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Sourcing and Engaging the Independent/Freelance Workforce — An Emerging Ecosystem? (Part 1) [PRO]

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It’s time for a Spend Matters PRO series to catch up on what happened to the gap that we identified several years ago between enterprise managers and independent/freelance workers.

In November 2015, we pointed out a barely noticed “white space” between the enterprise demand for independent/freelance workforce* and the supply of those workers. By that we meant that while enterprises, with the support of VMS technology and often MSPs, were able to source and manage contingent workforce from staffing suppliers and contracted services providers, they generally lacked the capabilities to systematically source and manage independent/freelance workers.

We also observed the emergence of FMS, the freelancer management system, at that time, but we were clear that it was just “a part of a much larger set of developments, encompassing a range of new —  and incumbent — solution and service providers that increasingly leverage advanced technology, digitized information and innovative approaches to sourcing and managing independent/freelance workers.” We further asserted that the independent/freelancer workforce white space would start filling with various providers of solutions and service providers.

We also speculated that — due to state-of-the-art cloud stack, APIs, services architecture and other technology that would be underlying their solutions — these providers would start to become components of a comprehensive digitally enabled and digitally connected ecosystem. By that we meant an ecosystem (and nested ecosystems) that could evolve and be reconfigured more rapidly to serve the unique needs and preferences of different enterprises and, just as importantly, the unmet preferences and needs of the independent/freelance workers whom enterprises would engage in many new ways (some previously not possible).

Now, three years later, we can ask what has actually happened and to what extent the white space between enterprise managers and independent/freelance workers has been filled to:

— Provide enterprises with the required capabilities to source, manage and maximize the value of this independent/freelance population.
— Provide independent/freelance workers with the access to the opportunity pathways and the support/services they require to function as viable “operators.”

In Part 1 of this PRO series, we assess the current state of the independent/freelancer workforce and whether it is overhyped. In Parts 2 and 3, we will focus on the extent to which digitally enabled sourcing channels and work intermediation platforms have effectively bridged the gaps. In other words, to what extent has the white space been filled? And what is the current state of the digitally enabled ecosystem?

FMS and Beyond: Filling in the ‘White Space’ of Sourcing and Engaging the Independent Workforce (Part 1) [Plus +]

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Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2015 series on engaging the independent workforce, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

Freelancer management system (FMS) is a vendor-driven term and concept that achieved buzzword status in staffing and contingent workforce management circles within just a year of its inception. It is a real and important technology solution development, one that has focused attention on an important expanding gap between talent-hungry enterprises and a fast growing, business-critical segment of the modern global workforce. While FMS is one catalyst of this focus and a way of beginning to bridge this gap — a procurement “white space,” if you will — it is also a part of a much larger set of developments, encompassing a range of incumbent and new services and solutions players as well as new technology infrastructures that will unfold and take shape in the coming years.

In Part 1 of this Spend Matters Plus series, we cover how a procurement white space has appeared between enterprises and an important growing labor population: the independent workforce. We also provide an understanding of what this independent workforce is and why it is important. In Part 2, we begin to identify the broad range of incumbent and new services and solutions players that are bringing together different approaches to connecting supply and demand in this emerging contingent workforce category.

ADP and the Future of Work (Part 2) — Innovation R&D, Acquisitions [PRO]

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In Part 1 of this PRO series, we laid out ADP’s business characteristics, its market and financial strength, and its increased investment in innovation R&D as a backdrop and foundation for its pursuit of its future of work strategy. In this second part of the series, we examine the significant technology developments and recent strategic acquisitions that make up key execution components of the strategy. Part 3 will bring the pieces together to describe this strategy and what it may mean in a broader industry context.

ADP and the Future of Work (Part 1) — The Foundation [PRO]

Spend Matters’ coverage of ADP — the global payroll, human capital management (HCM) solution and HR managed services provider — had been infrequent since mid-2015, when ADP sold its procure-to-pay business to Oildex. That made sense since Spend Matters tends to focus on technology and innovation from the procurement perspective, and (given ADP’s traditional focus on internal employees), there was not even much of a link to the contingent workforce area.

But that changed in early 2018, when ADP acquired the freelancer management system (FMS) WorkMarket, and it soon became clear that something larger was brewing at ADP. In fact, we have since looked more closely and found that the company is not only executing a strategy to address needs related to the growing freelancer or independent contract workforce (ICW) — but it also is making a great leap forward in rolling-out a leading-edge core technology platform for its payroll and HCM solutions and services, something that will no doubt play a role in the company’s freelancer/ICW, agile total workforce and overall future of work strategy.

