Saving time and money: We meet software firm Replicon

We get the low-down from Adam Walker, vice president of Sales at Replicon EMEA.

What are the primary challenges that companies are facing today and why is Replicon relevant?

The workforce is no longer static, irrespective of organisation or industry type. Few people commit to a 'job for life' and technology is ever evolving the processes and roles within a business. Modern manufacturing practices have enabled management teams to better focus shift patterns. Process automation has seen employees moved from back-office administrative roles to revenue generating positions within the business.

Free movement of workers across Europe has also introduced complexities for human resources teams. Each European country is bound to its own employment laws and regulations. It is therefore vital that the processes used to manage employee time and attendance provide timely, highly visible, error free data to both managers and to those who own the organisational compliance aligned to these complex rules and regulations. The ability to factor in these regional differences is vital when managing a workforce across multiple territories.

This ever changing workforce has introduced huge administrative burdens and costs for finance, HR and payroll teams. The amount of data needed to record and measure how employee activities drive business or organisational performances can no longer be managed using disparate and paper-based processes.

The time wasted manually chasing, in-putting and analysing time and job sheets, annual leave and absence, coupled with the room for human error along the whole time management chain, can be detrimental to the growth of a business.

How does Replicon address these pain points?

Globally, over 7,800 private and public sector organisations and 1.5 million people use Replicon's cloud-based time and expense tracking solutions to log and manage: time and attendance; expenses; professional services billing; project cost management and absenteeism.

The decision to have a team on the ground in EMEA is to ensure that increasingly regulated businesses are best supported with highly configurable workforce management solutions – ones that meet the specific local employment laws and compliance requirements of each country.

The Replicon cloud-based systems can be used as standalone solutions or integrated into existing payroll and HR systems. Improved visibility makes it easy to map time against projects for accurate client billing. It also highlights patterns of employee absenteeism.

Improved timesheet management and automation, job allocation and increased employee productivity is reported to cut the cost of payroll and expense management by up to 50 per cent - essential in these austere times when efficiency gains can be essential to business survival.

What kinds of solutions does Replicon offer?

Replicon's time tracking solutions are all cloud-based. They are built on an open architecture, which makes it easy for a customer to build connectors to integrate their ERP, payroll and expense management systems, or for Replicon to do this as a service.

What makes Replicon's solutions unique is that they have been built to meet specific time tracking needs. They are not add-on tools.

Configurable - They are highly configurable to local compliance needs, for example, rules can be configured to meet the working hour, annual leave and maternity leave directives of the specific country. This is particularly important where a business might have a head office in the UK, but branch offices across the world. It is also possible to set rules for benefits that are unique to the business or to a group of employees.

Easy-to-use - The interfaces have been designed from an end-user perspective. They are easy to learn – vital where there is a high-turnover workforce – and intuitive to use. By taking the user automatically through the process, it is not possible to leave out fields, ensuring all relevant data is captured. HR teams do not have time to be digging for data and with respect to this, Replicon factors the data into easy to read reports with built-in alerts and dashboards.

Mobile – The Replicon mobile platform enables access to any of its cloud-based time tracking applications - at anytime and from anywhere - using a mobile phone or tablet. The benefits are multiple. Employees can book time of in seconds and the request can be approved by their supervisor remotely, who can check records and ensure the request is within the employees holiday allocation.

The ability to log time and expenses on-the-move eliminates delays in submission and subsequent approval. The capability to photograph and upload digital receipts to support expenses claims and to detail the currency and billable codes ensures the process is compliant with regulatory stipulations. Once entered, the data is captured and synced with the central system in seconds.

Flexible reporting – There are multiple reporting options, covering all from out of the box reports, highly configurable ad hoc reports and more importantly in process reporting. The reports can integrate data from other systems and be used to present audit and process trails for regulators.

Time and attendance compliance – Replicon's TimeAttend application makes it easy to collect attendance and time off data quickly to streamline the payroll process and to reduce errors. Not only does this provide great visibility into workforce productivity, improving time off and cost management, it is also vital to ensure compliance with the labour laws in each country that it operates.

