Delivering AI-Powered Solutions to Contingent Labor Challenges: A Q&A with ZeroChaos CEO Jim Burke
The contingent labor market is both a large and increasingly critical component of businesses’ growth strategies. Yet the procurement software tools and services providers that enable organizations to find, engage and manage external workers have changed little over the past decade, creating an opening for pioneering companies to disrupt the space.
This opportunity is front of mind for Jim Burke, who took up in June the role of CEO at ZeroChaos. To learn more about his outlook and where he plans to lead ZeroChaos, we sat down for a quick Q&A covering his first impressions of the sector, where he plans to uncover new value for clients and how artificial intelligence will be an essential capability for his company going forward.
Andrew Karpie: It’s been less than a month since you became the new CEO of ZeroChaos. As a bit of an outsider to the contingent workforce and services industry, what’s your initial impression? Do you see the industry structure shifting, or changing incrementally, staying basically the same over the next five years?
Jim Burke: I think the industry is a great place to be for several reasons.
First, it’s large, growing, and forecasted for continued expansion — globally. Second, the drivers of growth are easy to understand and believe, namely that contingent labor will become an increasingly important component of an organization’s entire labor force. Third, scale and the ability to invest in innovation are key, which is creating opportunities for consolidation. So, you have a strong set of both organic and inorganic growth tailwinds.
Add to these, perhaps, one of the most important observations about the market since joining the company: there is no dominant global competitor. Some are bigger, some are smaller, but I don’t think anyone has yet cracked the code on how to innovate using technology and data to enable better service outcomes around contingent labor management on behalf of large clients.
AK: ZeroChaos, traditionally, has been looked at as an MSP, which is kind of a hard-to-understand term these days. Yet today we’re starting to see a trend toward more internally managed, or hybrid, programs. Some say MSPs are a dying breed. What’s your perspective on this, and how do you see technology as enabling the more viable model?
JB: I think of ZeroChaos as a technology-enabled services business. That means we use our proprietary technology, data and global team of industry expert advisors to deliver a better service on behalf of our clients.
As the industry continues to evolve, and contingent labor continues to become an increasingly large and important part of the overall global labor force, complexity will increase. I know from my experience in similar markets that as complexity of technology, data and security requirements increase, the ability, and willingness, of clients to do it themselves decreases — almost exponentially.
For example, the expertise required to scale, anticipate technology shifts and manage massive data requirements securely is typically out of their wheelhouse. If they follow the lifecycle of other industries in which I’ve worked, they will, in my estimate, increasingly look to outsource to a specialized solution provider like ZeroChaos. Whatever tag we choose to hang on our company — MSP, VMS, RPO or something else — we are a partner leveraging a proprietary suite of technology, data and people for the benefit of our clients.
At the end of the day, that’s the only way to manage and exploit massive amounts of data, cut through the vast amount of compliance requirements and deliver a consistently great outcome — quickly and efficiently.
AK: In what specific areas do you think ZeroChaos can bring more value to its clients? There are different services today, each of which may be more or less important than the others for different clients. What’s your perspective on that?
JB: Well, first, we’re big and have the scale and experience to handle the largest and most complex requirements that clients can throw our way. That’s what we are known for and what we’ve been doing successfully for years.
Second is our proprietary technology platform and data capabilities. We continue to invest in innovation so that we anticipate and stay one step ahead of our clients’ requirements.
And third is our expanding global footprint — a critical requirement when working with large, complex organizations. We have and will continue to invest in our ability to be located where our clients need us, when they need us.
There aren’t too many of our competitors that can answer your question that way. We are in a very good position to solve client needs, not only right here, right now, but going forward as well.
Jason Busch: If you were to consider, generically, MSP plus VMS, where the VMS is native to the MSP versus MSP plus third-party VMS, what are the advantages today about going with a ZeroChaos or a PRO Unlimited-type of approach? And then five years out, as MSP plus VMS evolves, what might the additional advantages be in the future?
JB: We are vendor neutral for VMS. While we do have a proprietary platform that we and many clients think is great, we are happy to work off whatever platform a client may require.
The advantage, however, of working with ZeroChaos in both a MSP and VMS capacity is the unique insight provided from seamlessly harnessing a client’s set of data, and feeding that back to them through our technology. Our proprietary tools give these clients a very clear understanding of their program. And, by leveraging these tools, the expert advisors at ZeroChaos can then use that data on their behalf to get them the right talent as quickly and efficiently as possible.
I think over time, that’s the right model, and clients will increasingly gravitate toward providers who leverage their own technology to deliver a better outcome than what could be created with just an MSP, or just a VMS, or two separate systems that have been connected together, but not designed together.
Jason Busch: Considering the broader source-to-pay market, a lot of the innovations around things like artificial intelligence and its variants have come from non-services procurement areas. How do you see artificial intelligence and its derivatives complementing and improving overall outcomes for customers in your industry?
JB: The big deal about AI is that it allows business processes to move from reactive to proactive. There’s no doubt that conventional data analytics is very helpful. It gives you insight into your business practices, but is, by definition, backwards looking. It is reporting on something that has already occurred.
Artificial intelligence allows you to predict and to change the future. That is highly relevant to what we’re doing here. If we can use AI to better understand and anticipate client needs, even beyond what they may be able to articulate to us, and then to match the right candidate to those needs at the right time, the right cost, and with a higher probability of the right outcome, that’s a great value to clients. That’s what we’re investing in and where we’re headed.
Not many people will be able to do that. Not many companies will be able to do that. The reason is it requires all of the things that we just discussed that ZeroChaos either has or is investing in.
First of all, delivering an AI-powered solution requires scale because it requires massive amounts of data from which to learn. Then, the solution requires a proprietary technology platform with which to acquire, store, normalize, score and then deliver data back to the client through efficient business practices in a timely manner.
You need all these ingredients to build a useful solution and to deliver useful outcomes. And if you don’t have them, then you’ll need the financial and technical wherewithal to get them. If a company is missing even one of the required assets, they’re out of luck and the industry will pass them by.
ZeroChaos has all the required assets, and we will be leveraging them to take the leadership position in the use of predictive data to drive better business outcomes in the management of our clients’ global labor forces.
This interview has been edited and condensed.