Time And Attendance Evolves To Workforce Management
Vendors detail new workforce management technologies â€" technologies producing new sales opportunities for VARs.
Time and attendance solutions have come a long way since the days of mechanical time clocks. In fact, time and attendance solutions have evolved to data collection solutions used for payroll, machine control, and secure access control. In some cases, modern time and attendance solutions (now referred to as workforce management) can even serve as informational tools for employees. The advent of biometrics and new card technologies also has registered a major impact on workforce management solutions. Those advances in workforce management technologies are opening new market opportunities for VARs. Peter DiMaria, CEO of Accu-Time Systems, Jean-Charles Pichon, sales manager for Evolis Card Printer, and James W. Bianco, VP of sales and marketing for Control Module, Inc. have some advice for VARs looking to close more sales in those new opportunities.
Understand Workforce Management Technology Options
Biometrics is one of the hottest trends in workforce management. "As biometrics become increasingly prevalent in our daily lives [e.g. grocery checkout, ATMs, personal electronics, etc.], companies and employees are becoming more accepting of biometrics in the workplace," explains Accu-Time's DiMaria. There are many biometric technologies such as facial, iris, voice recognition, and hand punch systems; however, fingerprint biometrics has emerged as the most popular choice for most workforce management vendors.
Control Module's Bianco explains, "We determined fingerprint biometrics to be the most reliable, sound, and secure technology available for our workforce management products. Our decision was based on significant research into available biometric solutions. We also saw that more research dollars were being directed to fingerprint biometrics at the time ." The selling points for biometric technologies are many. For instance, biometrics eliminates buddy punching (when one employee punches in or out for a coworker) and can securely deliver employees' personal information, including salary accruals and FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) status. Biometric terminals can serve as employee input terminals for benefits changes and vacation requests — reducing HR labor hours required to fulfill those requests.
From a manufacturing standpoint, biometric workforce management solutions can provide secure access control to customers' facilities, machines, and databases. All types of businesses can use biometrics to control access to restricted areas such as server rooms, cash repositories, and restricted equipment.
Others choose to implement time and attendance systems that require the reading of an ID badge with bar code, mag-stripe, contact smart card, or contactless RFID (radio frequency identification) smart card. In most cases, the decision to go with card technology is due to needs and/or preferences of customers. For instance, a manufacturing environment with dusty conditions may not be the best place for fingerprint biometric solutions. There are other reasons that some customers may resist a move to biometrics. One of the common objections is personal privacy. "Many employees are not comfortable using their biometric information for identification purposes," says Evolis' Pichon. However, it is important for VARs to know that privacy and religious objections may cause customers to move to card-based workforce management solutions.
VARs shouldn't look at card and biometric technologies as an either/or proposition. In progressive workforce management solutions, VARs have integrated card technologies with biometrics to achieve multilevel authentication. For instance, a healthcare customer may require both forms of identification (card and bio) to access medical supplies. In this scenario, both the card and the biometric data are required to gain access to the supply cabinet. Is this example really workforce management? Yes. This type of extended time and attendance functionality is the future of workforce management solutions.
Workforce Management Provides Complementary Sales Opportunities
One of the best things about workforce management sales opportunities is that you don't have to be a workforce management VAR to benefit from them. In fact, your knowledge of a particular industry may be your market advantage, since you are very familiar with how your customers operate their businesses. "Time and attendance can be an easy sell," says Bianco. "It's a great opportunity for VARs to get a foot in the door. Once you start collecting data for your customers, you become a trusted advisor and other opportunities present themselves. VARs need to look at their customers and ask themselves, 'How else can I help this customer with my technology solutions?'" In many cases, VARs may already have a data infrastructure in place at their customers' sites. Since most workforce management terminals connect to customers' networks via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, they're not much different from installing a PC on a customer's network. The horizontal market appeal of workforce management solutions lends itself toward creative uses in many different environments. For instance, DiMaria says one of Accu-Time's VARs designed a two-finger geometry biometric solution for coal mines where the massive dust accumulation can sometimes prove to be too much for fingerprint systems.
Bianco says one of Control Module's VARs came up with another creative workforce management solution for a coal mining company. The VAR put RFID tags on the miners' helmets and installed RFID portals in different locations in the mine. Control Module terminals would collect the data from the RFID equipment and send the data back to the central office via Ethernet cable. This provided the customer with complete visibility of all miners inside the mine at all times.
Pichon says an Evolis systems integrator developed a Web-based attendance application for 60 schools that issue their own student cards. Extending beyond basic time and attendance functionality, the system provides the schools with reports and statistics for each student. In addition, the card is used to authorize students for Internet Access, to borrow books from the library, to pay for food at the cafeteria, and to provide access to students' lockers.
The most important point from those examples is that no matter what your industry or vertical market focus, new workforce management technologies provide VARs with a host of sales opportunities. Before you say, "I'm not interested in selling time clocks," think about how you might implement this technology for your customers. The complementary sales opportunities that may arise can be well worth the time you invest in learning workforce management.