NRF 2017: The “New” Competition in Retail WFM

by | Jan 27, 2017

Market consolidation has been a long-term trend in retail workforce management. In just the last couple of years, Ceridian bought Dayforce, JDA bought RedPrairie, and Kronos bought Empower.  And, today, retailers have found themselves with fewer WFM options than ever before.  When this realization hits, I often get asked “who are the up and coming players”, and for a while, my answer has been, sadly, “nobody”.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of WFM solutions that target retailers. DeputyPlanDay, OpenSim, ScheduleAnywhere, ScheduleBase, Schedulehead, ShiftNote, SoftWorks, TixTime, TrackSmart, and When I Work all advertise retail scheduling solutions, and this list just scratches the surface.  Even Microsoft has released their own scheduling software called StaffHub just a couple of weeks ago.

These solutions target small retailers, mom and pops.  Some of the solutions may claim to scale.  You may even see some familiar logos when you look at their websites, but those clients are franchisees of bigger brands.  These vendors lack the features, functionality, corporate stability and/or scalability to support a retailer with a couple of dozen stores or more.

However, this year at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show 2017, I visited with four WFM vendors that are solid options for large retailers, giving more choice when it comes to WFM.  It should be noted that none of them are startups, and all four have strong client lists.  So, why have you not heard of these vendors before?  I think that answer will be obvious as we take a closer look at each, and to be clear, I am presenting them in alphabetical order to avoid any concern about bias.

The first is Logile, and like the first three vendors I look at in this post, Logile drives it success by focusing on a particular niche.  Logile’s niche is complex retail environments, and not surprisingly, their customer list consists predominantly of regional grocers.  They fit best with organizations with a complicated labor model, unionized employees or a difficult-to-forecast business.  Logile offers modules for long-term planning, forecasting, scheduling, task management, time and attendance, self-service and reporting.

Whereas Logile positions itself for the complex retailer, Natural Insight’s niche is the specialty retailer.  Its goal is to keep WFM as simple as possible.  It does not offer a complex forecasting or scheduling engine.  Instead, it offers a template-based, auto-scheduler along with timekeeping, task management, communications and analytics. At NRF, Natural Insight expanded its analytics offering by providing deeper insight into in-store promotions, and based on my discussion with CEO Stefan Midford, Natural Insight plans to continue to expand its analytics in some pretty interesting ways in 2017 and beyond.

Like Natural Insight, StoreForce Solutions focuses on specialty retail, and StoreForce believes that a majority of a specialty retailer’s sales are done in a few peak hours each week.  With that in mind, the solution focuses on top-down planning to keep labor forecasting simple and aligned with financial goals.  It also excels at peak-hour scheduling (getting the best sellers on the floor during those power hours), which is something that many of the leading WFM vendors struggle with. StoreForce offers three components: Workforce Management, Task Management and Performance Management.  Workforce Management includes labor planning, scheduling and timekeeping.  Performance Management includes dashboards, analytics and reports.

Finally, I visited WorkForce Software.  Founded in 1999, WorkForce Software has offered workforce management solutions longer than just about any vendor except for Kronos; however, few retailers used WorkForce because it lacked a retail forecasting and scheduling engine.  However, that changed when WorkForce acquired UK-based Workplace Systems last summer.   Since 1986, Workplace offered retailers an enterprise-class labor forecasting and automated scheduling engine, and unlike the three vendors discussed above, it can work for any retail environment from specialty to general, from grocery to department store.

Ultimately, these four vendors give retailers more choice when it comes time to purchase a new WFM system.  This is good for retailers and good for the market as it will spurn even more innovation in the coming years.

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Looking for more about what happened with workforce management at NRF 2017?  Frictionless Workforce Management examines at the benefits employee engagement software and the emergence of several new vendors in this rapidly evolving space.  No News is the New Normal for WFM at Retail’s Big Show explains why there was so little WFM news at NRF this year.

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