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CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: Contingent Workforce and Services Solutions — How to find the right workers, services in a crisis

03/27/2020 By

In this installment of our “Coronavirus Response” series, Spend Matters will focus on contingent workforce and services issues now that it’s not business as usual. In the COVID-19 crisis, the level of uncertainty in worker availability drives an increased need for workforce agility and, perhaps, new trade-offs between time, cost and risk. This may be a time when relying only on existing sourcing channels and suppliers will come up short.

External platforms or networks for remote and online workforce/services can be used to find and engage freelancers and small service providers across the globe who can perform activities totally online. Work can be managed, accepted and paid for online. In its basic form it can be up and running in a number of minutes with a credit card.

These new kinds of technology-based CW/S solutions from providers like Upwork, Fiverr and Topcoder may yield important benefits over and beyond what might be provided by a VMS. This is not to say a VMS solution is an unimportant contributor in the current crisis. On the contrary, it is critical.

The overall mission of this PRO series is to examine categories of relevant solutions (and example providers) that professionals in procurement, finance and supply chain organizations should investigate to reduce, and even mitigate, coronavirus supply risk. And even if the solutions are only addressing a subset of the issues, the ability to respond intelligently in the short term can also help set organizations up for the future when sanity returns to the world.

This article addresses the seventh category of the seven we currently have outlined:

1. Supply risk management solutions that include supply chain risk, CSR risk, supplier financial risk, etc.
2. Sourcing and commodity management, including advanced sourcing, direct sourcing, automated supplier discovery, and commodity management to help dynamically plan and source.
3. Advanced procurement analytics to enable direct procurement and/or to perform “spend planning” when demand drops out or spikes. (Its profile for this series is here.)
4. P2P that emphasizes working capital, dynamic discounting, payment control and related finance priorities to help inject cash into the P2P process — especially for many cash-starved suppliers. (This category is discussed in-depth here.)
5. Fraud, P2P and vendor management safeguards when new suppliers need to be set up quickly, and also when lowlife fraudsters try to use the pandemic as a way to steal money and IP.
6. Providers with deep contract analytics that can analyze a contract portfolio for affected contracts from suppliers (and customers) for not just force majeure clauses, but other related clauses that tie to the multiple risks popping up at once in the pandemic.
7. Contingent workforce and services solutions that are able to, at a minimum, help rapidly ramp up on-demand workers to deal with massive resource shortfalls. We are looking at four categories of solutions for sourcing remote/online work; solutions for sourcing and managing contract workers at geo-specific capabilities; solutions to “direct source” and manage contract workers; solutions for data management and analytics.

Owing to the magnitude of the crisis, Spend Matters recently made the series introduction available for free to all readers. PRO subscribers can see our follow-up pieces that profile the other categories and their solutions in that market. We will include a lot of information on each category PRO brief that readers can see without hitting a paywall, but since we also draw heavily from our existing deep-dive analysis of the providers from our SolutionMap database, some information will be available only to our PRO subscribers.

For workforce management, organizations should rely on their VMS solutions to manage the sourcing and management of temporary staffing suppliers and workers as well as SOW/services, as existing suppliers will be important sources of flexible workers (for example, to fill gaps in administrative or customer-facing jobs when regular workers must take a PTO day or just don’t show up). Perhaps organizations could use their trusted staffing suppliers as employers of record and payrollers to allow specific laid-off workers to return to work on a temporary basis. These are substantial channels of supply that should be maintained/sustained. A VMS can help with that.

Organizations should also collaborate with their VMS providers to find or optimize applications of solution capabilities unique to the crisis environment. For example, exploiting supplier management capabilities and increasing frequency of monitoring could be important, as staffing and SOW supplier capacities and performance may change quickly in a crisis environment.

Indeed, organizations that are not using a VMS today should perhaps be thinking about it, if they anticipate using more contingent workforce or having a more unpredictable contingent workforce requirements going forward. Spend Matters’ SolutionMap rankings cover enterprise solutions for Temp Staffing (and Contracted Services/SOW) and can provide an accelerated research path for zeroing in on appropriate solutions (e.g., VMS solutions that can be put in gear rapidly and so on).

In this Coronavirus Response series, the CW/S category has four types of solutions that need to be explored:

1. External platforms/networks for remote or online workforce/services (such as Upwork and many others) can be used to find and engage freelancers and small service providers across the globe who can perform activities totally online. For example, if an organization required a data analyst with R skills to analyze a large date set tomorrow. Work can be managed, accepted and paid for online. In its basic form it can be up and running in a number of minutes with a credit card.
2. External platforms/networks for geo-specific, locational workforce/services (such as Field Nation and others) can be used to deploy mobile technology-enabled field contractors on demand across wide geographies (individually or a groups). For example, if a company’s employee field technician must care for a family member and can no longer leave the house to make onsite repairs in a particular geographical area, contract field technicians can be engaged through such a platform. Workers can be sourced and work product accepted and paid for online.
3. Direct Sourcing solutions for workforce/specialized, small service providers (SSPs) such as (ShortList and others) can be used to directly engage a company’s contract workers such as consultants already in use, alumni or directly sourced fresh. For example, alumni with crucial knowledge/skills may be built up in reserve in a private talent pool, ready to activate at any time (this is something that healthcare systems are doing with retired personnel). The SaaS solution enables much of the Source-to-Invoice cycle for workers and service providers and is typically integrated with a company’s invoice/payments system. These solutions are typically subscription fee-based.
4. Data Management/Analytics solutions for workforce/services (such as Brightfield TDX and others) can be used to optimize contingent/extended workforce costs through market rate benchmarking, existing workforce configuration and market/trends analysis. If an organization will need to substitute contingent workers for a particular segment of its full-time employed workers (or simply augment them) a Data/Analytics can help to establish accurate contingent workforce rate benchmarking to ensure market prices are being paid. These solutions can be subscription or unit fee-based.

In this PRO brief, we focus on how external platforms/networks for remote or online workforce/services — which are not yet widely adopted by larger enterprises — may be leveraged to open up new pathways to needed labor/talent and services and to enable workforce flexibility and agility. All of which will be important in navigating the current crisis as its stages unfold.

This issue, like each category-specific PRO piece in this series, will be discussed in three sections:

1. Problems and Use Cases. In this section, we’ll highlight the problems in force (which will vary through different phases of the crisis) and the various scenarios where solutions can provide deeper insights, intelligence and scalable workflows.
2. Solution Rationale and Value. In this section, we’ll outline how various solutions can help solve the problems and list what value they can add to your business.
3. Example Providers. In this last section, we’ll highlight the solution providers that can address the problems and deliver some value.

OK, let's dive into workforce solutions that can help.

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Coronavirus Response