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Dave Foxall Workforce Management Software: 5 Pre-Selection Questions

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 By Dave Foxall

How to Find the Best Workforce Management System Software

Workforce Management Software systems (both enterprise and contingent labor solutions) are categorized in the Gartner 2011 Hype Cycle for Human Capital Management software as "sliding into the trough"; which is not so much a criticism of the market's offerings as meaning that the initial inflated expectations have been burst and the trend jumping is over. Now is the period in which the workforce management technology becomes more reliable, to be followed by reliability of individual products themselves. As such, given that workforce management systems in general have yet to level off to what Gartner deems the "plateau" stage, the onus is on the buyers of workforce management systems to ensure that their choice is right for their organizations. Of course, given the breadth of options within the workforce management application market, focused criteria and probing questions are needed to get that right answer and select the right vendor; a task that we hope to help with by providing the following salient questions.

Workforce Management Software Question #1: Add-on vs. best-of-breed?

Most organizations considering workforce management software will likely already have some form of enterprise-wide business software in place (such as ERP, CRM, etc.) and therefore will likely have the option of purchasing an accompanying add-on module from the same vendor to accommodate the workforce management application needs. The advantages with this option include an obviously shorter selection process, a pre-integrated workforce software solution and an established relationship with the vendor. However, some analysts offer a warning on this choice. For example, Nucleus Research's David O'Connell cautions that, "If your payroll environment is even moderately complex, then you should go best of breed." Factors such as multiple unions, or a cross-border workforce, or a variety of pay grades can require a specialist vendor, focused on shifting requirements and regulations. Best of breed business software solutions normally retain greater industry domain knowledge and can channel that expertise into deeper and more flexible application software. The choice often comes to more feature-rich and flexible application software from a best-of-breed vendor versus a quicker implementation and single vendor accountability from an enterprise suite vendor.

Workforce Management Software Question #2: Scope and scalability?

Initial requirements for software functionality will be driven by the business benefits that the organization expects to leverage from the workforce system. Simple scheduling, time and attendance, and leave management may be all that are needed to begin with, but the system should be sufficiently scalable to expand with an organization's requirements. Early consideration must be given to possible uses of competency tracking, scenario-based forecasts and simulations, and the possibilities that lie in integration with payroll, benefits and other systems. That being said, warns that, "Many vendors promote integration as one of the biggest considerations in a purchasing decision. While integration is important, it should not be placed above your overall business needs." Indeed, while certainly a critical point in regards to syncing with other business systems, it should be noted that workforce management software integration is only one part of the broader functionality equation.

Workforce Management Software Question #3: Mobile and social capabilities?

Building on the scalability point, large and scattered workforces make mobile functionality a natural fit for workforce management software solutions; a truth evidenced by the fact that software vendors are beginning to offer scheduling, deployment and job management via mobile devices. This capability of mobile workforce management can provide significant benefits by way of allowing for responses to changing conditions and priorities in real-time. Likewise, in the same vein as mobile functionality, the market is in the early stages of social media interaction; allowing employees to engage in shift bidding and swapping via social tools that interface with the workforce management system itself. While CedarCrestone's HR Systems Survey 2011-12 only found an adoption rate of just 2-3% so far, it's clear that workforce management software solutions are following e-recruitment and learning management software down the social road.

Workforce Management Software Question #4: Compliance?

DMG Consulting's 2011 workforce management market report acknowledges that European providers have different priorities from their U.S. counterparts and are therefore offering new ideas that may soon benefit U.S.-based organizations. Of course the same can be said for U.S. providers and non-North American customers; however, in the U.S. compliance with federal legislation such as COBRA, HIPAA, and FMLA is of paramount importance to employers and its automation is a major benefit of workforce management software. A cautious organization will require reassurance of the vendor's expertise in this arena, particularly in cases of global workforces with different compliance requirements in different geographical locations. As well, regional vendors should be closely vetted for their understanding of local requirements.

Workforce Management Pre-Selection Question #5: Deployment model?

According to CedarCrestone research, "licensed solutions still dominate for workforce management applications" but a growth in SaaS deployment has been well noted. DMG Consulting have also observed the increasing emergence in recent years of cloud-based workforce management software solutions, either as SaaS (software-as-a-service) or hosted deployments, and are predicting continued innovation and adoption with these deployment models. Says DMG, "Cloud-based WFM solutions enable companies to try WFM without a large initial investment or long-term commitment. End users considering this type of solution should look beyond the marketing message to ensure that the vendor understands the unique needs of hosting." As ever though, despite the attractive cost implications (including the fact that cloud deployment fees are classed as operating costs whereas on-premises deployments typically fall under capital expenditures) an on-going concern is security. As such, SaaS and hosted deployment models should be supported by ISO27001 standard security procedures and undergo annual SSAE 16 (formerly SAS 70) audits.

Workforce Management Selection – The Bottom Line

As workforce management software moves on from the hype stage to becoming an industry standard, innovation is in no way slowing down; and potential purchasers are faced with choices whose complexity matches that of their workforces. Imaginative thinking is required to leverage the benefits of social media and cloud deployments, while a more cautious approach is also necessary to ensure the basic foundations of workforce management are also provided. End

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Simple scheduling, time and attendance, and leave management may be all that are needed to begin with, but the system should be sufficiently scalable to expand with an organization's requirements.


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