SAP Retail Workforce Management

SAP has taken an interesting turn in its approach to the industry-specific marketplace with the release of its retail workforce management application. The new Web-based software is not a full CRM suite tailored for the retail industry. Rather, it focuses on the oft-neglected area of workforce management — “a very important part of CRM,” according to SAP vice president Mark Layden, CRM workforce management.

“You need to have the knowledge and tools at the right place in order to facilitate a good customer relationship,” he told CRM Buyer Magazine. “And just as importantly, you need the right people.”

The application will be available by year-end, the company said.

Centralized Application

Like most traditional workforce management applications, SAP’s product automates a company’s labor scheduling in order to maximize productivity and efficiency. It utilizes an optimization engine that finds the best floor scheduling for retail stores — based on such weighted variables as staffing needs, employee skills, payroll requirements, employee availability, workplace rules and performance standards.

One competitive differentiator of the application is its centralized structure, Layden said, which translates into a significant reduction in total cost of ownership. “Because we are centralized, we are able to schedule a whole population of employees across many stores — it’s not restricted to one location.”

So, an employee might be scheduled to work in one branch in the morning and a different one in the afternoon to achieve optimal efficiency. “As a result, employees can get more hours, and the store has lower costs,” Layden noted.

Other features include system configuration and maintenance, forecasting, schedule creation, employee data maintenance, reporting and analytics.

Workforce Management, Retail Style

Most companies are familiar with the traditional workforce management and agent optimization model — that is, those apps that have been a mainstay of the call center industry. By automating workforce scheduling according to anticipated call volumes and skills assessments, call centers are able to cut down on their biggest financial drain — underutilized agents during slack hours.

Call centers also are able to address a common customer complaint using suchtechnology — by having enough agents on hand when call volumes peak.”It’s all about matching the right skills with the right people at the right time,” Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Katrina Howell told CRM Buyer.

There are a number of workforce management best-of-breed vendors on the market, as well as CRM suite vendors, that incorporate this functionality in their offerings.

Uphill Run

Hayden said SAP has differentiated itself from the majority of the market by tailoring this application to the retail industry. The company currently is developing similar products for other industries as well, he added. “We have had several sectors present workforce management challenges to us. We are prioritizing our development activities based on our customers’ needs.”

Until now, SAP’s industry-specific CRM applications have largely been overshadowed by Siebel and other vendors’ vertical offerings. However, AMR Research analyst Joanie Rufo told CRM Buyer that she expects to see SAP catch up this year.

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