Time Zones Matter: Why Kronos Opened an Indy Tech Center

[Correction, 9/7/17, 11:45 a.m. See below.] Kronos, a Lowell, MA-based company focused on workforce management software and services, has operations across the world. It serves customers in more than 100 countries, raking in over a billion dollars in revenue annually.

So it might be surprising that, according to chief services officer and senior vice president of operations Chris Todd, its office in Indianapolis is a significant contributor to the company’s success. [An earlier draft of this article misidentified the Kronos executive we quoted. We regret the error.]

Established in 2012, Todd says the Indiana operation drives innovation and the growth of the company’s cloud technologies as a key hub for professional services and the implementation of its human capital management software products.  Since its inception, the Indy office has created 250 jobs; piloted a number of process improvements to its cloud services; and is home to the company’s Workforce Ready team, which Todd says is expected to generate more than $100 million in revenue this year.

So how did Kronos end up in Indiana in the first place? Todd says it all started about five years ago, when the company realized it needed to establish hubs where staff could assist customers with software implementation, much like it had opened engineering centers across the world.

At that time, most of the company’s implementation services revolved around transitioning customers to the cloud, but Kronos had a structural problem, he explains. “Almost everyone worked remotely, but we had 30,000 customers across the world. We had adopted a model where it didn’t matter where employees lived, which usually works well. But when you have a 100 percent remote workforce, you can’t see what people are doing and it’s hard to collaborate.”

Kronos decided it needed a place to locate a “critical mass” of employees dedicated to implementation and professional services. It started as a global search in places like India and Brazil, but the company soon decided the new location needed to be within the continental United States.

“Implementation takes engagement between customers and employees in real time,” he says. “Time zones matter. And it had to be easy to get to from Boston.”

Todd says he started to research city sizes, wondering what it would require to support a business with a few hundred employees, and thought perhaps the company could locate in a small, inexpensive area. He envisioned the Kronos leadership team on the front page of a small-town newspaper, shovels in hand, at a groundbreaking ceremony.

“It turns out population size matters, but so does the number of college graduates in your field,” he says. “We realized we would need a pretty big city pretty fast. We toured four—Atlanta, Tampa, Charlotte, NC, and Indianapolis—and we were really excited about the quality of tech talent being created in Indiana.”

Just to be sure it had made the right choice, Kronos conducted interviews  in each of the four cities. “We were blown away by the people in Indy,” Todd recalls. “We opened in January 2012 and so far, it’s been wildly successful. The team there has helped deliver tangible benefits.”

Kronos spent $5 million on its office downtown in the PNC Tower, where about 200 people currently work, making it the company’s third-largest office. Todd says Kronos uses the location as a lab to test new tools and initiatives before rolling them out to the rest of the company. The office also plays a role in the company’s training efforts, and it plans to put new Indy-based “Kronites” through an extensive 12-week onboarding process in the coming year.

“That’s an ancillary benefit: When we want to do new things in professional services, Indy is the place we go,” Todd says.

As for future Indiana plans, Todd says “more of the same” is in store as the company further invests in the office and hires more staff. “We’ve been nothing but thrilled with the quality of people we’ve been able to hire in Indiana,” he adds. “Indy’s tech scene sure feels vibrant to me.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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