Like most enterprise software vendors, Kronos realized the potential that lies in working with smaller businesses. This market segment comprises a large number of enterprises and thus offers much opportunity to vendors, but it is not without its challenges. For one, small to medium businesses (SMBs) demand a lot of value for their money, simply because they are not high revenue generating. Also, software vendors tend to struggle with appeasing their SMB clients, as they typically have to strip down features of their enterprise class solutions and repurpose them for smaller companies. Kronos took a more practical approach to addressing the workforce management needs of SMBs—i.e., it acquired a solution specifically designed for SMBs and extended its footprint to the SMB market in a relatively short time.
It all started in 2012 with the acquisition of SaaShr, a lesser known but albeit very successful HR vendor. At the time of the acquisition, SaaShr had 60 employees and more than 4,800 customers. Kronos rebranded the solution as Workforce Ready and improved it dramatically. The initial success of Kronos Workforce Ready was due to its robust functionality for time and attendance, payroll management, core human resources (HR), and employee self-service, as well as its flexible deployment as a pure SaaS model. Moreover, the clients had the options to implement only the modules that they required and to accept flexible payment plans with no long-term commitment.
Kronos could therefore offer a solution that was built for the cloud on a modern architecture, as opposed to a scaled-down version of its Workforce Central enterprise suite. The vendor also avoided offering isolated products (such as payroll, time and attendance, etc.), which cover only some of the needs of SMBs. In 2012 when Kronos Workforce Ready was launched, very few vendors could claim that they had a cloud solution for SMBs with integrated payroll that eliminated batch processing—a status quo requirement to manage payroll data.
At launch, the development strategy for Workforce Ready focused on key areas such as salary planning, performance management, and scheduling. Kronos also sought to provide an app marketplace that would allow customers to extend their workforce management functionality in a seamless manner and with no information technology (IT) involvement and associated costs (see screenshot of Main tab of Workforce Ready).
Kronos releases new versions of its SMB solution every 3 to 6 months, thus showing its commitment to developing a solution that addresses the evolving needs of its SMB customers. Here are the highlights of the major enhancements over the development of the product.
The first major version was delivered only 5 months after the initial launch. It offered two major enhancements: compatibility with Kronos InTouch time clock technology, and the app marketplace, which was promised at launch. Kronos InTouch is probably the most successful time clock technology on the market. Counting millions of users, it was initially built for medium to large companies that were on Kronos Workforce Central. This technology, however, proved to be useful for smaller businesses, a finding that Kronos took advantage of.
The June release brought improved payroll support and tighter integration with ADP and the availability of online training and education through KnowledgePass. KnowledgePass is a subscription service that offers Kronos customers training and education services. These include e-learning, instructor-led training programs, as well as user adoption services. Since June 2013, this service has been offered to SMB customers at no extra cost.
Furthermore, with the app marketplace, Kronos does not bog down users with out of-the-box functionality that they may not need. In fact, the marketplace ensures that users buy the extensions that they need and consequently maximize the utilization of the system. To ensure the consistency of the data and the efficiency of the integration between Kronos Workforce Ready and third-party app/add-on providers, Kronos started an accreditation program—which ensures that partnering vendors are compliant with Kronos’ cloud platform requirements.
This version of Workforce Ready focused on improving existing features for employee self-service and mobile access. Both enhancements were meant to help employees easily find information such as schedules and pay statements, as well as help managers review and approve timecards or time-off requests. These are features that may seem to be less important to SMBs; however, new technologies, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, and the new generations in the workplace justify their must-have priority.
September 2013 European launch
Another major milestone in the development of Workforce Ready was the launch of its European version. In the HR and workforce management world, launching a European version of a solution that is built in North America is always a challenge due to the different laws and regulations for payroll, benefits, etc. This is compounded by translation and localization difficulties. The European product was made available to the United Kingdom (UK), Belgium, and The Netherlands in English, French, and Dutch.
Following its product’s European launch, Kronos focused on the solution’s global capabilities, providing capabilities to SMBs to control absenteeism, and manage overtime and leave of absence across locations. With this release, Kronos also focused on compliance by introducing new functionality for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as required for both part-time and full-time positions. Furthermore, the vendor introduced leave management compliance for federal, state, and employer specific leave policies.
The latest release was announced on May 19 2014, and it includes enhancements to workflows, benefits, leave of absence, a new projected hours feature, calendar integration, multi-employer authentication, and tax filing.
Kronos has more than doubled its investment in the Workforce Ready solution since the product’s launch, and it has added 2,800 new SMB customers in 2013 only. The solution found a good market in Europe, where a considerable number of businesses are of small or medium size—particularly in countries like Belgium, The Netherlands, and the UK. On May 7, 2014, Kronos announced that it passed the $1B mark in revenue, which is due in part to an “extraordinary growth in the SMB sector,” with an increase of 46% in SMB product bookings.
The recipe for success for Kronos Workforce Ready is simple and efficient: buy a robust cloud offering designed with SMBs for SMBs—with flexibility for allowing developers to build on top of existing features and functions. The Workforce Ready open architecture made it easy for Kronos to include some of its proven technologies—e.g., In Touch and KnowledgePass—into its SMB offering. To boot, the system was capable of accommodating third-party solutions certified by Kronos.
Despite its success, Kronos is not resting on its laurels. It continues to invest heavily in cloud security, which shows that the vendor is focused on what matters most to SMBs. According to a recent study, security is still a major concern for SMBs, and Kronos is working hard to dispel this concern.