Author Archives: Andrew Karpie



Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit: Retooling How Enterprises Work (Part 1)

The extent to which large enterprises are using independent contract workers, including online freelancers, has been a Spend Matters’ research interest for several years now. That interest has included the “what” and the “how” of what has been happening (including procurement’s role in the process).

In December 2018, when we covered Upwork’s partnership with Microsoft on the launch of the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit, we recognized the event as one more step in the gradual alignment of enterprises and online freelancer marketplaces. But we barely skimmed the surface of what this toolkit actually is, how it came to be at Microsoft and how it could help other enterprises and their employees.

At that time, we reported that the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit builds on Microsoft clients’ “existing technology investments and provides tools, templates and best practices that help enterprises launch, execute and manage freelance programs at scale.” And technology-wise, the toolkit consists of “built-in product features and integrations with Microsoft Power BI, Teams, SharePoint and Flow” that “guide enterprises through the freelance engagement process.”

This Spend Matters PRO series will take a closer look at the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit, clarifying what it actually is, how it emerged and took shape, almost spontaneously, as a part of a bottom-up yet multidisciplinary process (which included HR, legal and even procurement as key players). The series will share insights into this two-year process based on our discussions with key managers at Microsoft and Upwork.

In Part 1, we draw on our discussion with Paul Estes, the Gig Economy strategy lead at Microsoft and the product lead of the Microsoft 365 freelance tool kit initiative. In Part 2, we talk with Chad Nesland, Microsoft’s director of strategic sourcing and the procurement lead in the initiative. And in Part 3, we incorporate our discussion with Eric Gilpin of Upwork Enterprise, Microsoft’s launch partner. We wrap up with our overall analysis of the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit journey and potential implications for other large enterprises and their procurement organizations.

Enterprises’ Use of Contingent Workforce Grows and Business Case is Strong, The Economist’s Research Arm Finds

talent management

Most procurement practitioners and contingent workforce managers won’t be surprised by the assertion that employing contingent workers can have a significant upside for companies despite some costs and a fair amount of preparation, which remains to be done, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s February 2019 report, “Sourcing and Managing Talent in a Gig Economy.” But it's interesting to see how the perception of this sector is developing and to gain a few more insights.

Sourcing and Engaging the Independent/Freelance Workforce — An Emerging Ecosystem? (Part 3)

The overarching question motivating this five-part Spend Matters PRO series is one posed to practitioners: “As a services procurement manager, should I be paying more attention — maybe even taking action on — the independent contract workforce, or ICW, as a supply of skills/expertise?”

In Part 1 of this series, we examined if measures of size and growth of the ICW population provided a clear basis for answering this question and found that, at least in our opinion, it did not (see Part 1).

We also proposed that, in addition to monitoring demand within one’s organization (something not adequately done by most procurement organizations), the extent to which a new ICW ecosystem is emerging could also provide some basis for answering the question. We also proposed looking separately at the extent to which an ecosystem has been forming to:

  • Provide enterprises with the required capabilities to source, manage and maximize the value of this independent/freelance population (Parts 2 and 3 of this series)
  • Provide independent/freelance workers with the access to the opportunity pathways and the support/services they require to function as viable “operators.” (Part 4 of this series)
Starting in Part 2, we began looking at the formation of an ecosystem enabling organizations’ usage of (source, engage, manage and pay) independent/freelance workforce. In Part 2, we reviewed findings from a recent panel survey of CW/S solution provider executives which suggested that a new ICW ecosystem has been taking shape recently. When asked this: “Over the past three years, have you seen the emergence of new digitally-integratable, configurable ecosystem(s) of solution and service providers focused on enabling organizations and independent workforce on the demand and the supply sides?” over 80% of respondents answered “Yes, to some extent,” while none answered “No , I haven't seen that happening.”

In this third part of the series, we will continue this same assessment of an emerging ecosystem enabling organizations usage of ICWs , but dissecting it at the category and provider level.

In Part 4, we will provide a similar assessment, but from the standpoint of how ICWs are enabled/supported to function as viable operators. In Part 5, we will synthesize the findings and offer recommendations for services procurement practitioners and senior executives.

Upwork’s Latest ‘Future Workforce’ Report Shows Differences in Freelance, Remote Hiring by Millennials/Gen Z and Baby Boomer Managers

contingent workforce

The freelancer website Upwork on Tuesday released its third annual “Future Workforce Report,” which examines hiring behaviors of more than 1,000 hiring managers based in the U.S. It looks “specifically into how younger generations’ (hiring managers) are shaping the future of work.” The study is far-ranging, but our coverage will focus on some areas relevant to our procurement audience: younger generations’ attitudes toward changing work models — namely, remote work and external workforce.

Coupa, Services and Coupa Contingent Workforce: A Progress Report (Part 2)

In this two-part PRO series, Spend Matters provides a review and analysis of Coupa’s recent evolution in addressing the category of services spend, including Coupa Contingent Workforce. In Part 1, we provided an overview of where Coupa is at with the integration and leveraging of DCR Workforce.

First, we revisited the Coupa “services procurement” background/context leading up to the DCR acquisition last year. We also recounted our September 2018 briefing, in which Coupa discussed the acquisition and what to expect as far as integration (or “unification”) of the acquisition over the coming months. Additionally, we discussed what we learned from our most recent January 2019 briefing by Coupa on the current state of the integration.

Based on this analysis, we concluded that, six months in after the acquisition, Coupa’s integration at the organizational and product levels appeared to be on course. The priorities seemed reasonable even given the unique dynamics of the VMS market — and the plan, based on Coupa’s history of stamping out post-merger integrations, seemed on track.

But beyond this, what has happened to the DCR product under the Coupa umbrella? And how is it fitting into the changing world of services procurement — and potentially even help to shape it? In Part 2 of this research series, we will provide our own observations on where Coupa seems to be going, in terms of the contingent workforce technology solution segment and its increasing overlap with other procurement technology solutions.

The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insider’s Hot List: March 2019

Welcome to the March 2019 edition of Spend Matters’ Insiders’ Hot List, a monthly look at the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) space that’s available to PLUS and PRO subscribers. For those new to the Hot List, each edition covers the prior month’s important or interesting technology and innovation developments in the CW/S space. In February, the CW/S space continued to simmer, so for this edition we’ve taken a taste of what’s cookin’ in the kitchen — M&A, millions in funding raised and organizational developments.

Vndly Closes $11 Million Series A Funding Round: A VMS Category Buster in the Making?

Workforce Reimagined concept on the gearwheels, 3D rendering

Vndly, which describes itself as a “cloud-based work management system (WMS) to power the new gig economy,” announced Thursday that it has closed an $11 million Series A funding round led by Battery Ventures and Hyde Park Ventures. According to the announcement, the “investment will be used to drive product innovation, customer adoption and global expansion.”

Vndly describes itself as a software-as-a-service WMS system, which “unlike legacy VMS offerings … uses an ‘outcomes’-based management approach rather than a traditional ‘process’-based approach, along with machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms to automate manual tasks.” The announcement also states that the Vndly platform has four major modules: contingent workforce management, statement of work (SOW) management, independent contractor (IC) compliance and total talent acquisition.

When Cincinnati-based Vndly entered the contingent workforce/services (CW/S) solution space, launching with beta clients in mid-2017, it came out swinging.

Co-founder and CEO Shashank Saxena has been clear about the intent to reframe the problem and the solution of businesses managing the non-employee/contingent workforce at the end of the second decade of the 21th century. In the announcement, Saxena said, “We founded Vndly ... to address a rapidly growing problem fueled by the rise of contractors, freelancers and the gig economy” and “we are poised to transform the legacy VMS market with our WMS platform.”

Spend Matters has spent over a dozen hours reviewing and demoing the Vndly solution in recent quarters and validating its RFI responses as part of Spend Matters SolutionMap. We have also created a summary research brief exploring where it excels on a comparative basis compared to peers.

In this Spend Matters PRO briefing, rather than focus on the specifics of the funding event, we instead examine Vndly’s approach to addressing current and emerging requirements (of organizations, suppliers, intermediaries and workers) for CW/S enterprise technology solutions. In addition, we place Vndly in the broader context of a once well-defined, VMS-centric CW/S technology solution industry in which the solution provider landscape has been evolving and the boundaries of solution categories have been changing over the last five years.

