Workforce optimization is closely related to and an evolution of Workforce management and encompasses all aspects of managing the complete workforce life-cycle.
Workforce optimization supports the business with key insights into how its workforce is performing. In the closely related area of workforce management, the emphasis is on improving operational efficiency and managing the workforce effectively while keeping overall costs at a minimum. Workforce optimization, in addition, takes this one step further by using analytics to tie workforce management to key business concepts such as growth, profit and the customer experience. Workforce optimization is concerned with enabling businesses to take control of all aspects of their staffing, and helps staff understand how they affect the business's performance, with an emphasis on improving this incrementally over time.
Workforce optimization solutions tie together vertical workforce management systems and provide bridges between three main stakeholders, namely, HR, Operations and IT. The approach is business driven and involves automating entire processes, making key data more visible at more levels in order to support better decision-making, ensuring compliance with a wide range of relevant legislation, and solving business problems related to staff.
Workforce optimization is best viewed as the next logical step in the move to optimize the performance of staff and to understand and manage the overarching impacts of staff on both operational efficiency and the customer experience.
In many industries people are one of the main costs to the business. Yet, much less attention has been focused on optimizing processes, costs and issues related to staff than has been focused on other aspects of operations (such as inventory or supply chain). This area also has a much lower level of deployment of technology and automation than many other parts of the business. In highly competitive but people-intensive industries such as retail, workforce optimization is therefore seen as the next battleground for commercial differentiation and advantage, as the benefits from optimizing other main cost areas such as inventory are exhausted.
The role of mobility
Workforce optimization employs mobile (wireless) technologies more extensively than was the case with workforce management. The aim of using mobile technology is to improve the productivity and effectiveness of staff. Among other things, mobile technology delivers access to key information wherever staff are located, m-learning opportunities, and improved communication with staff.
According to a study by SRH University of Applied Sciences Heidelberg, workforce management is an increasingly important issue for three-quarters of decision-makers in the top 1,000 companies in Germany – with an upward trend. But only about one-third of these companies actually use an appropriate software solution (this is due in part to the difficulty in automating workforce optimization scheduling). 
- http://www.mjc2.com/staff-planning-complexity.htm Why is staff scheduling hard?
- http://www.collab.pt/en/overview Why Workforce Optimization tool?