The future of workforce sourcing, engagement, management and compensation is that of human capital management as well as payment “platforms” and digital ecosystems that bring together businesses (large and small), ecosystem technology and services partners and, last but not least, workers of different generations, localities, economic strata and types of work arrangements. That includes dynamic arrangements: part-time or temporary employment, on-demand intermittent gigs or moonlighting, and freelance/independent contract worker engagements.

In this three-part PRO brief, we will provide a refresh on ADP and how it is strategically addressing the “future of work” head-on. Part 1 will provide a summary overview of ADP and how the company has been strategically investing in innovation and technology to address the future of work. Part 2 will identify and discuss significant technology developments and recent strategic acquisitions, key execution components of ADP’s future of work strategy. Finally, Part 3 will bring many of the pieces together to form a picture (or more accurately, a sketch) of how ADP is moving forward to address a future of workforce management that is increasingly digital and decentralized, and where the needs and expectations of client businesses AND workers are already diverging from those that were stable for decades.

The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List: September 2018 [Plus +]

Welcome to the September edition of Spend Matters’ monthly feature, “The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insider’s Hot List,” available to PLUS and PRO subscribers. For those new to the Hot List, each edition covers the prior month’s important and sometimes just plain interesting technology and innovation developments within the CW/S space. Over the last several months, this space has seen both significant change and inertia co-exist, yet the change is not slowing down — quite the contrary.

The August Hot List reported that July was a particularly sweltering month (in terms of innovation, of course). The news of Beeline’s acquisition by New Mountain Capital soaked in, rumors of a possible Upwork IPO made their way through the industry, co-founder of Elance and former CEO of Upwork became the Chairman and CEO of Snag (formerly Snag-a-job). And those were just a few.

Now, Labor Day has passed. Gone are the dog days of summer, so let’s welcome September by reviewing what happened in August.

Beeline’s Acquisition by New Mountain Capital: Transaction Analysis and Competitive Impacts [PRO]

Beeline, well known in the contingent workforce and services sector as one of the top two global VMS solution providers, recently announced it is being acquired by New Mountain Capital (NMC), a private equity firm. NMC, which is focused on developing and growing companies in defensive growth industries, is now completing the last formal steps in its acquisition of Beeline from private equity firm GTCR. Spend Matters covered the acquisition announcement and followed up on the news with a subsequent interview of Beeline CEO Doug Leeby, who expressed enthusiasm about the deal and confidence in the new owner.

The acquisition comes at an interesting point in the evolution of the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) software market.  On the one hand, solution buying by enterprises continues to follow a customary pattern — we need a VMS or an MSP/VMS and a supplier-funded model — resulting in a commodified, competitive market. In such an environment, some VMS providers have focused on achieving economies of scale, exploiting solution adjacencies (e.g., SOW) and investing in new technologies (e.g., data analytics, artificial intelligence) to enhance solution value and differentiate their offerings.

At the same time, changing conditions on both demand and supply sides of the labor market (e.g., skill shortages, cost of talent, independent workforce, online platforms) have started to stimulate responses among CW/S intermediaries and software providers. Moreover, the application of state-of-the-art and leading-edge technologies is enabling incumbent and new providers to offer new types of solutions that may (or may not) address emerging business needs in the short term or the long term. In such an environment, having the capacity to invest — and a balanced but agile investment strategy — would appear to be critical to future success.

In this Spend Matters PRO brief, we add context to and take a closer look at the Beeline-NMC deal, which seems promising. We also offer our perspective on what the deal may mean for Beeline and the competitive markets it serves, in both short and long terms.

The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List: August 2018 [Plus +]

Welcome to the August edition of Spend Matters’ monthly feature, “The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List,” available to Plus and PRO subscribers.

While the months of May and June were on the cool side, we saw a return to hot technology and innovation temperatures in July. Perhaps it’s extreme weather patterns? CW/S climate change?

Indeed, new hotspots could be found across the entire space, from the established core of traditional suppliers and intermediaries to new solutions that either complement or challenge the core (or both). While there has been friction and overheating on the demand side, developments on the supply side have also been heating up, with the mercury rising in places across the globe.

Now that our warmup is complete, let’s begin our first routine.