Professional services organisational management - This management system provides visibility into performance to maximise service margins and to ensure that project delivery is on time and projects are profitable. By streamlining the project capture, it is easy to keep track of the status and cost of each element of a project. This allows for better cost projections and management, which in turn reduce revenue leakage and maintains cash-flow.

Contractor and project management - In addition to employees, it is possible to easily track contractor delivery against project targets to ensure that projects including IT and marketing are delivered on time and within budget. Any potential issues can be identified before they become a concern.

Shared services – Huge amounts of money are lost as the result of failing to track and bill efficiently for shared services. Credit Suisse, for example, has over 2,500 internal lawyers and compliance professionals assigned to its business units. It is vital that the progress of the projects can be tracked against the time spent and the results delivered. Replicon makes this possible for Credit Suisse, but for many organisations without time tracking systems the hidden cost of shared services can have a devastating impact on bottom line. Replicon makes everything visible.

In terms of competition, it is a very busy space, with specialists in HR, payroll or expense management, but with no other businesses offering the scope of solutions offered by Replicon.

Oracle and SAP may have the scope of service offering, but they are costly, complex modules with elongated implementation times and costly upgrade processes.

The main 'competitor', however, is "do-nothing" i.e. paper-based, spreadsheets or internally built systems, which do not tackle the complexities of configurability, data management, and complex analytics.

What is Replicon's strategy for staying ahead in IT solutions?

Part of Replicon's European expansion strategy is to ensure that it can develop existing and new products that meet the organisational and compliance needs of businesses around the world. If additional functionality or common customisations are required by its customers these will be built into product updates. It is possible also the sector specific modules could be developed if demand dictates. For example, Replicon has evolved a purpose built shared services package, which as previously mentioned, shared services was the peril for many in terms of time loss, time fraud and compliance failure.

What kinds of companies use Replicon; any European customers?

There are currently over 300 customers in Europe, ranging from SMEs to large enterprises, but this number is set to increase rapidly over the next 18 months.

Current EMEA customers include Credit Suisse, ITV, BP, Centrica, Prudential and a range of financial houses, solicitors, manufactures and service sector businesses. Internationally, big brand users include HP, Xerox, Orange, Horizon Media, Fujitsu, Motorola and FedEx.

What kinds of benefits are you seeing from customers using Replicon's cloud time tracking solutions?

The key benefits reported include:

- Faster, more accurate client billing and on-time project delivery.

- Up-to-the-minute time and cost data for all projects, with better cost visibility and improved on-time completion.

- Faster, more accurate payroll processing, helping to ensure compliance with workplace laws.

- Complete visibility of attendance records, making it easier to identify patterns in non-attendance and also making it easy to keep a company staffed appropriately.

- Simplified and more accurate employee time clocking processes, improving accuracy and reducing time theft.

- Better management of expense tracking against reimbursable and project-related expenses, which help monitor and control business costs and better plan resources.

What additional expansion are you looking at in EMEA?

By the end of 2013, it is expected that there will be eight pre-and post-sales support employees in the UK and a network of partners across Europe.

Why are enterprise CIOs increasingly moving to the cloud?

All analyst reports state that cloud is the number two priority after mission critical applications.

CIOs are not going to put time management processes at the top of the IT team's to-do list. Instead, they are encouraging the adoption of functionally specific apps that are essential, but not front of house. These are used at a departmental level, essentially, putting ownership back into the function.

That said, the CIO will set the user policies and guidelines to ensure that the solutions selected are secure, compliant, of open architecture, scalable and from a company that can demonstrate longevity.

What are the top 5 things that IT needs to consider when evaluating a cloud-based solution?

  1. Application is fit for purpose
  2. Secure
  3. Integrates with existing platforms
  4. Compliant and meets requirements of regulators
  5. Hassle free to set up, use manage and upgrade

End-users are having more influence and/or preference on workplace applications. How can IT create a win/win solution that satisfies IT requirements and also make end-users in the enterprise happy?

Usability. If the application is easy to use, people will use it. If it saves them time and makes a 'tedious' task more bearable, they will use it. If it is not easy to use people won't use it, or the support costs will become excessive and a burden on the IT department.

In the long-term the project will fail and the project will be returned to the IT department. As it is unlikely to be a CIO priority, it will go to the bottom of the to-do list and the process failures will continue as before.