Kronos Puts Workers and Managers in Touch

At its 2011 KronosWorks annual user conference, the workforce management application provider advanced its agenda with the introduction of new applications to further its global presence. From my visit, and from looking back at my analysis of its 2010conference, it seems the company’s focus is to simplify management of an hourly workforce.

At this week’s event, the most impact came from the introduction of the Kronos InTouch device. This is not a typical time clock; it provides employees with interactive, self-service access to worker-related information and applications. First, it provides access to messages, schedules, punches and other standard time-clock activities, but it also has the ability to make a telephone call to managers or service centers so workers can discuss any questions. The device has the usual badge reader but adds smart-card identification along with biometrics. The InTouch device can operate in harsh environments with extreme temperatures or in facilities that lack front- or back-room clock-in areas.

All of these capabilities come packaged in an Internet-accessible device that has a 7-inch VGA color touch screen with Ethernet capabilities and a supporting application platform, which means that you could code an application that, for example, would allow workers to order a pizza to be delivered to their home as they punch out. Kronos’s Workforce Central system lets customers and partners build, certify and deploy applications, which expands the potential for worker self-service in applications or training videos that review new policies and procedures. Kronos continues to support a range of hardware maintenance, repair and replacement options, along with software support for the device.

For organizations that are not ready for this big step forward, the company still provides its long-standing 4500 model, which has been available for more than a decade. That device interoperates with Workforce Central to track and manage worker activities on the Kronos InTouch.

Beta users of Kronos InTouch spoke about it at the conference, including Aramark, Briggs & Stratton and Nestle. I was impressed with the form factor and the features. It reminded me my high school and college jobs of clocking in while working at Safeway and agricultural processing plant in the 1980s. I could appreciate the advances over the last 30 years and was amused hear to some people question the importance of this device. They suggested an Apple iPad could do much of what Kronos InTouch does, but I doubt they have experience with the environments that these devices operate in today. This is a worker terminal, almost a mini-kiosk, that lets organizations expand what they provide to workers in any environment.

I also used and reviewed the second and latest major release of Workforce Mobile, which can be downloaded from application stores like Apple’s. You can experience it for yourself by clicking on a link. In what I call the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” approach, Kronos has opened up access to users who want to see what they can do with the software. Some providers believe either that their products require explanation or that they might provide competitors insight into their efforts; Kronos has moved beyond that and takes the approach that Apple does with its user experience, making the application available to anyone without the need for a manual or training. With this release both workers and managers can perform many activities without a time clock or computer but from a smartphone. The new support for managers is critical, and I expect to see more from Kronos over the next year in terms of providing manager-class applications on tablets. If you have not tried Workforce Mobile, you can do it from your own smartphone.

In addition, Kronos announced version 6.3 of its core WorkforceCentral. Since this application is the nerve center for managing workforces, it was a major focus at the conference. The company has made it easier to support global users from a single server and offers advances to help manage and support compliance with time-off policies for hourly and salary workers across countries with different regulations. The request and approval processes are now automated through workflow. Workforce Navigator enables management and managers to review workers, and supports simpler access for workers to get to their own information. Improvements in onboarding workers through to payroll will save organizations time and resources.

Kronos also enhanced its Workforce Talent Acquisition to help in the process of hiring hourly workers with new capabilities. I believe this is an area for still further advances in embracing the use of social media like that I found and reviewed in my analysis of Talent Technology or digital interviewing with HireVue. It also continues to advance the company’s delivery of cloud services to make its applications available anywhere the Internet can be accessed, without the need for internal IT infrastructure. The options for renting and not just licensing the software  provide more choices for customers.

Kronos continues to demonstrate global customer and financial growth in its fiscal 2011 reports; revenue increased to $800 million. I was impressed to see the company hadrecently announced its partnership with Saba, which provides learning management systems and can help Kronos advance into the new field of social learning.

