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Historically workforce management has been centered on tracking time and attendance, absences and leaves. Organizations view the time and attendance system as the top priority to integrate with the payroll system; in our payroll management benchmark research half (51%) of organizations called it very important. However, only one in five have integrated the two to streamline processes. So limited an administrative and operational focus does not contribute to improving worker productivity or manager efficiency. Moreover, such an approach can foster employee turnover and undermine worker satisfaction and loyalty. Our research analysis underscores that paying insufficient attention to the worker experience can degrade employees’ sense of accomplishment and in some situations also degrade the customer experience.
Of course, managing the costs and efficiency of schedule-, time- and pay-related tasks, including compliance, remains important. However, these tasks, as well as those above, can be more easily accomplished with advanced workforce management software. Used to full capability, it can manage this operational environment and help managers drive not just productivity but also the success of the organization while also engaging the workforce.
Out of necessity, workforce management software is evolving as an integral part of systems for business units and for human resources. Importantly, advanced workforce management systems typically include analytics that help management understand workforce performance; in our previous workforce management research 61 percent of organizations said that analytics is important to workforce management. For example, analytics applied to optimization of schedules can help organizations manage workers to their expectations. Analytics also is critical to optimize workforce performance and to enable members of the workforce to understand their contributions to the success of the organization. Furthermore, analytics can guide executives and managers to improve decision-making and rectify issues that could be leading to increased costs and be out of compliance with regulations. Many organizations, however, are not prepared to undertake these efforts; they still use an array of spreadsheets or tools that are not synchronized with real-time data from workforce management systems.
As organizations evolve, their needs for more efficient and engaging workforce management is transforming workforce management. We have begun to explore this category further in new benchmark research on Workforce Management for Human Capital Management. This new research will gather and analyze data on enterprises’ current workforce management practices, the software they use and their plans for the future. Here are some of the aspects we will explore.
The availability of next-generation workforce management systems (which include analytics) through cloud computing facilitates adoption of and access to these applications and the information they use. In our previous research one-fifth (19%) of participants expressed a preference to use cloud computing for workforce management, and we expect this percentage to grow as the attraction of deploying software as a service in the cloud influences buying decisions. For most organizations there is value in having the vendor manage the implementation and maintenance of the systems, and the ability to stay current in newer releases also is significant. Organizations are most concerned with time to value in new implementations and efficiency of their teams in using it. Depending on their needs and budgets, they can choose to deploy it in a single customer private cloud or a multitenant public cloud.
Likewise the proliferation of mobile applications for workers and managers in today’s workplace dovetails with the interests and proclivities of the increasingly younger workforce. Almost half (45%) of organizations in our previous research indicated that they will deploy such new applications to improve productivity. We expect the readiness of organizations to use mobile devices including wearables will further increase demand for advanced workforce management. The use of smartphones to access information about employees, payments and benefits and corporate policies makes it easier for workers to review and request changes to schedules; it is a key way to provide the flexibility demanded by workers who want to balance their personal and business lives. Organizations that do not embrace mobile devices for their workers and managers risk decreases in productivity and workforce engagement that could lead to increased employee churn.
Younger workers also are comfortable collaborating using social technology such as messaging, forums and open threaded dialogue on topics. Employers need to learn to interact with them accordingly to retain talent; at the same time, these methods provide an opportunity to further optimize workforce management by engaging workers in new ways. These innovations include assigning goals and rewarding achievement along with using new communication channels to resolve issues quickly, easily and interactively – more than half of organizations in our research identified these capabilities as important. As social forms of collaboration become part of the communication fabric, organizations can gain valuable feedback from workers and also provide coaching to increase their effectiveness. Efforts to improve the skills and competence of workers also can benefit from learning management and other systems that are accessible on mobile devices.
Driven by the evolving nature of talent and challenges to retain it, advanced workforce management now has capabilities to address spectrum broad range of human capital management needs. Using it senior management can gain greater insight into the workforce in action while improving the work experience and complying with relevant policies and regulations. Most organizations will find that investment in workforce management can be justified by its ability to ensure compliance with regulations regarding the Affordable Care Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and a growing variety of locally established worker rights mandates.
Employers are recognizing the value of a new generation of workforce management systems in enabling organizations to meet requirements beyond managing schedules, absences and time off. For example, one-third (34%) of those participating in our payroll management research said they plan to deploy new workforce management software by the end of 2016. Almost half (47%) said they are not satisfied with their current product’s functionality. Workforce managementas it is evolving addresses concerns common to all industries and will play a key role in tomorrow’s human capital management. Finance and operations management should examine the benefits it will deliver by bringing more efficiency into their processes, in particular ensuring a more engaged and longer-tenured workforce that contributes to financial profitability.
Implementing this new generation of workforce management will require an in-depth understanding of the options available and the people, processes, information and technology issues that must be addressed. Our new Workforce Management for Human Capital Management benchmark research will examine advances in the three years since our previous research was published. I believe that workforce management has a stronger role to play in efforts to achieve operational excellence and customer satisfaction and that the benefits organizations can realize from using these applications can be significant. Please look for upcoming announcements of how you can participate in and learn from this cutting-edge research.
