issues

A Niche Product for the Payroll Services Market with a Specialized Feature Set

The problem of unsuccessfully attempting to scale and gain market share in a red ocean HR market was solved through our discovery efforts and the insight gained on the opportunity within the payroll services market. Conversations with the frontline users such as payroll officers and managers informed how we reshaped the Humanised product, right from the design and experience onto functionality and feature set. We brought the payroll service process front and center, and included automatic payslip generation capability, auto ETF and EPF payment text file generation, plus ability to switch between different payroll client accounts with a single login, among other payroll service-focused options.

With the personas previously understood, the messaging and tone adopted across everything from the web app, and mobile app, to their website, reflected strong resonance and understanding. Buy-in from Partners and Directors of firms was also achieved thus, and Humanised went on to gain their first 5 payroll service clients in just 6 months!

A Close Look at Humanised: From Design Systems onto the Final Product

Here, we take a look at different aspects of the product right from the design system that we formulated through to a look at a few screens from the actual Humanised product as well as the website. Stay tuned for further updates from us about our continuous work with Humanised as we solve the pressing problems of payroll services companies while helping them grow payroll business!