A Hot Month of May for All Things FMS – Topped-off by VMS Provider Beeline’s ‘Self-Sourcing’ Plug-In Announcement

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Although much of the country (including Spend Matters HQ in Chicago) found itself with a spell of a late spring chill, the month of May was an inordinately hot month for activity in the contingent workforce “direct sourcing” area, especially with Beeline announcing its introduction of its “self-sourcing” plug-in to its existing VMS offering. Other diverse developments last month include the Field Nation acquisition of Field Solutions, the VC investment in Lystable and SIA’s publication of its “Freelancer Management Systems (FMS) Differentiators and Competitive Landscape” report. This news, too, should perhaps give us pause to wonder whether we may be seeing early signs of acceleration in these so far gradually emerging developments.

A Plug (in) For Beeline

Building on its acquisition last summer of OnForce (then a self-proclaimed FMS), Beeline reports in its recent press release that it has “expanded OnForce from a freelancer management system to a complete talent exchange and online work platform. According to the release, “’OnForce Sourcing’ is the first plugin for VMS, where contractors (and freelancers) are self-sourced safely with the governance and oversight demanded by enterprise firms. This new integration allows Beeline customers to connect to the OnForce [independent worker] community – a robust and continuously growing network of talent who enjoy more autonomy in managing their careers and who want to work with the world’s best companies.”

Beeline is not only the first VMS to take a truly decisive step into the “direct sourcing” direction, with its acquisition of OnForce. It is also demonstrating its commitment to leveraging that asset to try to develop an integrated “direct sourcing,” “purchase-to-pay” (what Beeline calls “self-sourcing” “plug in”) solution that will be acceptable to contingent workforce/procurement managers. Beeline also appears to be stepping beyond the model of a FMS to begin to create something much more extensive – a digital infrastructure to support an effective, viable procurement connection between business users and independent workers.

To date, the rapid expansion of work arranged through online platforms (Work Intermediation Platforms or WIPs) has in large part skirted the boundaries of enterprise procurement and contingent workforce management program controls. In the last year or so, some platforms (sometimes called out as Freelancer Management systems or FMS) have been identified as purposely attempting to provide a platform or bridge that will span enterprise demand for and supply of the independent (freelance) workforce. Beeline is the first player to do this from a position firmly anchored on the enterprise demand side, making a significant step forward in laying down the “e-procurement plumbing” to allow business managers to slake their thirst for the fresh independent talent now increasingly pooling online and do so within the oversight and acceptance of purchasing control.

Contingent Workforce Climate Change Ahead?

Contingent workforce/talent services have long been predominantly sourced through traditional suppliers, but new technology based platforms and channels – coupled with the urgency of talent/skills shortages – may be tipping organizations toward models of direct access to a talent population that prefers to work for and engage with those organizations directly as independent, non-employees. Not only might these “e-procurement” models deliver new transaction cost and on-demand types of efficiencies (provided compliance challenges can be addressed), but they also might mean a shift of talent acquisition and necessarily different procurement approaches (for example, as MBO Partners suggests, where organizations must transform themselves into independent professionals’ “Clients of Choice”). Whether you frame it as FMS, “direct sourcing,” VMS extension or something else ­– some notable change is stirring (and it could be far reaching).

This cluster of developments – this “hot spot” – among technology players actively seeking to establish and expand a digital channel of some kind between enterprise demand for and supply of the independent workforce should not be passed by casually. It will most likely not be a single system, as is suggested by the term FMS, but will be more the formation of an elaborate digital ecosystem of platforms, APIs, connectors and services ­– something that we might not recognize at first.

We can blink once or twice and look again. But we probably should believe our eyes and continue to keep them wide open to what is developing and monitor how quickly the temperature is rising and when a tipping point is near.

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