#NRF14: Workforce Management Wrap-up

by | Jan 17, 2014

As I settle into seat 7C for my flight home from New York, I have a few minutes to reflect on this year’s National Retail Federation’s Big Show. According to NRF, more than 30,000 people attended, and 500 companies exhibited, making this year’s show the biggest ever. While the show is bigger – I dare say “overwhelming” for the rookie – the dynamics have changed. 

I’ve been attending NRF since 2002, and I’ve seen a distinct transition since my first show.  Before the recession, retailers would attend the show to kick tires. During the recession, nobody attended the show unless you had a particular purpose due to budget constraints. Now, more retailers than ever are attending NRF, but they haven’t gone back to the old tire-kicking days. Instead, those that attend are on a mission. Fewer and fewer retailers walk up to the vendor’s booth and ask, “so…what do you do?” More and more, retailers are scheduling meetings with targeted vendors in advance, showing up on time and bringing a list of very specific things they want to talk to the vendors about.

So, what were retailers who were on a mission to learn more about the WFM vendors greeted with? Let’s take a quick tour of the show floor to see:

Ceridian.  Ceridian continues to carry a lot of momentum in retail.  This has been bolstered by the release of DayforceHCM, the human capital management compliment to their WFM solution, and pushed further by their vocal, supportive retail customers (see Retail Touchpoints for an example).  Ceridian was demonstrating the entire Dayforce suite in their booth including their color, touchscreen time clock and mobile solutions.  I was surprised by their new business intelligence capability.  Ceridian was able to present some unique information views of data, leveraging their single-view of the employee that spans both their HCM and WFM products.  For example, each screen showed demographic information (age, gender, etc.) about who was most likely to be a no-show or be late to work.

Empower. Ceridian isn’t the only WFM vendor carrying momentum into NRF.  Empower had two clients speaking in their booth at NRF.  Modell’s Sporting Goods and Brookshire Grocery provided case studies of their EmpowerWFM implementations. Empower also unveiled a new user interface for their WFM solution.  The new user interface feels much more modern than its previous UI and navigation has been improved significantly.

Infor.  Unlike previous years where Infor’s presence was mainly focused on WFM, Infor was promoting a broad suite of solutions under the banner Infor Retail Software Solutions.  This solution set includes Lawson Financials, Supply Chain Management, Customer Relationship Management, Enterprise Asset Management, Dynamic Enterprise Performance Management, customer engagement platform Rhythm, enterprise resource planning solution M3, social business platform Ming.le, and Human Capital Management, which includes Infor WFM.  Infor was demonstrating 6.1, its latest release of Infor WFM, which incorporates a number of enhancements for retailers and leverages the SoHo user experience.

JDA.  Last year’s NRF was a coming out party of sorts for JDA after its acquisition of RedPrairie.  A year later, the company has aligned its production portfolio with a new strategy.  The biggest sign of this strategy is, literally, the words that were removed from the signs in its booth.  JDA no longer carries the tag line “The Supply Chain Company”.  This is a recognition that it offers a suite of retail solutions that extend well beyond the supply chain.  From a WFM perspective, JDA has two solutions; one from its acquisition of Timera.  The other from RedPraire’s acquisition. The long-term plan is to take the best of both products and put them into a brand new WFM solution.  In the meantime, both solutions continue to be enhanced.

Kronos. As a baseball freak, Kronos caught my attention with a session it had with their customer Hannaford Bros. titled “The Retail Moneyball”.  Using some of the same principles that revolutionized the way general managers look at their baseball teams’ talent, Kronos has been investigating ways to change the way that retailers manage their talent and drive greater profits.  Beyond the thought leadership activity, Kronos also released its task management solution on the tablet and announced the results of a survey they commissioned that demonstrated the degree to which retailers around the world view their workforce as a competitive advantage.

Reflexis. “SMART Store Operations” is how Reflexis refers its suite of Social, Mobile, Analytical and Real-Time solutions.  At the center of this suite is StorePulse, its real-time execution management engine.  Although it has been out for a while, Reflexis officially announced its first four clients at NRF.  I suspect this slow adoption is due to the challenges of getting real-time information into an enterprise system.  Beyond product, Reflexis also announced it secured new funding from Sageview Capital.

Workplace.  Walking into the Workplace booth felt a bit like a flashback into the days of Sega Genesis and other early generation video consoles with blocky, pixelated graphics adorning the booth.  Of course, there was a method to the madness.  The booth was featuring “Workplace: The Game”, a surprising fun online game that Workplace developed to illustrate its Schedule Quality Rating (SQR), a simple-to-understand star-rating system that Workplace’s software generates to provide feedback to store managers as to how good their schedule is.

As you can see, there was not a single theme that ran through the WFM vendors at NRF this year.  Mobile has become commonplace from a vendor offering perspective.  This meant that it was less of a headline although everybody was demonstrating it.  Social is gaining some attention, but we’re still in the early days.  Expect Social WFM to be a headline next year.  There were no new “killer” WFM modules released at NRF this year.  Instead, WFM vendors are trying to differentiate and add value through thought leadership.   

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