Kronos Gives iSeries HR App an HTML Overhaul
March 31, 2009 Alex Woodie
There’s nothing wrong with being “green.” Indeed, some people today see being green as a mandate from Mother Earth. But for human resources managers who must train and retain employees, the AS/400’s character-based “green-screen” interface is a giant turn off and an obstacle to be overcome. To that end, Kronos, which knows a thing or two about human resources, delivered a new release of its iSeries Central suite of HR apps last year that features HTML screens throughout.
You wouldn’t know about iSeries Central version 6 by watching for Kronos announcements or monitoring industry publications, because the Chelmsford, Massachusetts, software company decided not to tell the world about it when the updated suite shipped back in September 2008. That’s a shame, especially for a company like Kronos with a 15-year history of AS/400 software development and a huge installed base of 4,500 iSeries Central customers. (No, that’s not a misprint–the software is used at tens of thousands of locations and manages millions of employees every day at large companies like Kroger Foods, HCA, O’Reilly Auto, and most of the Vegas Strip.)
Despite the lack of marketing support, the updates in iSeries Central 6 look compelling, particularly for existing customers running older versions of the product, which is really where Kronos is targeting iSeries Central 6.
The modernization of the user interface is the single biggest enhancement with this release. The company previously offered a Windows-based GUI, which was generated with Seagull Software‘s JWalk technology. “JWalk was just a cumbersome kind of tool,” says Clay Rasmussen, director of iSeries products for Kronos. “It allowed us to get to a graphical front-end quickly when we introduced it,” but has outlived its usefulness. JWalk is no longer an option with version 6, although customers can still use the 5250 green screen. In fact, 40 percent of iSeries Central customers prefer the green screen, Rasmussen says.
Kronos consulted IBM for direction on the best way to move to a graphical interface post-JWalk, and the result was–somewhat surprisingly–CGIDEV2, and not HATS. All of the product’s screens, including customizable “genies,” have been rewritten using the free and popular CGIDEV2 toolset for version 6, providing for more streamlined navigation, as well as support for drop-down menus and mouse “hover over” features.
The software has only been available for about six months, but it’s already exceeded expectations.
“In comparison to all the other versions, this one has just been flying off the shelves,” Rasmussen says. “Typically our iSeries users don’t like the bleeding edge. They’ll typically find a version, stay on that version, wait one or two versions back before they start to upgrade. I never thought that based off these few ease-of-use features that we would see such a widely adopted application. We were pleasantly surprised by it.”
iSeries Central version 6 also delivers new functionality where it matters most: scheduling employees, tracking pay rates, clocking in and out, and tracking employees’ meals and time-off. The product gives managers numerous new payment rules to handle various situations, including doling out “meal penalties,” calculating when employees are eligible for holidays, and enforcing rest periods.
How the product communicates with time clocks and biometric terminals has also been updated. The software now features a “communication dashboard” that alerts a manager when a time clock appears to have stopped working. In prior releases, administrators would have to dig through AS/400 job logs to find this information. This release also marks the end of support for Intermec terminals, which are no longer sold, according to Kronos. Instead, customers will have to upgrade to Kronos’ own 4500 series terminals.
Version 6 brings numerous enhancements to the iSeries Gaming component, particularly as it relates to managing the “toke pool,” or the pool of tips that traditionally has been distributed among the dealers, but increasingly is being used to compensate other casino workers, including floor managers. This is an area that Kronos’ big, iSeries-loving casino customers may want to seriously consider if they are having issues managing their toke pools.
All of the toke pool functions have been consolidated into one screen, and protected with new security access controls to prevent unauthorized entry. Toke pool contributions are now rounded to the nearest one-tenth of an hour, instead of rounded to the nearest hour. Managers also now have the capability to set different toke pool distribution percentages, depending on the class of employee. A new report has been added that shows managers toke pool distributions by employee, rather than the pool as a whole.
Security was also bolstered throughout the application. The new “functional access profiles” feature provides more granular control over different types of users than the basic group security profiles in previous versions, which it replaces. Managers can also now tie the iSeries Central passwords to i’s (OS/400’s) password roles. Other functions receiving security upgrades include the “people editor,” the labor level profile, the pay rate profile, and the navigational access profile.
Kronos has also whittled the number of components that used to be available as part of iSeries Central from 14 down to half a dozen or so. The major components of the suite now include iSeries Absence Management, iSeries Activities, iSeries Gaming, iSeries Scheduler, and iSeries Timekeeper. iSeries Absence Manager is a new module composed of several modules that were previously sold separately, including iSeries Accruals, iSeries Attendance, and iSeries Leave. Additionally, the iSeries History module can be moved into the “core” iSeries Central module, according to the iSeries Central version 6 data sheet (PDF).
Kronos has also worked on language localization with version 6. Customers can use multiple languages with a single iSeries Central installation. French and Spanish versions of the product will be available with iSeries Central version 6 service pack 2, which is due out in mid-April.
iSeries Central 6.0 is available now. The software runs on i5/OS V5R4 and IBM i 6.1. For more information, visit Kronos’ Web site at www.kronos.com.