Beeline Conference Wrap: Hacking the Contingent Workforce Supply Chain

The Beeline Conference wrapped up yesterday near Jacksonville, Florida, with a thought-provoking talk about the millennial generation followed by the final conference session in which the results of the software development Hackathon were presented by the “extended” hacker team there (and some members connected online in the Philippines). The hackers – who worked for 2 days and 2 nights, reportedly surviving only on a diet of “Spam and Red Bull”—had taken on the challenge of making conference attendee requested enhancements to the Beeline analytics dashboard. They did just that, impressively creating the capability for Beeline users to personalize and supercharge their dashboards with widgets (little apps).

Now, flying back to my home base in Silicon Valley (the home of technology juggernauts and upstarts Oracle, LinkedIn, Google, Uber, Airbnb, Workday, Upwork, GitHub, Gigwalk, Task Rabbit, et al), I find myself reflecting on how rapidly and extensively new technology and a new generation of thinkers is changing “how the world works” (literally!). Technology-driven changes in how the economy and businesses function are now happening at such a rate that we tend to realize them after they have already taken root and become widespread (not just noting them as oddities of early adopters, as it used to be).

Technology is Hacking the Contingent Workforce Supply Chain

This was my main realization from the Beeline Conference: The current contingent workforce supply chain (that my own baby boomer generation labored so mightily to create, automate, control and secure) is now in the process of getting hacked. New technology in the hands of a new generation of (gen X and millennial) thinkers and doers (working together close to home and across the world) is starting to change this supply chain from the inside and out (as I will discuss below).


Naturally, this is not some kind of sinister or subversive hacking, rather it is positive innovation pure and simple: new technology being used in new ways to make the intermediation of business consumers and individual suppliers of work more efficient, more immediate, more agile and more exacting. In the contingent workforce supply chain world, it is going to be the technology providers like Beeline and others (some known, some now just growing up) that are going to lead or enable other supply chain players to act and add value in new ways as well.

Hacking Within the Contingent Workforce Supply Chain

Hacking from within the contingent workforce supply chain can take a number of forms, but often it is detected when we find established systems being opened and extended in new ways to better support current users and bring more visibility and provide more capability to users coping with existing challenges. Some examples of this that I observed at the Beeline conference include:

  • Leveraging the current system architecture “to the max” to integrate and make available new powerful capabilities (the example of the Hackathon widgets was a good example of this).
  • Bringing new visibility into existing processes through adding functionality like “True Rate” (which allows for decomposition of bill rates) or “Service Procurement” (which provides an information framework for managing and controlling statement of work/SOW deliverables).
  • Building in communication capabilities that support immediate collaboration and real-time problem solving for different people (enterprise managers, MSP professionals, etc.) involved in managing a process toward a successful outcome.

Even if processes and functionality may have originally been conceived and implemented in a certain way, systems can be still be hacked with new ideas and technology extenders.

Hacking Without the Contingent Workforce Supply Chain

Hacking from outside the contingent workforce supply chain is a whole different phenomenon that was, in evidence, in another one of Beeline’s initiatives: Onforce “Plug In” and “Talent Exchange.” In this hack, Beeline is establishing a whole new leading-edge technology stack that will have the capabilities to support entirely innovative processes for directly sourcing, engaging and controlling independent workers outside of existing staffing supplier sourcing channels. This development should not simply be thought of as extending another (this time digital) pipe to connect with untapped talent; it is really the establishment of digital platform that will support ways of engaging talent that will be recognized in time as being revolutionary. This hack should be regarded as a kind of “super-hack” that over the next 2 years will bring into play a whole different extended workforce ecosystem in parallel with the existing staffing and SOW supply chain.

Getting Hacked – It’s What You Really Want

Technology and technology providers, like Beeline, have started hacking the contingent workforce supply chain – it’s that simple. Hacking really means using technology and creative thinking and high-powered engineering to find a way to penetrate problems and bring forth new solutions – sometimes extraordinary ones that change how a game should be played. Hacking also has a certain obscurity about it – it’s not always clear what the hacker is up to until the hacking has been completed and some set of changed conditions have already been established and cannot be turned back.

Enterprises, hiring managers, contingent workforce and services procurement practitioners, MSP professionals and others in the established contingent workforce supply chain should be pleased that benign hackers like Beeline are at work. Because of them, better solutions to pressing problems are around the corner.

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