Thinking Outside the Box: VMSA Live 2015 Brings Together Innovators of the Staffing Supply Chain

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Yesterday at VMSA Live, an innovative and independent industry staffing supply chain conference, all types of participants from the different 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) were collaborating and learning from one another, seeking a common ground between reality and what is possible. As I suggested in yesterday’s post, VMSA Live is demonstrating that the staffing supply chain is alive and kicking – collaborating, as it must – and, it turns out, innovating as well.

My experience yesterday across sessions at VMSA Live allowed me to consider the topic of “innovation in the staffing supply chain”– the main focus of my current post. The structure of the day , for me at least, was a journey that started with a very insightful panel in the morning called the “Industry Innovations Power Panel” (more on this below) and then wound its way through coverage of various quotidian, enterprise program execution topics (e.g., “SOW Supplier Scorecards,” et al) presented with great clarity and effectiveness by expert program practitioners from well known firms (like Texas Instruments, Cox Communications, et al). By the end of the day (which included some thought-provoking round-table discussions on how media, communications and entertainment companies source and engage creative talent), the topic and question of innovation in the staffing supply chain seemed to pop up once again (even unexpectedly, perhaps, at the tail end of a panel of global enterprise contingent workforce management executives from Monsanto, Shell and WIPRO).

What Innovation Means to 3 Different Companies

The initial catalyst for my thinking yesterday about innovation in the staffing supply chain came from The Industry Innovation Power Panel. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, the panel was made up of professionals from 3 technology providers: IQNavigator, PeopleFluent and DCR Workforce. While innovation is not inextricably linked to technology, it is as we know often the basis of it. And these 3 businesses, which occupy major supply chain positions as VMS solutions today, are clearly not standing still. Rather, they are all expanding their roadmaps beyond their focus on supporting today’s needs to explore their visions of what is possible for the supply chain. For IQNavigator, that meant, among other things, enabling talent pools and integrating with freelance management systems (FMS), not to be confused with online freelancer marketplaces, along with opening platform APIs to enable suppliers to obtain new data in new ways.

For PeopleFluent, it also meant a number of things, including enabling business to achieve ways of managing a integrated employee and non-employee workforce. For DCR, it meant the continued development of SmartTrack Xchange and creating a whole new way of enabling enterprises, staffing suppliers and the workforce itself to come together in a kind of digital human capital ecosystem in which all parties can achieve more and benefit relative to how the supply chain functions today. Certainly, these technology companies are exploring innovative ways for connecting business and talent that go beyond – or at least extend – the scope of today’s supply chain structure.

Another clearly innovation-focused presentation, “Your Not Hiring Talent; You’re Hiring Results,” came from a supplier company, Zenith Talent, in the afternoon. Zenith CEO Sunil Bagai, the creator of an innovative sourcing approach (which he calls “Crowd Staffing”), presented a series of innovative propositions for how suppliers might reconsider their approaches to talent acquisition. When one starts to accept that businesses are shifting now from being “talent-centric” to “results-centric,” then one’s thinking about how to source and engage talent also begins to shift. Interestingly, the most innovation in the staffing supply chain has probably been occurring in suppliers over the past several years.

Discovering New Approaches to Sourcing, Talent Management

Up and down the staffing supply chain, innovation seems to be breathing, and there does seem to be a growing awareness that new ways of sourcing and engaging talent are possible. As mentioned above, one of the last panels of the day consisted of a typically contained business-as-discussion of how major global enterprises manage their global enterprise contingent workforce management programs. When I asked the question of how they thought the staffing supply chain might change in the next 5 years, the question did not resonate. But when another practitioner here later asked the panel the question of how technology might disrupt or present new opportunities in parts of the supply chain they oversee, new responses were triggered. The panelist from Monsanto spoke extensively about the potential importance of online freelancer-like platforms as ways engaging needed talent, potentially all over the world.

The panelist from WIPRO conceded the importance of technology-driven changes in the the supply chain, but noted (very correctly) that they would be modulated by compliance requirements. Lastly, the panelist from Shell noted that much of the technology-driven change in the supply chain had been occurring in the talent acquisition processes of suppliers, but then expressed his belief that where it was needed was at the origin of demand in the form of tools and predictive analytics that could that could shape and organize talent demand and make it more visible and manageable.

How Technology Enables Innovation

At the end of the day (literally and figuratively), the outcome of my own journey at VMSA Live was to reach the conclusion that innovation is alive in the staffing supply chain – perhaps not as thriving force – but it it breathing. It seems, not surprisingly, that the basis for innovation is largely technology. But the participants of the staffing supply chain have tended to view technology as a tool for getting done the things that needed to get done ­– less as something that could transform the way of doing. Participants may now be starting to think more about how technology can be a transformative force, opening up entirely new ways for the staffing supply chain to not do what it does, but to do the work that it does differently – perhaps much differently.

Another finding: VMSA Live successfully provides a mechanism for bringing these developments and trends into the light of day. When you think about it, in the conference, collaboration, transformation space, VMS Live is a staffing supply chain innovator as well.

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