November 9, 2004

Retail Group To Help Integrate Worker Attendance Programs

By Evan Schuman, eWEEK

In a move that is expected to slash one kind of retail installation project from nine months to three, a National Retail Federation division has unveiled the initial public release of its IXRetail Time Punch XML schema.

The division—The Association for Retail Technology Standards, or ARTS—also introduced Customer 2.0, which is intended to aid the exchange of customer data among applications in order to simplify integration of new applications such as loyalty programs into existing IT infrastructures.

Richard Mader, executive director of ARTS, said the new schemas will significantly accelerate staff scheduling, as well as time and attendance installations and integrations.

"As a former CIO for 15 years, I installed time and attendance and staff scheduling twice for different retailers. In both of those instances, it took six to nine months to work out the data movements to tie the time and attendance and the staff scheduling system to the point-of-sale system, so it can estimate how many people to schedule for the sales floor," Mader said.

"It then had to communicate back to the payroll system so that time and attendance gets reported accurately, and it also needed to link to the in-store personnel system," Mader said. "Because of its many interfaces, installing this system could become a very growing task. With these new schemas, what used to be a nine-month job, you can get down to a three-month job."

The integration is made simpler because some many of the links can be formatted once and then replicated.

"It's much easier that we already have a predefined format that allows the retailer to simply write to that format rather than have to do a lot of custom data mapping from tables to tables and things like that," said Bob Clements, vice president of workforce management product development for 360Commerce, who served as the leader of the schema's development.

Other development team members were Paul Gay of Seiko Epson Corp., Doug Jones of Target Corp., Frank May of Microsoft Corp., Monty Moncrief of Blockbuster Inc., Donald Rome of Oracle Corp., Murtaza Ghadyali of Reflexis Systems Inc. and Richard Halter of ARTS.

The IXRetail Time Punch XML schema is designed to support any retailer, regardless of how its employee data is stored. Using vendor-independent standard XML messages, the Time Punch schema allows retailers to track attendance and task assignments for their employees.

These standard XML messages enable a retailer to manage the complexity of communication between other worker management applications such as Task Management, Human Resources, Payroll, or even POS (point of sale) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.

The scope of the initial Time Punch schema focuses on basic needs such as punch in/out, punch types (for example, shift start or end, lunches and breaks), corrections, task assignments and worker location tracking.