“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.” - Bill Gates
Workforce Management (WFM), integrated processes to optimize labor productivity, is on the rise as organizations embrace technology to improve labor practices such as scheduling, time clocks, demand forecasts and resource planning.
While WFM technology has been around for 20 years, new deployment models and AI frameworks are delivering never-before-seen levels of efficiency and accuracy for operations professionals managing the complex task of workforce optimization.
Last August, Gartner issued a market guide on WFM that encouraged organizations to migrate their WFM applications to multi-tenant cloud solutions within the next one to two years, as many WFM solutions are still on-premise or self-hosted.
But what is the advantage of multi-tenant cloud solutions? What other key considerations should you factor as you embark on a new selection process for your WFM needs? Here are a few key areas:
”Instead of 10 copies of the OS, 10 copies of the DB, and 10 copies of the app, it has 1 OS, 1 DB and 1 app on the server” – CNCCookbook CEO, Bob Warfield on Multi-tenancy
Multi versus single tenant
Single tenancy means that each customer has its database and software instance with no platform advantage; it’s isolated from other customers with no sharing. In a multi-tenant environment, there is a single instance of the software and a single database. While each customer (or tenant’s) data is completely isolated, the software application is essentially shared, so upgrades can occur invisibly and shared learnings can be applied to all customers. For example, if a potential security vulnerability is detected with one tenant, a universal security fix can quickly be applied for all tenants. With multi-tenant, configuration and integration can be done without impact to the core application database. Because customers are sharing the application and it is hosted in the cloud (with no hardware, provisioning, etc.) cost savings are significant.
While one could write books about the advantages of cloud hosting, the one key area anyone in WFM needs to probe is the type of cloud hosting being offered by vendors. Some companies may provide cloud as a managed service; managed clouds mean that applications are single-tenant and need to be installed on numerous servers, often accessed via VPN. While the application is in the cloud, product version, integrations and data are customer-specific so a fair degree of technical expertise (and expense) is required to run hosted clouds whereas multi-tenant clouds do not require technical expertise because the application is supported by the vendor’s in-house technical team. Accessibility requires just a browser.
“Cloud is about how you do computing, not where you do computing.” - Paul Maritz, Chairman, Pivotal
Organizations should ask about ease of scaling when considering WFM vendors. What happens when new employees or locations are added—or new banners in the event of an M&A? How much capacity can your solution handle? How long is data archived? (Legion, for example, provides three years of storage and data archival) SaaS typically offers almost infinite scalability and fast onboarding without requiring hardware, resources or additional fees. As most companies integrate their HR systems into Legion, employee data is automatically pulled over and profiles are set up in Legion and managers simply invite employees to get started in Legion.
Along these lines, one of the best ways to lower operational costs and quickly realize value is to rely upon cloud-based integration that delivers on the promise of reusable, proven code or product that requires no coding or in-depth technical experience (versus bespoke code that requires extensive testing and re-working when upgrades occur). Thus, you should ask potential WFM providers about cloud-based integration options and how many pre-built connectors they offer for integration with your everyday systems.
Another benefit is the real-time nature of cloud integration. Rather than rely on ETL solutions that sync or move data at scheduled times, cloud integration—usually provided by an Integration Provider as a Service (iPaaS) provider—occurs almost instantly. Legion has a strategic partnership with Workato. Over 200 pre-built connectors to CRM systems like Salesforce, HCM systems like Workday, payroll systems like ADP, ecommerce systems like Shopify and BI tools like Looker and Domo exist, making it easy to “plug and play” in your existing environment without requiring a system integrator or specialized IT skills. BTW, it’s no wonder iPaaS is estimated to grow at a rate of 22 percent through 2023 according to Market Research Future, as months or years long processes can now shrink to weeks.
“You live, you learn, and you upgrade” – Anonymous
Availability and Upgrades
With a multi-tenant cloud, downtime is almost non-existent. According to 451 Research, public cloud deployments will rise from 22 percent in 2019 to 39 percent by 2022. Public hosting on AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google and Alibaba all hold the same value proposition: massive computing power, vast storage, networking, global availability—on demand and available 24×7/365; thus, the value of SaaS is clear. No longer do application development companies or their customers need to provision hardware, schedule maintenance or think about deploying software by the user.
Software providers can now focus on their core product and instantly/silently push upgrades to meet changing market and customer needs. The days of user acceptance testing, lengthy rollouts and the like are thankfully in the past, giving way to a new era of continuous improvement, delivered seamlessly in the cloud.
“The second [rule] is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency” -Bill Gates
Many companies with whom I work are massively increasing efficiency through true SaaS-based WFM solutions, yet there are still several operational areas that also need to be improved. I look forward to partnering with you and our retail strategists to resolve these issues.
I’ve outlined just a few of the reasons solutions like Legion deliver a lower total cost of ownership.
There are countless others such as deep learning, analytics, self-led product tours/trainings and more which I’ll explore in future posts.
Rouven Magnus is the Director of Retail and Hospitality at Legion where he helps organizations with hourly workforces improve labor efficiency, reduce compliance risks and increase employee engagement. He has 20 years of Store Operations experience specializing in WFM with expertise in transformation projects across grocery, restaurants, hospitality and specialty retail. He can be reached at Rouven@legion.co.