Joe as a Service (JaaS), Work Platforms and the Future of Labor Services Procurement

We have been writing extensively on the proliferation of work intermediation platforms (WIPs) in the contingent workforce space. But perhaps what we haven’t made sufficiently clear is how they will change the nature of labor services procurement.

Contingent workforce programs today are focused on purchasing contingent work in two forms: a specific worker — a temp worker, an independent contractor, or a consultant — and a statement of work (SOW) project. Both involve an extensive, serial procurement process.

However, this neat, tidy packaging of workers or projects as commodities is changing. To illustrate this change, we’ll use a little cartoon with a prototypical Joe Worker — imagine there are millions of Joes. The emergence of WIPs means that there are many new ways of consuming Joe’s work, not just by assigning Joe to a particular activity or project. To illustrate this, we present the concept of Joe as a service (JaaS), seeing as everything is a service these days.


JaaS implies a reorganization of work, how workers provide it and how it is delivered through platforms. We call part of it the “packetization of Joe,” which means WIPs can engage workers and reorganize their work in different ways based on time, location and skills availability. This leads to a new multiplicity of ways of how work can be delivered and consumed. Hence, we have the “servitization of Joe.”

Some examples:

  • A packetized Joe can be allocated into specific time slots — could be that Joe performs 12 brief field service projects during the course of the day, or Joe and a crowd of Joes perform some number of online micro-tasks over some interval of time.
  • Joes can also perform work in different locations: at “place of work,” at a place Joe is dispatched to or happens to be at or remote with work delivered online — which brings us back to time slots.
  • Joe’s knowledge or skills can also be packetized and applied in different contexts. For example, Joe might be a really great software tester and an excellent driver.  Back to time and location: Joe can allocate his afternoon to software testing online and provide rides as a driver in the evening.

Joes choose to deploy different skills at different times and locations. And from the perspective of someone who needs certain labor services, let’s say, software testing or driving, it doesn’t really matter if it is one Joe or another — so long as the service is provided in a desired and acceptable way. So, closing the loop here we have the “servitization of Joe,” Joe as a service.

And if your head is not spinning by now, it should be.

After being led through this kind of fantastical scenario, you may be wondering what this has to do with your contingent workforce procurement program. The response is this is becoming an additional way in which work will be organized, delivered and consumed — not in some distant future but starting now.

In fact, business users scattered in different enterprises are already consuming work in these ways — Joes as a service — through different kinds of WIPs. For example, getting marketing services through platforms like Tongal, 99designs or Visually; getting field tech services through platforms like Work Market or Field Nation; getting data processing through CrowdFlower, software development though Appirio/Topcoder and software testing though Applause.

The implications for procuring work are enormous. Here are a few:

  • Servitization of work — if you think services just means SOW or outsourcing, look out.
  • Significant expansion of complex categories — with all the permutations, could be a lot.
  • Engagement of new and different suppliers — unfamiliar WIPs of many different kinds.
  • Direct sourcing by internal business users — more agile practices for structuring demand and managing spend
  • Technology — going beyond VMS, and probably FMS, to technology that can support direct purchasing/consumption of new services, provide catalogs of services, etc.

The important takeaway here is that Joe is a nice, likeable guy with lots of potential. But he’s going to cause you lots of trouble before too long if you don’t pay attention to what he’s doing and how your business users may be employing him in your organization.

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