In my first column tackling the latest from Chicago-based VMS provider Fieldglass last week, I provided an overview of a number of the gaps they recently filled from a reporting, analytics, visualization and benchmarking perspective in their solution. But I was not alone in having an opinion on the subject -- I also appreciated the reader comment that provided some additional color around how other providers stack up in this regard as well. Today, I'll continue this analysis, providing some concrete examples of how companies can leverage the enhanced analytics capabilities of providers like Fieldglass to make better contingent staffing decisions that save money and time while driving to better levels of supplier performance. Let's begin.
First, as anyone who spends too much time in front of a computer screen (even the brilliant LED one on my Macbook), it becomes clear pretty quickly how poor design can add significant time to research and analysis. Take, for example, the amount of time it can take to navigate around a services Spend Management application to look for information on how speed -- or latency -- factors into the supplier equation when it comes to contingent requisition and on-boarding cycle time. When using many interfaces in the market, hunting for information requires numerous clicks, eye squints and then potentially an export into Excel to drill into the data, let along creating an acceptable visual to share with others in a report highlighting what you've just discovered.
But with Fieldglass, the data describing such elements as time to respond to job postings, time to accept work orders, time to register workers and time for suppliers to fulfill is displayed in a single screen that captures all of the key elements that you're most likely to be looking for. This approach also enables users to further drill into or segment data, while analyzing and reporting what they find using highly intuitive bar and radar charts. For the more analytically inclined, these visual representations of the data can rapidly speed up the ability to process and digest information. It's not only slick -- it's time saving. Another drill down an organization might first examine via a high-level charting or dashboard interface before drilling into the data using Fieldglass (or another provider) is to measure and rank suppliers based on KPIs around overall responsiveness, hire rates, acceptance rates, replacement rates, etc.
The key to truly making use of this type of information is being able to act on it quickly. For example, if upon realizing a contractor rate is out of an acceptable range, the VMS platform should enable users to drill into the information and, in the same work stream, request that the rate be lowered (or to solicit more information before making a rate adjustment request). The challenge of static reports or handling this type of analysis in Excel is that the step that actually leads to savings is removed from the actual analysis itself, leaving open the door to ad hoc requests that never end up being followed up on and ultimately dropping to the bottom line.
However, this is not to say that Excel -- and Excel-like -- environments do not have their place in analyzing contingent spend. They do. But if, as you can in Fieldglass, handle these analyses in web-based spreadsheet tools that mimic some of the basic capabilities of Excel and Google App's Spreadsheet capability, it becomes far easier to monitor and act on the information, let alone measuring and reporting on it over time.
Overall, Fieldglass' new analytics, visualization and reporting capabilities help bring it back up in contention for co-leadership in this area (previously, IQNavigator had superior capabilities in this regard, albeit without the same level of user-friendliness and navigation, although the Denver-based provider has very recently taken steps to address this). Moreover, having this type of visualization, reporting and analysis capability that exists within the contingent spend and lifecycle management work stream will put pressure on the rest of the market including Ariba, Emptoris and others to step up their services procurement visualization, analytics and reporting game. And eventually when they do, I suspect we'll succeed in forever banishing Excel and third-party analytics and BI platforms as central tools for contingent spending reporting and analysis.