Must-Know Practices for Adopting Contingent Workforce/Services Procurement Technology

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Who wins in the gig economy, and who loses? That was the question that the Harvard Business Review sought to answer in an article from last October, concluding that the winners will be “workers with specialized skills, deep expertise or in-demand experience.” Those who possess “strong technical, management, leadership, or creative abilities are best positioned to take advantage of the opportunity to create a working life that incorporates flexibility, autonomy and meaning.”

On the flip side, workers whose skills are common or less in demand are most at risk of having their work outsourced, automated or eliminated. Think low to mid-level managers and executive assistants.

As for organizations, many are beginning to adopt new contingent workforce/services (CW/S) procurement solutions. Why now? In short, it’s because new underlying technologies are available to enable new solution approaches and organizations are compelled to make use of these technologies to address changes in talent supply, whether it’s skill shortages, generational shifts or changes in attitudes and behaviors.

However, adopting innovative technology often comes with the risk of something going wrong. According to Andrew Karpie, research director of services and labor procurement at Spend Matters, “at this stage of the game, our research suggests that risks of derailment or bogging down are quite high.” Freelance work is a risk for the individual employee as well as for the employer, but in both cases, the risk can be mitigated.

Karpie studied cases of 12 organizations of different sizes, from different industries and at different stages of CW/S technology adoption, and he found a number of common practices that consistently led to more successful adoption outcomes — 18 to be exact.

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These 18 critical practices form the backbone of a new Spend Matters research paper titled Best Practices: How Enterprises are Adopting the Latest Contingent Workforce & Services Technology Solutions. As Karpie explained, most people by now — and certainly all Spend Matters readers — are aware of how developments in technology and the labor market have led to new platforms and solutions like on-demand, algorithmic matching, online marketplace, self-sourcing, social engagement, collaboration and so on.

“While these solutions can clearly deliver major cost savings and other significant benefits, at this stage, enterprise adoption of innovative technology is like a journey without a clear map. But organizations that do not start to move along the adoption path, especially now with changes in workforce and talent shortages, will risk being left behind,” Karpie said. “That was why we produced this research — to assist contingent workforce management practitioners and solution providers proceed more smoothly along the adoption curve.”

A Sneak Peek

But let’s talk about the actual research findings. “What struck me perhaps the most about the research was the frequency with which having KPIs (and the right KPIs) was reported,” Karpie said. “Certainly, one would think this should be an obvious practice, but I formed the impression that it may not be thought about much when innovative technology solutions are being piloted or implemented.”

Below are three of the critical practices from the report, along with Karpie’s explanations for why they’re important.

The best practice: KPIs and tracking

The explanation: “Having KPIs and tracking was the most cited program success contributor, certainly applicable in both pilot and expansion phases. Jointly coming up with appropriate KPIs and what the tracking process will be and who will be responsible would be part of goal setting and planning. Without KPIs and tracking, any project/program cannot be adequately evaluated. Information would not be available from a pilot to justify and support an expanded program.”

The best practice: Organizational ownership and internal promotion

The explanation: “Organizations that are moving toward or have entered the expansion phase understand that internal promotion of a new solution is important as a part of organizational ownership and support. While direct provider access to internal business users is crucial, vendor led solution implementations generally do not end well. It was observed that organizations that organizations that wrap a solution in their own ‘brand’ tend to make better progress in adoption.”

The best practice: Mutually agreed-on goals, plans, roles and responsibilities

The explanation: “This may seem obvious, but, in actuality, it is often missed (particularly at the pilot stage, when an eager would-be champion and a provider sales team click). Jointly defining and documenting goals, a plan to achieve them (including roles and responsibilities is a strong contributor to success, at both the pilot and expansion phase. No matter what the phase, activities need to be organized and managed as projects, not as ad hoc undertakings that will prove in on their own without commonly used project management techniques and other supporting elements.”

For the other 15 practices and explanations of why they work, as well as Spend Matters’ take on the new research, be sure to check out the report for yourself.

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