Our research agenda for 2012 in human capital management outlined the importance of workforce management for all organizations. One provider, WorkForce Software, provides systems that support scheduling, time and attendance, leave and absence and fatigue management. As I noted in my last analysis on WorkForce Software, the company’s focus on the fatigue aspect of workforce management, especially in white-collar environments such as transportation, utilities and healthcare, has provided them both recognition and growth. I attended the company’s first technology analyst summit this week to get a deeper view into the company and its products and see how it is shaping up in light of our research on the key applications providers in this market.
WorkForce Software continues to grow its customer and employee lists, with now hundreds of customers and rapidly growing cloud computing adoption through software as a service. The company continues to advance its core EmpCenter application, which provides a range of capabilities. Part of its unique approach is the configurability provided in its Advanced Scheduler, and its ability to monitor workers that might have multiple responsibilities that organizations need to account for cost or job tracking, which is critical for finance and activity-based costing where grants and budgets need to be closely tracked. This configurability is available without the need for custom programming; the policies and rules are defined by the business users who are held accountable for them. It’s easy to switch between activities and do costing for work at potentially different rates – a critical requirement for organizations such as universities and service businesses that use labor for a variety of needs. The application integrates pre-developed content from labor law and industry regulations to help ensure that scheduling complies with these policies. It’s predictive and policy software approach can assess any potential conflict that could happen with planned schedules is unique.
EmpCenter 9 was released this year with a major focus on supporting global and mobile deployments, and it provides a more open and integrated approach with other applications. On the global side of advancements, EmpCenter now supports 10 languages in addition to English. On the mobile technology side, the company has enhanced the mobile aspects of Workforce Management. It now uses HTML5 so that EmpCenter Mobile can operate across compliant browsers on Android and Apple devices. The company has indicated that HTML5 will replace native support of Android and Apple-based technologies. I am still a little skeptical on a complete move to HTML5, as it has not yet proven its stability across browsers, operating systems and Android devices. In addition, HTML5 cannot leverage local mobile hardware features for camera, video, field communication (NFC), gesturing and other technological advancements the way a native approach can.
The new release provides some critical productivity improvements. For instance, in what it calls one-touch callout, shifts can be announced to workers across multiple channels, such as email, text, phone and even social media, This helps address the preferences of workers; for instance, millennials often respond faster to texts than emails. Event-based scheduling can help plan one-time events or projects that need immediate attention for staffing, and can use one-touch callout to reduce the time it takes to get workers with specific skills. Across the board EmpCenter 9 has improved usability, from simplified steps in prompted wizards to more use of dragging and dropping in the application interface.
At the analyst summit, I got a deeper technology review of the software’s badge and biometric reader options. I got to see the new EmpCenter Engage Tablet, which uses an Android tablet for a range of time and attendance and other necessary worker interaction tasks, and which has a video camera that can be used for identification. This technology supports global deployments in regards to power and network connectivity, and supports attachments for other interaction needs. The Windows-based EmpCenter Touch Screen provides a simple kiosk-based approach that can be used in many environments. The company also can support time and attendance tasks at the desktop, allowing for easy checking in and out of projects. This variety of choices is part of the unique value in WorkForce’s approach compared to others, and it is an area that we focus on in our benchmark research on the needs of organizations in next-generation workforce management.
With regard to openness, WorkForce Software has expanded integration with ADP, IBM, Oracle, SAP and even Kronos to help make its software easier to integrate. I recently came across WorkForce Software at SAP Successfactors conference and saw how the two companies are working to integrate the talent management and new global payroll offerings. These technical partnerships help WordForce Software ensure the highest level of productivity and advancement for organizations who want to employ workforce management. As the company continues to advance its applications, it will need to address the concerns we have found in our data in the cloud benchmark and the broader needs we uncovered in our information management benchmark.
My review of version 9 provided some critical insight into its flexibility for meeting a range of needs across industries, especially those that need to track time and allocate costs. It has many nice capabilities for managers and employees for keeping track of information and alerting them to potential issues that could arise, such as when overtime could occur with a current schedule or when issues arise based on policies and compliance. It also can support a blended rate based on tasks and place of work. These are critical needs for varying industries, and point to the software’s flexibility for business users. Still, nothing is perfect – I believe EmpCenter could use technological advancements in its workforce analytics; specifically, usability and interactivity for a range of needs should have a higher priority than what I have seen. The company should also explore further ways in which it can help organizations engage employees, which will require some examination of social collaboration, and where it can integrate further with the onboarding of workers, to speed the process and find ways to limit the administration and paperwork required.
Workforce Software is doing a great job to advance the workforce management software market. Its challenges are less in its software and more in advancing the visibility of the breadth and depth of its offerings and gaining further adoption in white-collar industries, where businesses still manually handle many of their workforce’s scheduling, tracking and monitoring tasks. WorkForce’s fatigue management feature is a critical distinction for its software, and its approach can be used in many industries. Now, as it is fully engaged in the software-as-a-service approach, the company can gain new customers who don’t want to worry about technical implementation or resource issues at their sites.
If you are ready to reassess your current approach to workforce management and have not considered WorkForce Software, you should examine it more closely, as it has a good reputation and a solid offering in the market.
Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer