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Having the Right People in the Right Place at the Right Time

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October 01, 2007
Technology | Sense
Greg Buzek - greg@ihlservices.com

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© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Hospitality companies will spend approximately $19.8 billion worldwide on IT solutions in 2007, a hefty number by any stretch. Yet with all that money being spent on improving the efficiency of operations, most issues surrounding many companies are people related; finding the right people, getting them trained, scheduling them, motivating them and retaining them while providing world-class service.

There are workforce management applications that now encompass all the facets of scheduling, time and attendance and other personnel monitoring functions to help with this process.  But choosing a single system that meets the differing needs of the business units and the employees involved can be quite an ordeal.

Ten years ago there were a few different business units interested in workforce management and the functional requirements of a new system.  Quite frankly, most of it was done locally at the venue level and communicated upstream later.  Today, labor hours are tied to business intelligence data for the optimization of employee coverage.  As a result, many companies are struggling to gather and implement a process to capture all the necessary input so the new decision not only meets the requirements of what they want to do today, but has the features and flexibility for where they want to be in five or even 10 years.  Marketing wants to track points and make specific offers to the customer, HR wants to offer e-mail, training, labor scheduling, time and attendance and benefits enrollment, and operations wants to make sure that adequate labor coverage for world-class service is ensured.  These are just some of the standard business unit requirements today. 

The challenge of gathering all these requirements often delays IT decisions for a new workforce management application for months, even years.  Most organizations simply do not have the process in place to gather all of this information.  Some companies may have a standard IT steering committee that involves top-line professionals from major business units, but the requirements from the practitioners in each of the business units who make demands of the employees on the front lines are often missing.

The Association of Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) has released several schemas to help companies organize requirements.  While the list of requirements is a great first step for most organizations, many who use them for an RFP simply add a cover page to the ARTS RFP and call it their own.  What gets missed here is that they miss adding their own unique requirements as well as setting a priority of features that can be used to evaluate vendor proposals. 

However, help is here now to take the work ARTS has done to a new level.  There is a new set of tools that incorporates the ARTS functional requirements into a comprehensive process that manages the entire project from requirements gathering to store deployment.  The first tool released is called the RAPID Project Toolkit from C-CORE Consulting Group.  What impresses is that the Toolkit was created from front line experience in positions ranging from store manager to IT to store operations to business process executive.

The C-CORE implementation starts with the business processes that are affected and the business units that are involved in those processes. It is then integrated with the ARTS functional and technical requirements lists, but in a way that allows for each relative business unit to provide an objective weighting to the importance of each feature.  Once vendors respond to the RFP, the tool automatically and objectively scores vendor responses based on your company’s predetermined ratings and makes a recommendation as to which vendors should be invited in for demonstrations.  The process then walks through the demo process, once again capturing input from every business unit involved across the most important issues and providing a ranking/scoring of the top vendors.  You not only understand who scored highest, but you also have a strong audit trail of why each vendor received their scores, noting those key items this vendor does well, those features they do not have in their product, and whether important items are considered custom or extra. 

What happens when such a process is utilized?  In some cases companies see a 60 percent reduction in the time to make a decision and implement a new system.  Perhaps most importantly, the process substantiates the decision made, because it has the backing, input and support from each of the business units.

These types of tools not only save time in gathering requirements together, but provide an objective review of vendors that can pass new Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.  Vendors are also supportive of the process. They receive a similar template each time they get a proposal and the time for each deal is greatly compressed.  Because the retailer is making their decisions two to three times faster, the vendors know when they win or lose two to three times faster as well.  This allows them to get involved in more deals per year per sales representative and burn a lot less jet fuel.

The C-CORE toolkit is not the first and will hardly be the last process on the market that can meet a company’s needs.  It is simply with strong results.  ARTS has a list of several partners to choose from who are developing similar tools. 
Before you begin the process of your next IT decision and begin voting vendors off the island, make sure you have a process to effectively gather and organize that information within your company. 

Greg Buzek is the founder and president of IHL Consulting Group. Noted by RIS News as one of the 25 most influential people in retail, Buzek can be reached at greg@ihlservices.com.

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