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Kronos Workforce Central Review—An HCM Software Evaluation

3.5 stars Average rating: 3.5 (from 121 votes)

An Independent HR Software Review and Analysis

Easily one of the oldest solutions in the HR software market that is still viable, Kronos was founded in 1977—focusing heavily on time & attendance software and introducing the first microprocessor-based time-clock in 1979 (and the company's first PC-based time and attendance product in 1985). So it should come as no surprise that Kronos is a global behemoth in the HR software industry, with a presence in 60+ countries, over 3,000 employees, and boasts an impressive statistic that 30M people use at least one of Kronos' products every day. That being said, the company remains best known as a Time & Attendance provider with robust Workforce Management capabilities that are best suited for large enterprises.

Based out of Chelmsford, MA, Kronos has seen its share of organizational movement, with an intense growth strategy since its 1977 inception to a public corporation with the company's Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 1992 and finally to the company's eventual buy-out in 2007. Lead by founder, and MIT-alumnus, Mark S. Ain, Kronos holds the impressive distinction of sustaining one of the longest records of growth and profitability as a public company in software industry history—second only to Microsoft. During this period, the company focused heavily on acquiring industry-specific software solutions (over 60+ to date) and most notably includes Cost Systems Group and Unicru, companies whose focus were on analytics and talent management respectively—giving serious clues into the fact that the company had no desire to remain solely in the time-clock business. Indeed, says Kronos' Clay Ritchey, "We've really broadened our footprint and solutions beyond time and attendance". Ritchey further added that the future for the company is to focus on "[enabling] a just-in-time workforce perfectly aligned with demand for products or services".

Kronos Evolution from Public to Private

Kronos moved back into the form of a privately held company after being acquired by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman in March 2007 for just shy of $1.8B. While private, the company remains relatively open about their successes in the market—disclosing revenues for the 2011 fiscal year of $800M (though Gartner estimates put that figure much lower). This profitable evolution for Kronos has resulted in a portfolio of applications ranging from scheduling to analytics and from core HR to in-depth talent management functionality. Regardless of revenues or strategic direction however, Kronos remains primarily known within the HR industry as a provider of hardware and software solutions for enterprises with large concentrations of hourly employees—a population that consistently leverages solutions which are particularly strong in workforce management.

Given these issues, it's understandable that Kronos is not yet seen as an obvious choice for integrated core HR solutions. Yet, as Aberdeen's Jayson Saba says, "With its complete automation and integration with other workforce management functions, the capabilities afforded by solutions such as Kronos' HR and payroll solutions enable managers to make informed operational decisions that improve the bottom line." Indeed, customers from all over the Human Capital Management (HCM) landscape are increasingly anxious to nail down the "system of record" and move onto more strategic HR software offerings—a fact that plays well to Kronos' strengths as an offering and as a company.

Also playing to Kronos' strengths are the numerous partnerships the company leverages through software and technology platforms for both performance and innovation. Some of the more noteworthy technology partners that help drive Kronos' solutions are: Cisco (for time capture and mobile functionality); Fiserv (for financial services performance management); M2SYS (for biometrics); Passport (for mobile workforce management); VMware (for infrastructure virtualization); and Vortex (for mobile communications). In addition, Kronos also partners with software solution providers in order to leverage applications to meet the compatibility and functionality requirements of customers. Current partnerships include: Cerner (for resource planning/allocation); Circadian (for optimal shift scheduling); M.M. Hayes (for employee ID badge technologies); Microsoft; and Saba (for learning management and social networking software).

Kronos latest version (6.3) of its core Workforce Central software offering adds further value by focusing on single server support for global users, leveraging additional compliance features for multiple countries, and automating workflows that were previously manual. However, the company has also spent a great deal of time at the drawing board improving the User Interface (UI) and enhancing authentication functionalities, both in efforts to add value to the user experience while simplifying processes and taking into consideration customers' requests. For many analysts, these upgrades show promise for the future of the Kronos offering and highlight the strides the company takes to improve their HR software products. Indeed, according to IDC's Lisa Rowan, "Increasingly, organizations are looking for simpler vendor management and lowered complexity in technology. The Kronos HR and payroll solution is easy to use and [helps] guide users to appropriate resolutions." While these aspects may be true about the newest updates to the Kronos offering, the question is whether those facets (combined with the details covered in this review), will allow the Workforce Central software offering to rise to the level of being included in the short list for your next HR software selection project.

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