The conference demonstrated Kronos’s prowess in applications and technology, and gave its representatives a chance for strategic dialogue with customers on how to continue to meet their needs worldwide. As you look at the next generation of workforce management, I recommend putting Kronos on your short list of vendors to evaluate  in managing not just hourly but also salaried workers.


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer

SumTotal Systems Optimizes The Use of Human Capital

I just attended the first-ever analyst summit (Twitter #SumAS11) of SumTotal Systems to learn more about the company’s people and products since my in-depth analysis from earlier in the year. This key player in the business applications market offers a portfolio of applications in HRMS, workforce management and talent management, pieced together over several years with financing from its owner, Vista Equity Partners. This has been a busy year, as SumTotal acquired GeoLearning, Accero and CyberShift to gain entry into the expense and workforce management application markets.

The SumTotal Systems portfolio now covers the range of applications required to manage operations and people from contingent and hourly to salaried workers. At the summit, the company discussed its ability to meet a range of companies’ needs. It featured presentations about deployments of its global and domestic customers including  Praxair and the University of Wollongong, among others. SumTotal’s executive team personally demonstrated its applications in a context of business scenarios covering a dozen applications in a little more than 20 minutes: Strategic Workforce Management, Social Learning, Learning Management, Mobile Learning, Workforce Management, Compensation, Expense Management and Payroll, Talent Profile, Succession Planning, Performance Management, and Recruiting. Most impressive was the continuity of roles across each of its applications – it’s no easy feat to maintain such consistency.

SumTotal is positioned to keep growing its portfolio and gain more customers thanks to its common application platform and architecture, which provide integration of applications, processes and information. This is something the company does not currently market, but analysts and customers see it as a key component of the portfolio’s value. This platform has been a strong foundation since SumTotal acquired it from Softscape, and has helped the organization unify applications in a common process and information model.

In addition, many of SumTotal’s key applications are built to operate natively on mobile platforms, including the leaders Apple, Android and RIM, to take advantage of each one’s unique user experience. SumTotal Mobile, released this year, also allows offline access to content for learning. SumTotal also has tightly integrated its user framework with Microsoft SharePoint, so it can be embedded within an organization’s corporate portal environment.

SumTotal Systems has made a commitment to deliver upgrades to its software multiple times a year and in 2011 has delivered a series of improvements in social learning and strategic workforce analytics. It has smartly built its workforce analytics portfolio on top of the IBM Cognos technology so it can focus on business users’ and process needs, including the mobility capabilities that I recently reviewed and the version 10 release that my colleague has assessed. In addition, the newly released Talent Explorer makes it easy to navigate and review information about people in an organization for a range of ad-hoc and strategic decision-making.

The company has integrated workforce management applications acquired from CyberShift with the SumTotal HRMS and talent management environment. It looks at schedules and competencies and treats the talent pool as one group of workers not divided into hourly and salaried. A new time clock offers integrated learning and other capabilities to provide workers with more direct access to their information, including work schedules but could use a larger and brighter display. SumTotal should expand further into social recruiting, on which we will soon publish our benchmark research, as it is doing in the social learning areas.

The SumTotal Systems analyst summit showcased the depth and dynamics of the company’s team and products. It was clear from the event that there is more going on than I realized, from the software’s level of user and process integration to support of mobility platforms and workforce analytics. The company’s aggressive product roadmap aims to attract a global customer base with languages and currencies not offered by many in the industry. In fact only a few providers have  this breadth and depth. Infor, with its acquisition of Lawson, is one, and we are waiting to see how its application portfolios will work together and to some extent with Oracle and SAP, which has HRMS and new talent management offerings. Another is Workday, which has develop a new HRMS and talent management suite and is partnering to fill its missing components in the short term, as I recently pointed out.

SumTotal Systems has more than double digit revenue growth and has a significant application portfolio that is advancing readily. It also is finding that its customers are using its applications more specifically in lines of business like sales and customer service. If you have not looked at a unified set of applications for leveraging your human capital, you should consider a demonstration of how SumTotal software works together to see for yourself.


Mark Smith – CEO & Chief Research Officer