Top 9 New Features In Kronos iSeries Central 7
March 2, 2015 Alex Woodie
It might seem there’s only so much you can do in the field of time and attendance (T&A) management. But in fact, there’s always something new. “Just when we think we’ve done it all, there’s always somebody saying, ‘Hey what about this?’ and down the path we go,” says Kronos vice president Barry Moore. That path was remarkably fruitful with the recent delivery of iSeries Central suite version 7.0.
While the Windows-based Workforce Central suite gets all the attention and glory at Kronos headquarters in Chelmsford, Massachusetts (look, a cloud version!), the rock-solid iSeries Central suite continues to be relied upon by some of its biggest customers, including retail giant Kroger, healthcare giant HCA, Gannet, and MGM. Thousands of companies depend on the iSeries Central suite to manage their most valuable (and costly) asset: their workers.
Here are the top nine new features customers will find in iSeries Central 7.0, which Kronos launched in January:
1. Geo-Fencing Mobile Punches: Kronos started letting employees clock-in via their smartphones or tablets with the launch of iSeries Central 6.2 two-and-a-half years ago. With the new geo-fencing capability in version 7.0, the company can specify where the employees must be to be allowed to clock-in via the mobile app.
“I can literally define a geo-fence around the building, and if an employee tries to clock in before you’re in the geo-fence, it’s going to reject the punch,” says Clay Rasmussen, senior manager of product marketing in the iSeries Division of Kronos. “Think of the home health worker. I have to be on-site to be able to punch-in to show that I’m there, as opposed to just rolling out of bed and being able to punch in and say I was there.”
2. Off-line Punching: Kronos is now allowing employees to clock-in via their phones even if there’s no Internet or Wi-Fi signal (but it still won’t work on that remote beach in Bermuda, thanks to geo-fencing). Kronos sees this being adopted by customers in the agriculture and manufacturing industries.
“At a lot of the wineries in Northern California, when workers go out into the field, they don’t have connectivity where they can collect this data,” Rasmussen says. “Now with the whole concept of offline punching in 7.0, it gives them the ability to take their iPhone out there, collect that time, and as soon as they’re able to get a signal, to be able to reconcile all that offline data with the system back at headquarters.”
3. Multi-Project Allocation: In many white-collar outfits, such as engineering firms or educational institutions, employees will work on several different projects throughout the day, and they need to attribute the time they spent on each of those projects accordingly. That can now be automated in iSeries Central version 7.
“We have a have the concept of project entry now, where a white collar worker is using a PC workstation . . . to bring up a project entry view, where they sit down and say ‘I’m spending two hours on this project, one-half hour on this project, and two hours on vacation requests,'” Rasmussen says. “They build out this whole timecard view within this project entry, then submit that to the system where it generates the punches and it shows up in the system.
4. A Single Archive Database. In previous releases, customers were forced to create a new database whenever they wanted to archive data. Since Kronos recommends keeping only three to five years of historical data in the system, the number of archive databases proliferating at customer sites would be detrimental to the mental health of supervisors and IT administrators alike.
With version 7, Kronos now supports database appends, which allows customers to maintain a single database for all their archiving needs. “If you ever had to go back and get information or reporting from stuff that was archived, you had to know which database it was in,” Rasmussen says. “We now allow them now to build one historical database, so now they have one point of reference for historical data.”
5. Obamacare Widget: Supervisors at iSeries Central sites have responded positively to the introduction of graphical widgets, which allow them to quickly access certain pieces of information. With version 7, Kronos has added a widget that lets supervisors quickly see information about their employees, such as whether employees are approaching the 30-hour threshold set in the Affordable Care Act.
“That’s another widget that has been added so that managers don’t have to dig deep into the reporting site of the system,” Rasmussen says. “It basically gives them those labor views very quickly so they don’t have to dive down and do a bunch of reporting.
6. Delegation of Authority: Previously, it was a hassle to configure iSeries Central to enable somebody to take over the authority of somebody else, such as when a longtime product manager goes on vacation to some remote Bermuda beach. But in 7.0, Kronos has made it much easier to allow others to take over managerial tasks, such as approving timesheets or overtime requests.
“I have the ability to delegate all of my authority to someone else, for either a specific amount of time, or just leave it on,” Rasmussen says. “That was something customers had been pushing hard.”
7. Customization: iSeries Central customers can now add their own color schemes and logos to the application, to make it look like their own internal application. It’s not that the Kronos “hockey stick” logo or color scheme was bad, but big companies understand the importance of branding.
8. Export to Excel. Microsoft Excel is still the most widely used data analysis and presentation tool on the planet, so the fact that iSeries Central can now export their reports to Excel is a very good thing.
9. Heartbeat Monitoring: Previously, if there was a bad connection between the IBM i server and a time-clock (such as the Kronos 4500 series or the newer InTouch terminals), the customer wouldn’t know about it until somebody picked up a phone (or an employee posted it to Facebook). Now, a new widget will automatically alert the manager to communication problems immediately, instead of 15,000 time-clock punches ago.
“The sooner you can manage and take care of it, the better it is for your organization,” Rasmussen says. “When you start talking about things that affect the bottom line, an hour here or there can make a huge difference in how you classify these employees and manage them so you minimizing what those cost are via ACA or overtime anything else that impacts the bottom line.”