The Game of Professional Services: Procurement vs. Providers [Plus +]

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2012 series on buying professional services, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

Procurement executives are often their own worst enemy in this context. Too often they measure their success purely on some hourly or daily rates achieved from the professional services provider. So the negotiating goal becomes a simple one. Your list price for a lawyer with around three years post-qualification experience is $300 an hour – we want a rate of $200 an hour. Or last year we paid £2000 a day for a managing consultant — how much discount will you give me this year?

Beeline Acquired by New Mountain Capital — The Journey Continues

Beeline, a provider of workforce management software, announced Thursday it has been acquired by New Mountain Capital, a New York City-based private equity firm, for an undisclosed amount, according to a press release. Founded in 1999, Beeline represents, alongside SAP Fieldglass, one of the “Big 2” vendor management system (VMS) providers. Its current incarnation is the result of a December 2016 merger with IQNavigator (IQN), which saw Beeline, part of staffing giant Adecco, acquired by GTCR, the owner of vendor-neutral IQN. Following the merger, Beeline and IQN were combined into a single company, renamed Beeline.

Strategic Technology Planning: A New Imperative for Contingent Workforce and Services Procurement (Part 2) [Plus +]

In Part 1 of this series, we provided a context and rationale for the adoption of strategic technology planning for contingent workforce and services (CW/S) procurement. We also began the discussion of what strategic technology planning explicitly means for an organization and how it can be enacted. Part 2 of this series continues that discussion.

By way of summary, we defined “strategic technology planning” as a specific type of strategic planning that lets an organization (i.e., CW/S procurement) know where it is now, where it wants or needs to be some time in the future, how technology can be leveraged as an enabler and what changes in resource allocation and investment must occur or what constraints will condition progress. We should emphasize that strategic technology planning is not the same as a tactical plan or roadmap, though ideally it would lead to these.

Strategic planning is more about high-level understanding (insight and foresight) than it is about immediate, direct action. We believe it must become a critical component to any CW/S procurement function and program that wants to avoid being caught flat-footed and aims to deliver a new (and necessary) level of business value over a reasonable planning horizon (e.g., three to five years). This type of planning effort may represent a shift of gears for many procurement practitioners. For this and other reasons, we suggest and outline a process in this Spend Matters Plus research brief that is intended to help practitioners get started and pointed in the right direction.

Strategic Technology Planning: A New Imperative for Contingent Workforce and Services Procurement (Part 1) [Plus +]

For many years now, planning for CW/S technology has been largely tactical, focusing almost exclusively on the capabilities and effectiveness of one VMS solution or another. Technology planning at a strategic level has been rare in CW/S procurement functions, in main part because it has not been necessary in a relatively static technology and supply chain environment. Need a core contingent workforce technology to manage processes, compliance, risk and cost? Adopt a VMS (or work through your MSP to get one). Seeking a specialized category solution? Work with the business owner (e.g., legal, telecom, facilities) to engage a vendor that meets everyone’s needs.

But in recent years, many aspects of the environment in which CW/S procurement executes its mission have begun to change significantly. Under these conditions, strategic planning becomes necessary. Because technology is now and will be presenting CW/S procurement functions with new opportunities to add value to their organizations in a variety of ways, allocating time and resources to conducting strategic technology planning is now an imperative. In most cases, this will mean starting from scratch. But foregoing strategic technology planning opens CW/S procurement to missed opportunities, core mission failure and possibly disruption.

In short: procurement, HR and IT organizations — not to mention line of business owners — need to work together to create their own CW/S technology information architecture through a strategic technology planning process. In Part 1 of this series, we build the case for strategic technology planning and provide an overview of what strategic technology planning means for a CW/S procurement function. In Part 2, we flesh out a targeted approach to CW/S procurement strategic technology planning and practical approaches for implementation within an organization.

Online Work Platforms and Enterprises: Survival of the Fittest or the Fastest? [Plus +]

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In this Plus research brief, we provide an analysis of the complex dynamics that characterize the online work platform technology market, in particular with respect to large enterprise adoption (or, to date, the lack thereof). We also examine some promising platform strategies/approaches that may promote platform business viability and, over time, more success in achieving large scale enterprise penetration. Finally, we discuss the implications of our analysis for both platform providers and enterprise buyers.

(Note: To avoid possible perception that we are making endorsements or recommendations in this brief, we forego references to specific platforms. Platform providers are evaluated separately, in our Vendor Snapshot and SolutionMap series, with these strategies and approaches in mind.)