Rippling’s Strategic Pivot: Making Payroll Optional for Enhanced Flexibility

Rippling's strategic shift to make its Payroll module optional allows for greater market flexibility, appealing to larger businesses with complex payroll needs while still supporting smaller companies. This move broadens Rippling's appeal by enhancing customization options in the HR tech landscape.

Brett Ungashick
OutSail HRIS Advisor
April 22, 2024
User deciding between different features

Rippling, the comprehensive HRIS platform known for its integrated approach to managing employee data, has made a significant strategic adjustment by announcing that its Payroll module will become optional. This decision marks a pivotal departure from their previous policy, which required all Rippling customers to utilize the Payroll function as a core feature of the system. The move is particularly notable in the HR tech ecosystem, where payroll is often seen as a crucial component but one that has elicited caution from businesses when considering startup providers, due to the complex and sensitive nature of payroll processing.

In the past, Rippling's payroll service was optimized for small to mid-sized businesses, providing an adequate solution for companies with less intricate payroll requirements. However, this focus presented a growth barrier, as the system's full potential was not being realized by larger companies in need of more sophisticated capabilities. Moreover, Rippling's support approach, largely based on chat assistance, presented challenges for customers when dealing with the nuanced and often urgent issues related to payroll and tax.

With payroll now an optional module within Rippling's offering, the company can now cater to a broader market, including larger and more complex businesses that may already have established payroll systems or prefer to handle payroll separately. This flexibility allows these organizations to still benefit from Rippling's HRIS capabilities without overhauling their entire payroll infrastructure. This move could accelerate Rippling's expansion into new market segments.

Rippling's Payroll Journey

Rippling's strategic approach to payroll has been a significant touchstone in the HR tech evolution, shaping their platform's adaptability and business flexibility.

Initial Strategy

Rippling's initial strategy centered on positioning payroll as an indispensable component of their HRIS Platform, emphasizing the significance of integrated data flow. They believed that a robust payroll system was fundamental for comprehensive human resources management.

Customer Feedback and Market Limitations

However, Rippling encountered mixed reactions from their customer base. While smaller companies with less complex payroll requirements found the platform manageable, the chat-only support presented challenges, especially when dealing with payroll and tax issues. This limitation was a deterrent for larger businesses with more sophisticated needs, constraining Rippling's market reach.

The Decision to Make Payroll Optional

In a bold move, Rippling has transitioned their Payroll module from being a core requirement to an optional feature, aiming to adapt to diverse business needs.

Announcement Details

Rippling announced their decision to shift the Payroll module to an optional offering within their platform. This change was primarily motivated by the recognition that payroll processing, while critical, may not be the service every business wants from a start-up due to the complexities and risk involved. Rippling's acknowledgment of chat-only support limitations for tax and payroll issues is a transparent nod to improving customer experience, especially for those requiring more hands-on support.

Strategic Implications

The strategic pivot to make payroll optional reflects Rippling's commitment to expanding its market reach. By uncoupling payroll from their essential services, Rippling positions itself to serve larger and more complex businesses. These organizations may prefer more established payroll systems but can now integrate Rippling's robust HRIS solutions to optimize their broader HR functions. This decision underscores Rippling’s understanding of market diversity, catering to the bespoke needs of scaling operations.

banner ad for outsail app

Implications for Rippling’s Customer Base

With Rippling's recent shift to make its payroll module optional, the change ushers in a new era of flexibility for customers, alleviating concerns for smaller businesses and potentially attracting a wider range of larger organizations.

Benefits for Small and Medium Businesses

For small and medium businesses, the move to an optional payroll module is a significant advantage. Many smaller companies hesitate to trust startups for critical payroll processing due to potential complexities and the need for reliable support. By offering business flexibility, Rippling enables these businesses to integrate their robust HRIS platform without being bound to use a payroll solution that may not fit their needs.

Attracting Larger Businesses

On the other hand, making payroll optional opens doors for Rippling to engage with larger businesses. These companies often have complex payroll requirements that are better handled by specialized providers. Rippling’s capacity to seamlessly integrate with other tools means that businesses can now enjoy a high-powered HRIS platform while maintaining their preferred payroll systems, enhancing overall satisfaction and operational harmony.

Visit OutSail's HRIS Marketplace to compare Rippling with other vendors that do not require a payroll change

Challenges and Considerations

Key challenges are poised to emerge as Rippling makes the ambitious pivot of rendering its payroll module optional. This strategic move targets accommodating a broader scope of businesses but encounters specific considerations regarding the smooth integration of systems and adjustments in customer support infrastructure.

Integration Concerns

Businesses that choose to separate their HRIS from their payroll systems will need to address the critical issue of data synchronization. It's crucial for them to ensure that employee information is consistently updated across platforms, an area where Rippling has previously emphasized cohesion. Moreover, system compatibility becomes a priority, with organizations needing to verify that both HRIS and payroll solutions can communicate effectively without data silos or inaccuracies.

