First Full Day at VMSA Live 2015 – The Contingent Workforce Staffing Supply Chain is Alive and Kicking

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I am continuing my coverage of VMSA Live, an innovative and independent industry supply chain conference, which is designed and organized to bring together practitioners from all parts of the staffing supply chain (including enterprise contingent workforce programs, MSPs, VMS', staffing suppliers of various kinds and other supporting service and solution provides – including your own Spend Matters). Here I am reporting on the first full day of the conference (which goes on for another day and and a half), putting into context, recounting how it is working and describing what was covered in some of the sessions.

One general observation can be made right off the bat, however: The contingent workforce staffing supply chain is alive, and it is kicking.

Why is This of Interest to Contingent Workforce Procurement Professionals?

I know you don’t need to hear it, but: People are not paper clips. Contingent workforce procurement professionals know all too well the unique challenges of organizing and controlling this evolving supply chain that delivers mission-critical labor/talent and services (in complex – often intermingled – forms) sourced from a fragmented, sprawling sector of different (mainly temp staffing/SOW) suppliers/service providers. In reality, the supply chain has evolved into a kind of ecosystem of players that cannot be entirely mastered and directed, but must be structured and orchestrated within a framework of negotiated cooperation, economic exchange and joint problem-solving (and perhaps even innovation).

An inclusive conference like VMSA Live, now only in its third year and becoming semi-annual, is creating a kind of open “workshop” for participants from across the staffing supply chain to come together and focus on trying to “iron out kinks” and make the supply chain function/perform better and hopefully become more resilient, sustainable and extensible. For contingent workforce management professionals, taking the stage as the conductor (leader) of this complex, to some degree self-organizing, orchestra (“human capital ecosystem”) may actually represent the highest form of influence and control that can be achieved. And VMSA Live seems to offer a pathway for moving in this direction.

How Did VMSA Live Unfold on Day 1?

One of the very interesting things about VMSA Live is that it is more of a “process” than an “event.” Typical conference events tend mainly to “expose” their (mostly passive) “attendees” to information. VMSA Live attempts to “actively engage” “participants” in a well-designed process or journey of learning through the sharing of perspectives and experiences of the various kinds of practitioners, often promoting and guiding interactions.

Yesterday was structured such that, for most of the day, there were 2 separated groups or “tracks.” One for enterprise contingent workforce management, MSP and VMS practitioners – focusing on enterprise program best practices. The other was for supplier practitioners – focusing on perspectives and practices to enable suppliers more successfully engage downstream in the supply chain where buyer programs, MSP entities and VMS systems hold sway. In the second half of the day, the 2 groups were brought together for a couple of sessions on how enterprise program managers are working (perhaps often struggling) with their own organization and with VMSs and MSPs to develop a functioning staffing supply chain. Yesterday, at this stage of “the journey,” the 2 groups were being channeled together in a continuing process of education, mutual understanding and respectful, constructive engagement. The last stage of yesterday’s journey consisted of a few rounds of “speed-dating,” which allowed enterprise program management and VMS and MSP participants and supplier participants to sit down and get acquainted for a limited period of time.

Today will have all participants together throughout the whole day. I’ll report on that at the end of the day, but now I’d like to cover some highlights of my participation in the process/”track” for enterprise contingent workforce management program, MSP and VMS participants.

Some Highlights: What I participated in at VMSA Live Yesterday

My morning was occupied by 2 informative sessions that provided substantive insights into the actual conduct of real live contingent workforce management programs.

  • The first was the “Continuous Program Improvement Panel,” featuring enterprise program executives Bob Hicks of Shell, Cindy Campo of State Street Bank, Chuck Budd of TIAA-CREF and Julie Moran of Cox Communication. The panel provided a thorough, detailed understanding of how these managers are focused on activities geared to continue to improve the performance of their established programs, expand user buy-in and engagement, extend programs globally and address the growth in SOW forms of engagement and the challenges of managing them.
  • The second was “Moving Your Program From Tactical to Strategic,” a joint presentation by Jenn Harrold of Office Depot and John Moore of PeopleFluent (Office Depot’s VMS and HR Talent Management System partner). The 2 speakers discussed the concept of “Program Maturity Paths” and (a) the tendency of programs to plateau and require initiatives to go to the next level as well as (b) the need to not only focus on tactical, transactional improvements, but to also stretch into a strategic perspective (including linking to organizational workforce planning, et al). While Moore provided a conceptual perspective, Harrold filled it in by discussing her own activities on the ground (for example, the efforts to engage both internal stakeholders and external supply chain participants, including key suppliers, as partners in the ongoing program development). Office Depot is certainly an interesting case of an innovative enterprise program that is not only heavily leveraging “partnership values” in its program development, but is also advanced, in comparison to most other businesses today, in its pursuit of integrated, total talent management goals.

In the early afternoon, I participated in round table sessions for enterprise, MSP and VMS practitioners. One could participate in 2 roundtables, each about 30 minutes, out of 12 possible round table topics —ranging from “Program Expansion and Innovations” to “ACA and Regulatory Updates.” The round tables were like mini-workshops on each subject; at the conclusion of the whole process an hour later, each round table facilitator provided a summarized read-out of what was discovered at each round table, thus informing all participants on all 12 topics. I chose to participate in round tables on 2 leading edge topics, “Talent Pool Management & Workforce Integration Strategies” and “The Role of a Freelance Management System in a VMS Lead Program.” While the tables were not filled to capacity, they were well attended by highly interested practitioners wanting to get their arms around these still somewhat seminal developments.

My Take: The Contingent Workforce Staffing Supply Chain is Alive and Kicking

As you can probably tell from the summaries and highlights from the activities of the day above, it was a full and substantive work day. The 2 sessions in the morning and the round tables in the early afternoon with my enterprise, MSP and VMS colleagues, which were followed by the inclusion of the suppliers for 2 additional sessions and the final rounds of “speed dating” (which I opted out of), added up to much to absorb, both in terms of theory and practice. My experience so far tells me that the VMSA Live process or journey is functioning as intended and designed by the organizers. I am looking forward to day 2, which will be passed with all practitioners (representing all parts of the supply chain, including suppliers) working together.

Check in again tomorrow for my next report.

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