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Workforce management software vendor Kronos released its financial results at its 15th annual KronosWorks conference (#KronosWorks12) this week. As a private company Kronos had $870 million in revenue for its 2012 fiscal year ending in September, making Kronos one of the largest software and technology companies in the world. Our benchmark research into next-generation workforce management finds the most important technology priorities are collaboration (70%), analytics (68%) and mobility (43%). Kronos addresses these trends with its portfolio of workforce management applications.

Building on its introduction of Kronos InTouch at last year’s conference, Kronos meets a new generation of managers’ needs for overseeing and analyzing the contribution of workers. Its new Workforce Tablet application provides analytics, geosensing, scheduling, staffing and time card approvals via a native iPad application available from the Apple App Store. I tried the demonstration and found the application easy to use. It’s designed for a range of competencies and skills across industries. Our research finds 28% of organizations use tablets today, and another third (34%) plan to use them in the next year. Since the iPad is the preferred device in almost two-thirds (63%) of organizations, Kronos has made a smart bet on Apple. Android devices are a logical next step and beginning to show up in business; currently Microsoft has little to no mindshare and it just introduced its Microsoft Slate that it hopes will gain adoption in organizations.

This has been a big year for Kronos. The latest release of Kronos Workforce Analytics, as I assessed, was a significant point of expansion. This week’s released of workforce analytics that operate on a tablet should help managers get better insight into labor and high-level worker performance metrics. Kronos’ labor analytics capabilities, accessible now via tablets, can help with overage and compliance metrics. Our latest research found that almost two-thirds (61%) of organizations plan to improve workforce analytics; most currently use spreadsheets. Kronos provides prebuilt content for specific industries but can also provide its analytics technology for any organization that wants more sophisticated analytics.

Kronos’ InTouch device can be used as a time clock and for a range of worker interactions, from notifications and access to service and applications. I would expect to see even more options from Kronos to support capabilities like WiFi and playing learning vignettes through video streaming which are natural expansions for its technology. Kronos has new partner applications for InTouch, such as Wayfinder, to help guide employees to work locations; EnrollMe, to help with benefit enrollment; and Employee Survey, to provide employee surveys at point of check-in. These applications help demonstrate the viability and extensibility of the InTouch platform. I hope that Kronos can demonstrate its own expansion of applications and services that could extend to what workers might need after punching out from ordering food for home delivery or pickup to providing reminders on life events or what might be coming up at work on the following day.

Kronos also has released Kronos Workforce Task Management to give managers and workers in the retail and hospitality industries better management of tasks that need to be completed. Our research finds that Kronos is addressing organizations’ top three workforce management priorities: aligning workforce to business goals and objectives (29%), increasing productivity (14%) and improving the efficiency of workforce processes (11%). Kronos software helps guide workers and goes beyond just depending on communications to ensure tasks get completed. I hope to see Kronos take the next step and integrate recognition and rewards to provide further acknowledgement for those who complete tasks satisfactorily and use social collaboration techniques to engage managers and workers.

Kronos makes its applications accessible through software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing efforts, which our benchmark research finds is a priority in 19 percent of organizations, versus a preference for on-premises in 42 percent. Kronos announced it now has more than 6,000 customers in the cloud, where it provides a new core HR and payroll offering called Workforce Ready. Its expansion into cloud computing and even providing a hosted service that sometimes is called a private cloud are smart moves to ensure it provides its customers the choices it wants in using its technology. Kronos had no lack of customers at the conference vocalizing support for its cloud computing efforts.

Kronos’ largest challenge is less about technology than about educating existing and potential new customers on the productivity and performance improvements they can gain. Our search found the demand for productivity improvement was the number one motivation for new investments in workforce management (63%). Kronos will have to provide more examples and measurements of time to perform tasks, as competitive technology providers are quickly moving to communicate what they do to address a new generation of worker applications. Vendors are not sitting still: Oracle offered some recent demonstrations of its future directions with its Fusion applications, SAP is partnering with Workforce Software, Workday announcing they are supporting workforce management, Ceridian has expanded with Dayforce HCM and SumTotal is reenergizing its efforts; meanwhile, Red Prairie could be distracted given its recent merger announcement with JDA. Kronos will also need to examine methods to expand collaboration methods so workers and managers can interact more through a range of channels, from forums to new broadcast and activity streaming, which our research has found to be growing in importance. Kronos is also making it easier for customers to use its latest mobile and analytics advancements on older versions of its Workforce Central platform and not requiring an upgrade.

