Fieldglass: Procurement Collaboration Meets Social Capabilities

The original iteration of this article can be found on Spend Matters PRO: Fieldglass: Procurement Collaboration Dabbles in Social Capabilities

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A few months ago, Fieldglass gave us a quick introduction on how they've embedded "social" capabilities at the core of their VMS application. While we think social can (and should) mean more in the context of a variety of requisition tools (from services procurement to P2P to direct procurement) – than what early examples are proving today, Fieldglass is no doubt taking the right step in social collaboration direction. But their early efforts leave us thinking: what will be next and will be see entire VMS and P2P toolsets built to support the social enterprise at the core?

Perhaps some context is in order. VMS toolsets such as Fieldglass are really specialized end-to-end P2P solutions that manage the buying and vendor management lifecycle process for contingent and non-contingent services categories. There are many nuances to this sub-sector of procurement technology, including a frequent 100% supplier-paid revenue model.

But perhaps the most appropriate element that stands out for our purposes today is that the toolsets touch a lot of users – from MSPs (managed services providers) to staffing firms to other types of suppliers to hiring managers to approvers to IT to HR. VMS tools also touch many systems, often requiring significant integration in the cloud to achieve the full value they promise in the sales process.

Fieldglass shared with us a typical communications flow that could be found throughout the "collaborative journey of a requisition" for a contingent hire. When starting the process, a hiring manager typically contacts the project manager for a contingent program (an MSP resource if managed by a third-party; an internal resource for self-managed programs) either by email or phone. The intermediary resource would then work with approved suppliers and start the requisition process by identifying potential candidates.

Up until this point and following, there are likely many points of contact/questions between the group that's privy to the candidate evaluation, hiring and on-boarding. Fieldglass suggests that FAQs might include average rates in given locales, various issues specific to a candidate, requests for reports/data look-ups, action items/approvals, etc.

These questions and items involve different parties. For example, quite often an individual will assign action items to either a peer or third party (e.g., MSP), the Fieldglass team notes. Sometimes peer-to-peer conversations will be the focus. Historically, however, many (if not all) of these questions, action items and collaborations have occurred in one of two ways:

  1. Outside the VMS itself (email, phone, etc.)
  2. In a kludged manner inside a VMS

In other words, not only do companies lose visibility and the ability to foster more rapid collaboration that can improve outcomes and reduce cycle times, they have historically created an environment that can potentially reduce compliance and audit trails because these actions are not being captured. In more tightly regulated industries such as financial services, such concerns (and risk elements) can be even greater.

Hence the core concept for a socially-oriented application in the services procurement world, at least as Fieldglass positions it, is to enable better collaboration and collaboration capture throughout the lifecycle and contingent "buying" process. This can involve learning from peers; it can also empower (and create further leverage) a project management office (PMO) function to take greater responsibility and control in a teaming and collaborative context – rather than just acting as a go-between.

Chat Capability in the Fieldglass "Social VMS"

Fieldglass' approach to embedding social components is a step in the right collaboration direction for procurement applications in general. But a lot of work remains to bring these capabilities up to a functional level that employees already expect when working outside of an enterprise application environment for purpose-built social tools, VMS or otherwise.

For access to our entire analysis of the topic, including specifically how Fieldglass is embedding social capability in the context of their toolset and where this capability might go next, check out the full article.

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- Jason Busch

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