At its 2011 KronosWorks annual user conference, the workforce management application provider advanced its agenda with the introduction of new applications to further its global presence. From my visit, and from looking back at my analysis of its 2010conference, it seems the company’s focus is to simplify management of an hourly workforce.

At this week’s event, the most impact came from the introduction of the Kronos InTouch device. This is not a typical time clock; it provides employees with interactive, self-service access to worker-related information and applications. First, it provides access to messages, schedules, punches and other standard time-clock activities, but it also has the ability to make a telephone call to managers or service centers so workers can discuss any questions. The device has the usual badge reader but adds smart-card identification along with biometrics. The InTouch device can operate in harsh environments with extreme temperatures or in facilities that lack front- or back-room clock-in areas.

All of these capabilities come packaged in an Internet-accessible device that has a 7-inch VGA color touch screen with Ethernet capabilities and a supporting application platform, which means that you could code an application that, for example, would allow workers to order a pizza to be delivered to their home as they punch out. Kronos’s Workforce Central system lets customers and partners build, certify and deploy applications, which expands the potential for worker self-service in applications or training videos that review new policies and procedures. Kronos continues to support a range of hardware maintenance, repair and replacement options, along with software support for the device.

For organizations that are not ready for this big step forward, the company still provides its long-standing 4500 model, which has been available for more than a decade. That device interoperates with Workforce Central to track and manage worker activities on the Kronos InTouch.

Beta users of Kronos InTouch spoke about it at the conference, including Aramark, Briggs & Stratton and Nestle. I was impressed with the form factor and the features. It reminded me my high school and college jobs of clocking in while working at Safeway and agricultural processing plant in the 1980s. I could appreciate the advances over the last 30 years and was amused hear to some people question the importance of this device. They suggested an Apple iPad could do much of what Kronos InTouch does, but I doubt they have experience with the environments that these devices operate in today. This is a worker terminal, almost a mini-kiosk, that lets organizations expand what they provide to workers in any environment.

I also used and reviewed the second and latest major release of Workforce Mobile, which can be downloaded from application stores like Apple’s. You can experience it for yourself by clicking on a link. In what I call the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” approach, Kronos has opened up access to users who want to see what they can do with the software. Some providers believe either that their products require explanation or that they might provide competitors insight into their efforts; Kronos has moved beyond that and takes the approach that Apple does with its user experience, making the application available to anyone without the need for a manual or training. With this release both workers and managers can perform many activities without a time clock or computer but from a smartphone. The new support for managers is critical, and I expect to see more from Kronos over the next year in terms of providing manager-class applications on tablets. If you have not tried Workforce Mobile, you can do it from your own smartphone.

In addition, Kronos announced version 6.3 of its core WorkforceCentral. Since this application is the nerve center for managing workforces, it was a major focus at the conference. The company has made it easier to support global users from a single server and offers advances to help manage and support compliance with time-off policies for hourly and salary workers across countries with different regulations. The request and approval processes are now automated through workflow. Workforce Navigator enables management and managers to review workers, and supports simpler access for workers to get to their own information. Improvements in onboarding workers through to payroll will save organizations time and resources.

Kronos also enhanced its Workforce Talent Acquisition to help in the process of hiring hourly workers with new capabilities. I believe this is an area for still further advances in embracing the use of social media like that I found and reviewed in my analysis of Talent Technology or digital interviewing with HireVue. It also continues to advance the company’s delivery of cloud services to make its applications available anywhere the Internet can be accessed, without the need for internal IT infrastructure. The options for renting and not just licensing the software  provide more choices for customers.

Kronos continues to demonstrate global customer and financial growth in its fiscal 2011 reports; revenue increased to $800 million. I was impressed to see the company hadrecently announced its partnership with Saba, which provides learning management systems and can help Kronos advance into the new field of social learning.

The conference demonstrated Kronos’s prowess in applications and technology, and gave its representatives a chance for strategic dialogue with customers on how to continue to meet their needs worldwide. As you look at the next generation of workforce management, I recommend putting Kronos on your short list of vendors to evaluate  in managing not just hourly but also salaried workers.

Regards,

Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer