Like most of us, my first exposure to the day-to-day operations of a business came from working part-time as a teenager. I was flipping pizzas at the local shop and, thinking back on it, that was where my experience in workforce management really started.
There was an old punch-in / punch-out clock in the back that employees fed a strip of paper and it spat out a smudged timestamp. Payroll was called in and read line by line each fortnight. Managers laboriously created schedules in an Excel spreadsheet, careful to balance each employee’s requests for time off and schedule limitations. When we wanted to swap shifts, one name was scratched out and penciled in with another and if someone called in sick, we’d barely be able to fill the shift quickly enough before the rush of the hungry evening crowd.
If automation and technology was as accessible and affordable then as it is today, much of the manager’s time would have gone from manual back office work to face time with customers (and keeping our teenage shenanigans in line!).
Today, technology is advancing faster than most businesses can keep up with and is vying for its fair share of the budget. Automating day to day workforce management tasks like scheduling, reporting, timekeeping and payroll, and bringing them to the cloud is an opportunity many businesses are weighing up.
My pizza flipping days are long over (although I’m still a big fan of a pepperoni with extra cheese). I’ve now chalked up 10 years’ experience in the Workforce Management software business. When it comes to selecting which tools are right for your business, in my experience, these are some of the most important considerations, whether you’re reassessing your current solution or just beginning your digital transformation journey:
What exact requirements am I fulfilling? Once you start heading down the path of selecting a tool, it’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles of new technology. Write down your “must have” list and stick to it. It’s also worthwhile to distinguish your “must haves” from your “nice to haves”.
What part of my budget will this come from? Will you categorise a software investment as a capital expense or an operational expense? Will you select monthly payments or an annual fee? Be sure to ask about all the options to find out what’s best for your budget.
Where is my data kept? Sensitive employee data like tax file numbers, bank details, and health benefits are subject to the data laws of the country in which the data is hosted. It’s critical to know your data’s location and the security measures taken to protect it. A local cloud option will be your best bet.
Do I need a custom or off the shelf solution? If you don’t have the time or the budget to build a custom solution, consider the benefits of a preconfigured option. Off the shelf doesn’t have to mean you’re missing out on functionality, especially since about 80% of your requirements will already be configured.
How will I engage and train my employees? Implementations rarely fail due to the technology. The #1 rule of a successful implementation is to bring your employees along for the ride, so a solid communication strategy is key. Solicit feedback early and often to ensure a higher adoption of the new technology in a shorter period of time.
What are the support options? There are going to be hiccups with any technology. The important question is, who do you contact for IT support? If you’re a small, agile team, you may not have the IT resources available to support the technology on your own. Find a trusted local partner to be your first point of contact and ask about the level of support options offered.
What’s a realistic timeline for me and my team? Running a business is hard enough. Throw in a new tool and implementation and you may already feel in over your head. Set realistic goals up front and adjust as needed.
When preparing for the future of your workforce, the effort you put in today is a direct investment in the success of the business tomorrow. New platforms and tools built specifically for efficiency and productivity are reaching an all-time high, and timing has never been better to get some skin in the game. Whether you are a local pizza shop or a growing corporation, the capability for automation in the cloud is more accessible than ever.
This article was written by Presence of IT’s Damien Chambers.