The the Rescue

It was nearly 90 degrees and the breeze was barely offering any relief from the heat radiating off the white sand. I love the beach but there are times when even the relatively cool, 80-degree water can’t offer any way to provide relief.  I looked at all those beach front homes with their cover decks, fans and A/C with envy. Then just when I was thinking of packing it up and heading for the air-conditioned car, clouds rolled in and covered the sun. Temperature moderate, winds began to pick up and I could see the telltale signs of a shower in the distance. Relief was coming thanks to the cloud.

Being on the beach can make you feel a bit exposed. Like a small business that is so vulnerable to the whims of the market, it can be tough to find relief that is offered to the larger competitors with resources and plenty of volume to offer to the latest solutions providers.  With recent advances in technology, that is beginning to change thanks to the cloud.  Take the workforce management systems for example. Finally contingent workforce management systems are in the cloud. That means a small or medium sized business (SMB) can get the control, visibility and risk mitigation that has previously been available to only larger enterprises. Like that experience on the beach, this cloud is bringing relief to SMBs who have grown to embrace the use of the external workforce.

Ok, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but why not? Since the first Vendor Management Systems became available in the late 90s, the only companies to take advantage of the technology were the large enterprises. This was due mainly to the complex configurations and integrations required. The providers needed to see the use of staffing agencies totaling into the tens of millions or even hundreds of millions before they could see their ROI. A new program commonly took 6-18 months for the sales cycle and a 3-6 month implementation. Then it took over a year before the steady state really produced the results—and thus the profit—the software providers needed to make it worth their while. Finally we started seeing providers build their technology in the cloud so IT no longer needed to allocate their scarce resources. They built in best practices so configuration could be standardized, which also resulted in far less demand on their clients to make complex decisions around policies, processes and practices.

Then the biggest and most prolific software provider in the space, SAP Fieldglass entered the arena with a Small and Medium-sized business version of their popular enterprise system.  Fieldglass Flex, designed for the SMB, is in the cloud, pre-configured and easy to implement. With fewer limitations on the number of external workforce providers required to use the system, it can be thought of as a new for talent. 

SAP Fieldglass asked SIG to do some research among their members to identify the drivers that would motivate smaller organizations to rethink the way they engage their contingent workforce. The report is out now and the case is very compelling. In each of the many member stories gathered in this research one common theme was apparent; use of external talent is a significant part of the human resources strategy in SMB and it is here to stay. A better way to manage this talent is something they all long for. What was also revealed was that most had no idea these systems were now available for their volume of usage.

I’ve been involved in the management of external talent since the first VMS appeared on the scene. In 2016, I led a team of analysts for SIG to review and document the innovations in this technology. In 2017 I reviewed Managed Service Providers and how companies can determine if they are ready to outsource their use of the external workforce. Now having researched the SMB and their use of this workforce I am convinced that literally every company can safely and effectively use contingent talent. The options are all out there for any-sized business, any level of worker, in any industry, to take advantage of these comprehensive “source-to-pay” systems. Who knew that the cloud hanging over the SMB would offer so much towards gaining a step up in the war for top talent?

P.S. Stay tuned for another research report we are preparing that will take the mystery out of the newest solution for the external workforce—Direct Sourcing—where control and efficiency can be placed back in the hands of any business willing to do their own talent procurement.

Jay Lash, Principal Consultant, Compass Rose Advisory

With over 40 years in Human Resources management and talent acquisition, Jay served as the lead analyst and primary author of SIG’s VMS Technology research report and the recent MSP whitepaper. He has been advising companies in the staffing industry and contingent workforce management since the early 1990s and pioneered the use of Workforce Management Solutions; Managed Services Programs and Vendor Management Systems. He has designed over 120 large programs that have transformed companies’ use of non-employee workers.  Jay has held senior leadership roles at Allegis, Manpower and MBO Partners. Among his prior consulting clients are Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, Microsoft and Anthem/Wellpoint.Today he leads Compass Rose Advisory, a professional advisory firm made up of industry professionals that come together to serve clients seeking a transformational approach to the way work gets done.