CEO & Chief Research Officer
Ventana Research defines product information management (PIM) as the practice of using information, applications and other technology to effectively support product-related processes across the customer, commerce and supply chain. As organizations increase the number and diversity of products and services they offer to customers and partners, they increasingly need to address limitations in the ways they manage and distribute product information, including related attributes and content that describes the products. At the same time, competitive pressures require them to be able to incorporate large amounts of new content – video and images, for example – quickly while ensuring that the information presented to customers is accurate, operational processes run uninterrupted and timely data is available for business analysis. In an environment in which consumers, suppliers and partners use multiple channels to get to product information – including websites, kiosks, smartphones and tablets – it is essential that the organization always be able to present complete and up-to-date product information to inspire interest and facilitate purchases.
Product information management and the applications and technology that enable it are designed to help businesses provide the best possible product information to their departments and partners. To accomplish this, PIM software must support multiple business roles, from product managers and marketers to operations and manufacturing teams and to suppliers and those in the supply chain. Manufacturers, for example, need to share product information with distributors and with direct retailers or digital commerce providers on the Internet. For finance and operations departments, effective use of product information increases the efficiency of business processes and reduces the risk of using improper information that could reduce profitability and degrade the customer experience.
Effectively managed information about products is also essential to support a range of decision-making about products and services. Analytics applied to product information can yield a variety of metrics; they can indicate where product information is missing, where it needs to be improved, patterns of product usage and the meaning of feedback about them. In the preparation of product information, analytics can help profile and improve the quality of data and associated attributes to reveal where action must be taken.
Product information management is not the same as master data management (MDM), although the two sometimes are confused. This misunderstanding can distract businesses from focusing on what they need in a PIM application. MDM technology can ensure a single definition of data across the enterprise and improve the quality and integration of data across information systems. Many PIM systems have built-in MDM and now data integration and data quality processes to ensure there is only one defined master record for any given product.
It is important to realize that product information encompasses more than just the defined name and attributes of a product in a database; it includes all related information needed for reference or compliance purposes. Organizations should take care to understand the differences between PIM and MDM as well as how they can complement each other to inform decisions. PIM is essential to enable business units to manage their product-related processes themselves just as IT staff need MDM and integration tools to enable them to manage data throughout the enterprise.
ERP and supply chain applications including product life-cycle management (PLM) have fallen short in meeting the requirements for PIM, leaving many organizations with a lack of consistency in mastering and publishing product information both inside the enterprise and across the supply and demand chain. Commerce software also has lacked depth in providing PIM, a core ingredient for transacting business in products and services. Many commerce providers talk about the importance of focusing on the customer experience, for which effective PIM is a necessity. Web content management software also has a role, but its design is focused on dynamically generating content from a database and personalizing it for business. The lack of maturity in these software categories creates a role for PIM software that can interoperate across business processes and applications.
The goal of PIM is to establish a reliable single source of product information that can be shared across channels. Getting it right is not easy; our benchmark research shows that more than one-quarter of organizations have more than 10 sources of product information that they must integrate and manage efficiently. Half of participants in our research acknowledged that standardizing product information requires substantial effort, and only 27 percent said they completely trust their product information.
In their efforts to produce a reliable product record, most organizations use laborious, time-consuming methods: 37 percent develop custom code, and 45 percent rely on manual effort. One-third of all participants still depend heavily on spreadsheets to create their product records, and almost half (46%) depend on them somewhat. And nearly all (94%) spreadsheet users find major or minor errors in their records.
Processes and tools are available that can automate much of this work. If properly deployed, PIM systems can synchronize all attributes and definitions used in the identification, description, sales and fulfillment of products across all channels that customers, suppliers, trading partners and employees use. Some businesses are implementing PIM that has master data management embedded within it while others connect PIM to their IT organization’s MDM, which can help improve the consistency and quality of data across the enterprise. PIM and MDM projects typically incorporate tools for data discovery, profiling and quality verification to deepen understanding of the data, including relationships and associations among items. This knowledge can be essential for integrating content and data from multiple sources and defining master data.
MDM software by itself and without a PIM context is just for the data infrastructure; this in recent years has slowed its adoption as what is commonly called big data complicates data transformation and creates challenges in adapting to business applications. MDM vendors that continue to insist that their products address PIM often find the decline of interest challenging their market relevance. In contrast, independent vendors focused on PIM have enjoyed a growing market presence in recent years. But just focusing on PIM has its own challenges as organizations look for simpler and more interconnected systems that utilize cloud computing and software as a service; many of these vendors have not moved rapidly enough to support these changes.
The benefits of using dedicated PIM technology can be significant. More than 40 percent of organizations said it can help eliminate data errors, improve cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and improve the customer experience through consistent product information. Yet our research indicates that most organizations have not adopted more capable systems: Only 27 percent use commercial software dedicated to PIM, although more than half (57%) said they will change their PIM system within 12 to 18 months. The latter finding in particular underscores the importance of having a reliable guide such as our 2015 Value Index for PIM which can help companies assess and evaluate vendors and products in this software category. I summarize our analysis in another analyst perspective to illuminate further how it can assist your efforts.
CEO & Chief Research Officer