Thanks to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and automation, employee scheduling and shift planning has become easier than ever. Managers no longer need to stare at empty spreadsheets, wondering where to copy and paste employee names to schedule work shifts. Fortunately, shift automation has given managers and business owners the freedom to explore the many ways in which tying scheduling tools to other SaaS tools could improve operations across the board. Think about it: What if the data from your collaboration and file sharing platform was pushed and pulled with data from your scheduling tool? You'd be able to tie employees to shifts, open access to documents necessary for each shift, and chat about what needs to be done during shift changes.
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I spoke with Ashik Ahmed, co-founder, CTO, and CEO of Deputy, whose software is our Editors' choice in the shift planning and human resources (HR) management category. Ahmed and I discussed the many ways in which shift planning is impacting other business areas, and how new technologies are revolutionizing the ways in which shift planning software is being used.
PCMag: Deputy is a scheduling tool, a time and attendance tool, as well as a communications tool. As IFTTT and Zapier create opportunities for businesses to build out diversified toolsets, what can already-diverse companies do to gain an advantage over piecemeal systems?
Ashik Ahmed (AA): We think about this as tech vendors deciding to go deep versus wide. A company like BambooHR comes in every day thinking about how to be the most amazing applicant tracking (AT) system. If you're an HR system and you're trying to compete with BambooHR, you have an uphill battle. That singular focus on your core strength is what we believe the industry is moving towards: having amazing products that are deep in their respective functions but that integrate and play nice with other systems.
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PCM: As social media and collaboration tools begin to connect employees in fun, engaging, and instantaneous ways, how has your industry been adjusting its in-platform communications tools?
AA: It's no longer enough to just provide alphanumeric communication tools. Being able to share pictures, files, and videos are now expected by employees. When you're remote or managing employees across regions, the communication tools have an equal objective of unifying and building relationships as they do of transmission of business communications. It's why you see Slack integrating video chat and massive emoji banks. All of a sudden, words are elevated to expressions and sentiments that are just hard to do in short-form writing.
PCM: Speaking of remote workers, now that remote working has become more common, how has the shift scheduling software industry had to evolve?
AA: The percentage of hourly workers who are issued company email addresses continues to be very low. The result is fragmented or broken communication channels with their employees. We've seen a massive amount of focus in communication tools that either integrate or are native to scheduling apps as a result. If you're a scheduler, you need the best communication channels to make sure call-outs are handled quickly. The other functions of the business are finding the same communications channels that the scheduler is using are more effective than email, and are now demanding these integrated tools to support the entire business, not just the scheduler.
PCM: So, what does a company have to do to ensure they're enabling cross-geography functionality for clients that run global operations?
AA: The solution for global companies is less about the software and more about language support and customer service. Most apps that are global need at least five standard languages on all platforms (desktop, Android, iOS apps) to be appealing to a global brand. 24x7x365 support is also becoming a mandate by brands that face the sun never setting.
PCM: Seems like I ask this of everyone I speak to these days: What role can and will artificial intelligence (AI) play in driving the scheduling and HR management industry forward? How will it work and how will it benefit clients?
AA: What we've observed is that, for many brands, especially retail brands, the brick-and-mortar store is becoming a touchpoint of the shopping experience, not the end destination for a purchase. For example, Timbuk2 has a store in Hayes Valley, San Francisco that is slammed with traffic every open hour. That store handles business accounts, custom orders via in-store displays, returns, online order pickup, and direct purchases. AI can help link in these demand signals and ensure that the right people are scheduled at the right time, down to 15-minute increments.