Choosing the Right Vendor for Your Business
As we dive deeper into your options for time and attendance systems, it’s important to consider how interconnected your timekeeping system will be with hardware such as terminals and timeclocks and software such as schedule managing programs, ERP systems, and job tracking tools.
In addition, considering the differences between licensed and Software as a Service (SaaS) deployments, and the relevant secondary features of your chosen vendor are also very important for ensuring your system performs well and meets all of your needs. In part two of this three-part series, we’ll explore each of these elements.
System Integration & Automation
Some systems just don’t play nice with others. One of the fastest ways you can weed-out a time and attendance application from your list is by asking the question, “Will it integrate smoothly with my payroll system?”
Further, can you automate processes between the two systems? Your ROI can be improved dramatically- and your data entry nightmare will be eased considerably- if you can synchronize employee data between systems.
How about ERP, MRP, and other manufacturing systems? Databases? Can these be seamlessly integrated as well? Many time and attendance software developers list the business systems with which their software will integrate. Make sure yours is on the list, or you may be stuck with an incomplete, dysfunctional system until your contractual obligations allow you to switch one of the systems. In any case, no one wants to invest in a system that won’t support their workflow.
Advanced time and attendance software allows complete integration with manufacturing, and production environments. Processes, box routing, inventory tracking, and much more can be fully integrated with your time and attendance system. Enabling you to track and report each employee’s productivity, this type of system integration provides employers with powerful reporting capabilities that will help introduce further savings.
Another level of system integration synergy exists between time and attendance and access control. Most employee time clocks can double as access control terminals, making it very cost effective to deploy both solutions simultaneously. When paired with biometric employee authentication, these integrated systems improve efficiency and security.
Deciding Between Licensed or SaaS Deployments
While some companies make data privacy a top priority and opt to host no company data on an external server, many of those same companies are already doing this with sensitive payroll data. Hosting your time and attendance data with a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider is safe and secure as long as the datacenter is a top-tier facility.
However, is it appropriate, financially? For small companies, it is far more cost effective to subscribe to a SaaS employee time and attendance application. Once a company grows to a certain size, however- and the licensed software will pay for itself in a comfortable timeframe- it makes more fiduciary sense to opt for the licensed version.
Surprisingly, then, instead of being a decision made by the CIO, the question of “Licensed or SaaS” quickly becomes a decision made by the CFO.
And, really, with most providers, it doesn’t matter which you choose. With the exception of a few providers whose SaaS version differs significantly from its licensed version, the features and reporting capabilities are the same between the two. At Acumen, SaaS subscribers also have access to the newest version of the software, with all the newest features.
In addition, with the SaaS delivery method, you’ll have access to the software anywhere in the world, any time of day- regardless of your provider. For example, with Acumen’s licensed software, you’ll also have access to many of the web-enabled portions of the software anywhere in the world, any time.
Complementary Products & Services
Ask each prospective vendor if they offer complementary products and services to learn more about the company. Some time and attendance providers opt to focus solely on their core competency while others branch-out to provide related services.
Neither practice is necessarily good or bad; it just depends on the company’s focus. Will you get good support if you’re a small fish only purchasing one of their twenty services? Does the company’s spread of focus diminish the quality of its time and attendance product?
But the real questions here are: “Does my company need any of these supplementary services? Will we down the road?”
Some common related services include:
- Employee Scheduling
- Facility Access Control
- HR Management
- Employee Self-Service
- Payroll Systems
- Pre-Employment Services
Company Practices and Satisfaction
Of course, along with all these other complementary services comes the wedding ring and ceremony; Once you’re locked-into several of these services, it’s nearly impossible to switch if you’re unhappy or require better functionality.
Many of the large payroll providers do just this- they’ll tell you that you have to use their time and attendance system in order to use their payroll system. In most cases, this is simply not true. Acumen, for instance, can integrate with nearly any payroll system out there.
Another questionable company practice to watch out for is the rental of employee time clocks. Since they have you locked-into their other services, many of the larger payroll providers will not allow you to purchase your employee time clocks outright. This inflates the total cost of ownership significantly and should be taken into consideration when comparing proposals prior to purchase.
This brings us to the topic of vendor reputation. It’s interesting how even the players with great reputations- such as these large payroll providers- can get away with practices such as renting time clocks, failing to provide adequate support, charging extra if more than one administrator is to use the system, and refusing to customize the software even for large clients.
When evaluating vendors, you can evaluate reputation by using any search engine. Type in the company name, then the word “problems” or any synonym. On the company’s website, look for testimonials and case studies. And when you’re toward the end of the purchase cycle, ask for a customer reference.
One question to ask a customer reference is “How would you rate their integration and support services?”
Acumen has rescued several companies lost in an integration nightmare that was over-promised by the vendor. If you’re looking to integrate several different services, make sure the vendor has experience in the area and a track record of success- as well as flexible software that can rise to the challenge.
Regarding integration, support, and other services, look for testimonials and ask for references. Don’t be shy to ask for a reference that closely resembles your intended deployment.
Common services offered by time and attendance providers include:
- Software Customization
- Exclusive Engineering
- Server Hosting
- Integration with Payroll, ERP, and Other Systems
Software customization and software engineering are not commonly found in the industry, but are a valuable service for many companies looking for time and attendance. Many time and attendance applications are setup in a specific way- and it’s up to you to make your business structure and nomenclature match the system.
Further, the software may be missing essential functionality (or something as simple as one field) that is required for your deployment. If you notice early-on that the software you’re evaluating is missing functionality, ask if they offer customization services immediately to reduce the vendor qualification process.
Superior hosting services are essential for companies providing time and attendance on a SaaS basis. Ensure your data will be hosted in a top-tier datacenter with 99.99% or- preferably- 99.999% uptime (Acumen meets the most stringent criteria for its datacenters).
Next, look for repair and maintenance services. Some time and attendance vendors will provide you with a “loaner” time clock if needed. That way, if you don’t keep backup time clocks in case one breaks down, you can call your vendor (like Acumen) and get a another employee time clock shipped to you overnight while your broken terminal is repaired.
Regarding maintenance and support, a good provider is going to offer several levels of well- defined support and maintenance for any questions you have down the road. With something as important as employee time and attendance / payroll, you need to make sure your data, reports, and payroll exports are there when you need them.
If you’re an enterprise-level company, you’re going to need 24/7/365 support to ensure valuable time- or data- isn’t lost. Ask what levels of support are available, and the services associated with each level. Remote desktop assistance is essential for fast maintenance resolution, so be sure to ask if it is available.
If your company is held to mandates set forth by Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, PCI, FairPay Rules, or the Fair Labor Standards Act (which covers just about every company), a properly automated time and attendance system can help you facilitate compliance.
By providing accountability, reliability, access to historical records, and secure systems, an automated time and attendance system complete with time and attendance software helps you meet the requirements of these acts and governing bodies.
Since all wage and labor information is accurately recorded and maintained for future reference, a complete time and attendance system will help in any audit or litigation process. Acumen’s employee time and attendance software even includes a convenient Auditor Report to quickly and easily create a report for auditors.
Experts in Timekeeping and Employee Scheduling
Acumen Data Systems is a leading provider of time clock and employee scheduling software. We help organizations manage their most valuable resources, the human kind. Acumen offers robust solutions for time and attendance, scheduling and leave management.
We believe that technology is just one quarter of the workforce management pie. Employees, policy, and the environment are just as important.
Do you have questions about investing in a new time and attendance system?