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Mobile HR Application or Mobile Workforce Management Client?

October 25, 2010

“Mobile is everywhere…” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this statement lately, particularly in the HR technology space. Even our product manager here at Kronos started a recent presentation to some colleagues with that exact phrase. I guess he’s right, just based on the media coverage, press releases and social media noise on the topic. At last month’s HR Tech conference, dozens of vendors, yes Kronos included, were touting their mobile strategies. But can these new mobile “apps” really be considered true business applications?

I think there’s one misconception that many people need clarity on – the difference between mobile applications and “connectivity” through a mobile “client”. Aren’t most mobile HR applications primarily providing access to the existing HRMS, hiring and workforce management enterprise applications that are currently deployed at an organization? Granted, there are HUGE productivity gains with many of these apps, and their value is expected to be significant in both ROI and employee satisfaction. But for the most part, these apps are not providing new functionality. They are simply modernizing and expanding the accessibility. In fact, most HR-based mobile apps actually offer limited functionality when compared to their PC-based parent applications. These clients provide employees and managers the ability to request and approve time-off, manage time card exceptions, fill schedule shifts, view and manage schedules, punch in/out and training courses.

What’s the point? For one, mobile HR apps are not drastic technological innovations for our industry. We’re still getting primarily the same automation and functionality. This is more of an “evolution” of the devices used to access our enterprise systems, much like PCs were to mainframes, or laptops were desktop PCs. Second, vendors will not be seeing major revenue implications from their new mobile applications. Anyone who has downloaded a “business app” from an app store knows that mobile apps are cheap, or in some cases free. Mobile apps increase system utilization by improved accessibility, and provide differentiation in some cases (qualification now in many cases), but they are not the answer to driving revenue.

Are you currently using mobile technology for HR? Did you pay for the apps? Are you doing anything beyond what your enterprise HR system can do from a PC?

More commentary on mobile coming soon…

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