Sourcing and Engaging the Independent/Freelance Workforce — An Emerging Ecosystem? (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this five-part Spend Matters PRO series, we asked the question: “As a service procurement manager, should I be paying more attention — maybe even taking action on — the independent contract workforce (ICW) as a supply of skills/expertise?” Answering this complicated question requires looking at the state of the ICW population and, more importantly, the extent to which an ecosystem of ICW technology solutions, intermediaries and value-added service providers is taking shape.

In Part 1, we tried to cut through the gig-economy hype and see what has really been happening in the supply-side population of independent contract workers over the past three years. Starting in Part 2, we will now begin to assess to what extent there has been evidence of the emergence/formation of a new ecosystem from the standpoint of enabling organizations’ usage of (source, engage, manage and pay) independent/freelance workforce. We will also review findings from a panel survey.

In Part 3, we will continue this same assessment, but dissecting that emerging ecosystem at the category and provider level. In Part 4, we will provide a similar assessment, but from the standpoint of how ICWs are enabled/supported to function as viable operators. In Part 5, we will synthesize the findings and offer recommendations for services procurement practitioners and senior executives.

Coupa, Services and Coupa Contingent Workforce: A Progress Report (Part 1)

In September 2018, Coupa surprised the contingent workforce industry (and others) with its acquisition of DCR Workforce, a leading VMS solution.

In short order, the DCR solution was rebranded as Coupa Contingent Workforce (CCW). Coupa also immediately indicated that CCW — which includes its own best-in-class solution for sourcing as well as managing SOW engagements and complex services — would coexist with its Services Maestro that became available for all Coupa customers at the start of 2018.

After all that, it was then possible to see all the pieces of the puzzle but perhaps not really understand how they would all come together. In September, we had our first briefing on the acquisition, the rationale and next steps. And we recently saw an update on the progress with CCW.

In this PRO briefing, in addition to reporting on some of what has been happening with Coupa and its acquisition, we also want to use our perspective — now six months later — to try to render a more complete view into Coupa’s services procurement strategy based on the briefings and our own observations and inferences.

In what follows, we will provide background and context leading to the acquisition, revisit the key points and the setting of expectations in our initial briefing in September; discuss what we learned about progress in our most recent briefing; and, provide our own observations on where things seem to be heading for Coupa and in the contingent workforce industry and its increasing overlap with procurement technology solutions.

Upwork is Loved on Valentine’s Day — Shares Hit All-Time High

workers

On Valentine’s Day, Upwork shares reached an all-time high of $23.50 before closing at $23.18 on the Nasdaq. Upwork’s market cap rose to $2.46 billion, up from $1.96B on Jan. 2, 2019 (an increase of half a billion dollars). In one respect, this makes clear that Upwork is truly part of the contingent workforce solutions pack of companies, and some kind of rising tide is raising all boats in the sector.

Independent Workforce and Online Platforms —  What’s a Services Procurement Practitioner to Do?

In 2019, services procurement practitioners in mid- to large-sized enterprises most likely have some awareness of — or even some level of interest in — independent contract workforce (ICW) and online work/service platforms (e.g., online freelancer marketplaces, contest/challenge crowd platforms, digital direct sourcing solutions). But for the most part, the new opportunities presented by platforms to source and engage ICWs are viewed as having an uncertain ROI, not being ready for prime time — or worse. Andrew Karpie, Spend Matters' research director of services and labor procurement, says it's worth your time and has some advice.

The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insider’s Hot List: February 2019

Welcome to the February 2019 edition of Spend Matters’ monthly Hot List, a look at the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) that’s available to PLUS and PRO subscribers. For those new to the Hot List, each edition covers the prior month’s important or interesting technology and innovation developments in the CW/S space.

Perhaps overcome by the polar vortex, for many, January turned out to have been a frigid month. But the CW/S space continued to percolate, with a number of developments and changes and a few new third-party reports that offered insights into various aspects of this evolving space.