There are multiple perspectives on SAP’s announced acquisition of Fieldglass in the Spend Matters office – all generally very positive. One thing that many of us are curious about is what SAP and Ariba could build with Fieldglass by extending the application capability of the Fieldglass VMS to a network-based model targeting new types of value not only for procurement, HR and IT organizations consuming services (and external talent), but the suppliers themselves.
I believe there are some useful archetypes in the market to follow in creating not just a talent marketplace (Elance, oDesk, Blur, etc.), but in delivering a true set of services to different types of services suppliers (outside of those working for larger staffing firms or services providers as contingent workers or on a project basis). The growing market for independent contractors and consultants, for example, as well as retired workers (something that Fieldglass has actually enabled through its VMS), also has a supply side to it that could benefit from new services.
MBO Partners is one of the classic examples of a provider which is not just a traditional VMS or MSP, but that provides services which begin to look very much like a personal employment organization (PEO) for the independent contractors and consultants it works with. For example, it offers a range of insurance products (e.g., general liability, E&O, medical, etc.) as well as broader employee benefits to the individuals and small firms who work with it. They even offer metrics-centric reporting tools to help these individuals and firms run their business as an adjunct to QuickBooks and other small business accounting packages.
It’s also worth paying attention to what ZeroChaos is up to as well as an archetype (incidentally, we’re looking forward to digging into not just their standard VMS/MSP capabilities, but also some of their talent/contingent crowdsourcing and supplier diversity approaches this spring as well). They’ve also focused on other areas of value on the supplier side, including insurance products.
It’s not too far-fetched to think of an expanded Ariba and Fieldglass network designed to enable new capabilities and services for suppliers that has elements of Elance, MBO Partners or ZeroChaos, but delivered in a network-based manner. One can also imagine new types of financing capabilities, skills networks/virtual teaming, training, risk management, benchmarking and many other services layered on top of the services procurement and VMS applications themselves.
Heck, maybe the VMS just becomes an “app” on top of the network – and the real value resides in the intelligence of the network itself. Think about it: perhaps a future network could parse SOWs and job reqs to the right supplier sources – firms, ICs, staffing organizations – based on embedded intelligence. Maybe it ties into internal HR and human capital management tools to decide a blending talent outcome of internal and external resources.
OK, enough future casting. But the networked potential for services procurement is fascinating indeed!