Fieldglass: Expanding the Services Procurement Pie (Part 3)

If you missed the first two columns in this series about Fieldglass, you can read them here and here. In this post, I'll focus on Fieldglass' solution elements and outlook. And in a final one in the coming weeks, I'll share a few customer views as well.

Fieldglass, like other VMS providers, enables a range of capabilities that support the entire lifecycle of services procurement. While much of this process depends on a core set of capabilities that enable sourcing and talent requisitioning, rate benchmarking and management, RFx and comparison tools (for statements of work), skills analysis, administrative supplier on-boarding and off-boarding, compliance (corporate and regulatory), supplier performance management, and invoicing and payment, it also requires a strong analytics and reporting competency. Years ago, AMR Research suggested in a brief on the broader talent management space (including contingent labor) that companies need to put analytics at the front and center of their process, starting first with "predictive analytics when acquiring talent" and progressing through to the "total cost management" of labor and projects (not to mention full-time hires).

When it comes to services procurement, I feel that many vendors underplay the complexities of looking at analytics across the entire lifecycle. Fieldglass, while perhaps not as deep in some areas as their MSP partners and competitors such as ProcureStaff that dive especially far in looking at the correlation and interplay of factors that impact performance (e.g., multivariate analysis of rates, spend, geography, industry, skill sector, headcount, RFQ usage, order and vendor management, quality of candidates, response levels, time-to-fill metrics, sourcing models) in a solution/services model, nevertheless has one of the better services analytics mousetraps when it comes to capturing the entire animal -- versus just the tail -- in software. Fieldglass' ability, for example, to offer a common reporting and analytics platform that encompasses multiple forms of internal and external human capital is as close to a one-stop analytical management talent and reporting shop as you can find.

Outside of its analytics and reporting capability, Fieldglass excels at letting users rapidly define, model and implement specific workflows. Their internally built workflow engine is very much part of the secret sauce that allows them to work with so many MSP partners, adopting partner and client processes on the fly. Additional platform differentiators include eProcurement and financial integration (not to mention a stand alone capability that lets users manage the entire financial lifecycle of services procurement, from budgeting and contracting through to supplier rate management and invoice automation/payment).

What is the market opportunity for Fieldglass and others relative to the rest of the Spend Management sector? I'd argue it's pretty healthy in the near term. Staffing Industry Analysts suggest that the current 50%+ adoption rate at the end of 2008 will climb by nearly 50% by 2010 to 73%. But there are other reasons to believe the market outlook is specifically bright for Fieldglass. As customers migrate from MSP homegrown tools, for example, to Fieldglass and other best of breed solutions, their market-share within existing VMS deals should increase. And as outsourcing continues to prove a popular cost cutting strategy in the downturn, Fieldglass should do well by helping companies manage complex outsourcing contracting processes and eventual relationships (not to mention helping companies better scrutinize and save on project-based, SOW services relationships as well).

Without question, all companies with material contingent labor spend should put Fieldglass on their shortlist of candidates to serve as their core underlying services procurement platform (for staffing and beyond) if they are not already locked into a VMS deal with their MSP provider. But they should also take a look at other models that, at certain volume levels, might be more affordable (e.g., a fixed price license agreement with Click/Emptoris). Still, I suspect that in the end, the SaaS model will ultimately provide better overall value in the contingent labor area specifically (even with volume-based pricing) because so much of the value is tied to integrated third-party data and third-party processes -- and often on a real-time basis in the case of the former.

Jason Busch

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