Customer Support Adjustments

Given that Rippling has offered chat-only support to a significant portion of its clientele, amending this approach in light of the decoupled payroll service is substantial. For those navigating the complex landscape of tax and payroll issues without Rippling's direct payroll assistance, more comprehensive support channels may become necessary. This presents an opportunity for Rippling to re-evaluate and potentially enhance its support model to ensure it can still efficiently address complex queries and maintain high customer satisfaction levels.

The Broader HR Tech Landscape

Rippling's recent shift to make payroll an optional module represents a significant strategy change influenced by the evolving demands of the HR technology sector. The following subsections will explore current market trends and analyze how Rippling's differentiation could affect its competitive landscape.

Market Trends

The trajectory of the HR tech ecosystem is largely characterized by an inclination towards modular, customizable platforms. Businesses seek solutions that grant greater control over their HR operations, opting for systems that can adapt to complex and varying requirements. The evolution within HR tech also underscores an emphasis on business flexibility. By transitioning away from mandated features, providers like Rippling are able to cater to a wider range of company sizes and complexity levels—extending their market reach.

Competition and Differentiation

Facing a diverse array of competitors, Rippling's decision to decouple their payroll service poses as a strategic maneuver to differentiate their offerings. This pivot may enable them to better compete by accommodating enterprises that prefer standalone HR systems without integrated payroll. Though historically payroll has been integral to Rippling's system, this new level of adaptability could be particularly appealing to larger entities needing specialized or disparate solutions without sacrificing the efficiency of data synchronization across their HR platforms.

Op-Ed: Rippling’s Path Forward

Rippling's recent move to shift payroll from a compulsory to an optional module signals a significant strategic shift, allowing it to target a broader market spectrum, including larger firms with complex payroll needs.

OutSail’s Perspective

Critically, OutSail recognizes this pivot as a bold maneuver with the potential to disrupt the human resource information system (HRIS) domain. On one hand, Rippling has opened doors to scalability and diversification by detaching it from a singular payroll dependency, which could attract a wider array of businesses. However, concerns arise around customer support and the robustness required to handle complex payroll processes, given Rippling's previously noted limitations in support for more intricate payroll needs. OutSail views this as a double-edged sword where improved market reach must be balanced with enhanced customer support to succeed.

Recommendations for Businesses

For businesses considering Rippling's HRIS platform, it’s now essential to assess internal payroll complexity and support expectations. Organizations should weigh the integration capabilities of Rippling’s HRIS with standalone payroll systems. While the newfound flexibility to choose separate payroll providers may cater to complex operations, the decision also calls for a thorough evaluation of how data integrates across disparate systems, particularly when tax and payroll issues are at stake. Due diligence on integration and support becomes paramount in this new, flexible environment Rippling offers.


Rippling's strategic decision to make the Payroll module optional represents a significant pivot in the company's approach to the HR technology market. The move acknowledges the varied needs of organizations, particularly those with complex payroll processes. Rippling’s platform has been versatile for smaller companies, yet the compulsory nature of its payroll services posed limitations for larger entities.

By de-coupling payroll, Rippling can extend its reach among larger, more diverse businesses seeking flexibility in their HR systems. These organizations may have established payroll processes they wish to retain or may require more support than chat-only options can provide during critical payroll and tax issues. Rippling's updated offering can now fit into a wider array of corporate structures, allowing companies to integrate Rippling's HRIS platform without disrupting existing payroll systems.

This shift could be viewed as a response to a dynamic HR tech evolution, where a tailored approach to client services is increasingly paramount. Companies considering HR technology partners can now assess Rippling's solutions with a new perspective, potentially finding a better fit for their unique needs.

For businesses navigating the HR tech landscape, this pivot may align well with a preference for modular systems over all-in-one packages. Rippling’s recalibration suggests a confident stride towards a more client-centric market position, reflecting an understanding of the intricate requirements that modern businesses face.

2024 HRIS 
Landscape Report
Read OutSail's 2024 HRIS Report with write-ups on 30+ leading vendors
Thank you! You can download your report at this link
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Unsure about your software needs?
Use our HRIS Requirements Builder to quickly identify your must-have & nice-to-haves
Brett Ungashick
OutSail HRIS Advisor
Accelerate your HRIS selection process with free support
Thank you! Our team will reach out to you shortly
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Meet the Author

Brett Ungashick
OutSail HRIS Advisor
Brett Ungashick, the friendly face behind OutSail, started his career at LinkedIn, selling HR software. This experience sparked an idea, leading him to create OutSail in 2018. Based in Denver, OutSail simplifies the HR software selection process, and Brett's hands-on approach has already helped over 1,000 companies, including SalesLoft, Hudl and DoorDash. He's a go-to guy for all things HR Tech, supporting companies in every industry and across 20+ countries. When he's not demystifying HR tech, you'll find Brett enjoying a round of golf or skiing down Colorado's slopes, always happy to chat about work or play.

Subscribe to the HR Tech Download

Don't miss out on the latest HR Tech trends. Subscribe now to stay updated
By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy.
Thank you! You are now subscribed to the HR Tech Download!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.