Kronos has made significant technology advancements to help make workforce management simpler. It has addressed usability, which our research found to be most important consideration in 81 percent of organizations. Kronos is focused on increasing productivity; now it just needs to promote its advancements better to ensure it can take credit for the inclusion of innovative technology in its applications. The move to embrace mobile technology like tablets and supporting tasks and direct support of daily tasks are critical steps to be a leader in the workforce management technology market. If you have not seen what Kronos is doing, just download and run the demo yourself to see what they are doing to advance applications and usability for their customers.

Regards,

Mark Smith

During its annual industry analyst summit this week, human capital management software vendor SumTotal Systems introduced new heads of finance, marketing and sales, and talked about expanding operations in Europe and Asia-Pacific – all part of a business growth strategy that I am sure the company’s private equity owner is expecting. While I wrote about the company earlier this year, SumTotal now says it has signed up 85 new customers so far in 2012 for its human capital management suite, and its 3,500 customers include brand names such as McAfee, American Express, US Airways and EastWest Bank. Customers United Airlines, POET and McCain Foods made presentations at the summit that illustrated why SumTotal is a relevant and strategic HCM provider.

SumTotal Systems this month announced a new release coming in Q4 that introduces workforce planning, builds on its workforce analytics and provides flexibility in the integration of its entire HCM application suite with its newly expanded portal for employee and manager self-service. The new software provides better unification of employee data within SumTotal through master data management (MDM). The company is expanding its social recruitment capabilities through a partnership with Bullhornour benchmark in social recruiting found social recruiting is essential to getting access to new talent pools and gaining a competitive advantage in hiring practices. SumTotal will need to elevate the visibility of its recruiting application, as many potential customers do not know it has a solution that addresses the social media channels and job boards.

SumTotal Sytems says it aims to provide a best-in-class strategic HCM suite and is focused on value creation for its customers. It plans to advance its pace of innovation in mobile and social technologies. The company wanted to communicate the strategic importance of its mobile technology advancements, as it has begun to release applications from learning to workforce management on smartphones. SumTotal has ensured it is ready to expand on mobile technologies by using an architectural approach that supports HTML5 to ensure support across a variety of platforms, including Apple and Android. Even so, the company must provide free access to its mobile advancements so customers can try them without requiring approval from SumTotal. Our benchmark research in next generation workforce management found rapid growth for tablet usage, from the current deployment at 28 percent to 34 percent in the coming 12 to 18 months.

On the social collaboration front SumTotal builds on top of Microsoft SharePoint, extending it to support a range of SumTotal applications and services and letting customers integrate all of that with their environments. Our research found that collaboration is the top technology trend in 70 percent of organizations which has accelerated requests to vendors like SumTotal to advance these capabilities. One of its customers at the analyst summit, McCain, talked about publishing between SumTotal and a SAP portal and collaboration environments in a unified manner. I hope to see more examples of this type of integration in the future.

SumTotal said at the summit it is committed to providing the best workforce analytics capabilities. It now provides workforce planning in its HCM environment, providing a unified approach that encompasses everything from analytics to planning capabilities. It can deal with headcount, salary planning, determining the impact of compensation and merit planning. This is a significant advantage over other HCM providers that have only the ability to perform historical analysis. The appetite for workforce analytics is growing; our latest benchmark research shows 61 percent of organizations are looking to improve their analytics in the next year.

To ensure that organizations can get access to all of the critical workforce data, SumTotal has taken an open approach to the underlying data models. Customers can use its MDM and integration capabilities to get data from other cloud computing environments or on-premises applications or from ERP systems and other HR, talent management and workforce management environments. Our benchmark into information management found that 37 percent of organizations say integrating employee information and MDM is critical. The SumTotal HCM Hub Architecture has a SOA and enterprise service bus that can be used to interface to other environments. SumTotal is going to great lengths to have a properly designed architecture that will help it advance its innovation, be flexible for customers’ integration needs and release new applications in a timely manner.

Overall SumTotal Systems’ application suite does more than just meet the needs for core HR functions and talent and workforce management. It also advances into the mobile, social collaboration and social media technologies that have become critical components of every organization’s practices to hire, engage and retain members of the workforce. If you have not considered how you can move to a unified approach to your human capital needs, SumTotal is one of the few providers with a portfolio of applications that can meet your needs today and in the future.

Regards,

Mark Smith

CEO & Chief Research Officer

Mark Smith – Twitter

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