Why Contingent Workforce Buyers ‘Think Different’ at VMSA Live: The Innovation Factor Andrew Karpie - January 14, 2016 6:33 AM | Categories: Conferences, Services and Indirect Spend, Services Procurement & Contingent Labor, Services Procurement & Contingent Labor Management | Tags: Conferences & Events, L2 Actually, there are many reasons why contingent workforce buyers are getting turned-on to VMSA Live, which will be held Feb. 8-11 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We’ve discussed a number of them in our previous posts this year, including our last post, Contingent Workforce Buyers Put VMSA Live in Over-Drive: A Talk with Uber’s Steve Kekich. In addition, you can check out Spend Matters’ coverage of last year’s conference in this full summary. As we’ve noted before, VMSA Live brings together and sets in motions all the parts of the contingent workforce supply chain/ecosystem in an intimate setting designed for interaction and practical learning. But there’s more — something that is highly important today to contingent workforce buyers and all other participants in the contingent workforce ecosystem: innovation. But innovation, we shall see, does not happen in a vacuum — it happens in an ecosystem where a kind of virtual circle is established. Why Does Innovation Matter Today? We are hearing today about all kinds of different, new “economies” — the gig economy, the on-demand economy, the sharing economy. But what we really have today is an “innovation economy,” which is leveraging the now 40 year old “information economy.” Rapid change and transformation are the hallmarks of the innovation economy — changing ways of doing everyday things, changing service consumption and delivery models, changing business models. It is a time of tipping points, not just inflection points. In the business environment, very little will be left unchanged in the coming years. Correspondingly, survival and success will depend more pervasively than ever on innovation. And that certainly applies to the contingent workforce supply chain and all of its members. If you have the sense that the contingent workforce supply chain is getting rusty, you are probably right. Oiling and replacing the gears only gets you so far. (The analogy holds when we consider hybrid and electric vehicles and self-driving cars — or whatever they will be called.) The point is that optimization and incremental improvement are good, but adding in the dimension of innovation is better — in fact, it is necessary. How Does Innovation Happen? This is true anywhere and therefore also in the contingent workforce supply chain. Innovation is rarely produced — it happens when conditions support it. Innovation always involves a reframing of the status quo. Accordingly, the concept of the contingent workforce supply chain is now becoming an evolving contingent workforce ecosystem. “An ecosystem is a network of companies, individual contributors, institutions and customers that interact to create mutual value,” according a definition by the Boston Consulting Group. The ecosystem concept implies a system of interacting subsystems that, when subject to varying conditions, can reorganize and evolve from one equilibrium state to another. And that brings us to the conditions where communication and innovation are paired. In an ecosystem, positive change/innovation is tied to mutual exchange of information and communication. Similarly, VMSA Live, in its composition and structure of interactions, mirrors the contingent workforce ecosystem and thus establishes an environment in which new insights and innovation can be can be generated. This cannot happen when everyone is either sitting inside their own organizations (literally and figuratively) or when each of us is playing our default role and pursuing our standard agenda, all conforming to a "we versus them" regimen. For the contingent workforce ecosystem to continue to advance, we must have a different set of conditions and processes. This is what VMSA Live provides. Innovation in Practice in Your own Real World Not only can innovative insights be brought back from VMSA Live and socialized, tried out and perhaps implemented in your own current business environment, innovation processes can as well. What will happen if the virtuous circle of communication and innovation is established with your internal business customers, your solution and service providers — or even your suppliers? Current contingent workforce procurement practices have eliminated all but the most transactional communications between buyers and suppliers — not to mention internal business customers. What might begin to happen if, in addition to the necessary transactional communications, new channels of more rich communication could be opened and supported? Interestingly, this is what VMSA Live does. But what if you started to do it on your own? Some VMS providers have started to test the waters with limited functionality that would support mutual communication adjacent to the transaction flow, but buyers probably have not been beating the doors down for it--though perhaps they could take a look at it. All that said, such communications cannot be completely open or unregulated. They need to be structured to support certain paths of development (in much the same way that VMSA Live does this). Another thing that contingent workforce managers might also consider is the extent to which they encourage, measure and reward innovation in their supplier base. Some industry statistics have shown that supplier consolidation activity has been constant for some years, but the activity of seeking out new suppliers has been increasing steadily year to year. In effect, we are seeing increasing supplier churn. We are reducing the number of suppliers we will use, forcing more intense competition and then going back to the jar of the same old pennies to choose one to put in our open slot. What if we thought about encouraging and rewarding our suppliers to innovate their way to higher performance and competitiveness? What would this mean? How would it work? Maybe VMSA Live is a good place to start thinking about this, talking with suppliers about it, looking at what suppliers are innovative and why. In any case, it is important to think of VMSA Live as a laboratory, not just a conference. It is not a place where we come to confer, it is a place we come to interact, communicate and actively pursue improvement and innovation. At VMSA Live, you can let “your inner scientist” hang out — at least just a little bit (no one will tell...). “Think Different” at VMSA Live? Yes, we dare to evoke Steve Jobs, even here in the context of the contingent workforce supply chain … correction: ecosystem. Why? Because we are all now live in the innovation economy — not just Steve Jobs--but everyone, including all contingent workforce professionals. As we said above, there are many reasons why contingent workforce buyers are getting turned-on to VMSA Live, and one of the most exciting and complelling ones is the “innovation factor.” So come to “think different” at VMSA Live. To learn more about VMSA Live in Fort Lauderdale and how to register, go to the event website. 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