Author Archives: Andrew Karpie



Next-Generation Digital Service Providers: The Who, What and Why for Services Procurement

An increasing number of digital, platform-based service providers are appearing today, and while they now represent a small category far outside the scope of most contingent workforce and services (CW/S) procurement programs, the spend they account for is growing.

Back around 2010, traditional BPO providers sought to introduce clients to digitally turbo-charged offerings. Though similar in concept, the providers appearing today represent a whole new generation of platform-based service providers, many of which were startups or didn’t exist in 2010. They did not arise with the scale and legacy of the BPO providers, nor did they occupy the category of major service providers of which procurement was aware and already oversaw.

Far from a passing fad, these next-generation digital service providers will become an increasingly significant segment of services consumption and spend over the next 10 years. We base our projections on solid, long-term trends evidenced in both the consumer and business sectors.

This Spend Matters Plus article defines this new generation of digital service providers and poses the entirely open question of whether they require the attention of procurement organizations tasked with managing services spend at this time. This question may be especially pertinent, given the significant similarities of digital service providers and traditional ones.

Beyond Contingent Workforce Management: Embracing an Agile Workforce

Today, when it comes to talent — especially highly skilled or expert talent — organizations are at the beginning of a new phase of workforce innovation. In the coming years, organizations will be going beyond the now well-established practice of sourcing external contingent workforce to augmenting or even replacing parts of their “permanent” employee workforce. The next phase of workforce organization innovation is embracing an agile workforce model.

From blur to Maistro: Can Services Procurement Get a Life?

healthcare

We recently had a briefing and demo by U.K.-based Maistro, which describes itself as “an AI powered platform and dynamic B2B Marketplace that optimizes the way companies buy business services.” Formerly blur Group, the company became Maistro following a significant restructuring that took place over the second half of 2017. Spend Matters has followed the company since 2013, but our coverage tapered off over the last two years as the company's condition worsened. However, since Maistro has been operating under new leadership for almost a year now, it may be time to turn the page and start a new chapter in our coverage.

With a new tagline, “Accelerated Procurement,” Maistro goes-to-market as a procurement-oriented “managed services” solution with an integrated online marketplace that consists exclusively of vetted service supplier businesses (not freelancers). While Maistro does participate in the workforce/services game, its combined characteristics differentiate it from other online freelancer/services marketplaces, such as Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr and others.

Nonetheless, the work/services platform space is emergent and consists of hundreds of providers, with many well-financed and still searching for the path that will lead to scale adoption by large enterprises. Consequently, it is difficult to predict which providers may find the cure or end up in a platform graveyard, if or when there is a market shakeout. One thing, however, can be said about Maistro: Despite having many near-death experiences over the last four years, it appears to be rallying — albeit with an uncertain prognosis.

The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List: June 2018

Welcome to the fifth edition of Spend Matters’ monthly feature, “The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List,” available to PLUS and PRO subscribers.

In the CW/S space, new developments are observable every month. These can include:

  1. New innovative, technology solutions (sometimes hybrid technology and services)
  2. New entrants (some self-styled as disruptive) that have typically been the originators of No. 1
  3. Established supply chain players responding to Nos. 1 and 2, some more effectively than others
On a month-to-month basis, these kinds of developments ebb and flow, but there are always at least a few interesting developments (e.g., a new technology solution provider; a supply chain player or an enterprise trying something new; an alliance with, investment in or acquisition of a still young and innovative provider). If we were to go back 10 years, we would find an entirely different world where truly innovative, technology-driven developments were rare. But today the CW/S space is continuously percolating with new concepts, applications of technology, supply chain participants responses and other developments that go largely unnoticed.

Let’s have a closer look at some of what we picked up on our radar this past month.

A User’s Guide to the Gig Economy for Procurement Practitioners

The gig economy has been talked about so endlessly that the term has become nearly meaningless. Yet contingent workforce and services procurement practitioners know there is something going on beyond the buzzwords, something that is beginning to matter to the work they do. It is difficult, however, for many practitioners to distinguish what is essential and of importance in the context of their procurement goals. To aid in that effort, this Spend Matters Plus brief explores how practitioners can make the gig economy work for them.

Fiverr Delivers A New Slant on Independent, Specialized Knowledge Workers

Coworks

Fiverr, a marketplace for creative and digital services, recently published a unique study focused on independent, specialized knowledge workers (ISKWs). The study, conducted in collaboration with the market research firm Rockbridge Associates, seeks to provide a better understanding of ISKWs — “where [they] live, what kind of work they do and how much they’re growing as a population and in terms of revenue earned.” From our perspective, the study is unique in its sharp focus on ISKWs and its sophisticated, transparent methodology. 

The Digital Evolution of the Contingent Workforce Supply Chain: What Does It Mean? (Part 1)

contingent workforce

Driven by the effects of new digital technologies and other factors (talent availability, generational change, etc.), contingent workforce procurement — and the contingent workforce supply chain — will be noticeably evolving over the next 10 years. The last impetus to change in the supply chain and procurement was the advent of VMS over 15 years ago, a set of developments that is well known by now. Given how much the world of commerce has changed since that time, we probably should not be surprised that another round of change has now begun. This time, given the range of drivers — technical, economic and social — that are converging, we should also not be surprised if the new round of change may give rise to new kinds of technology-enabled labor/services intermediaries and technology-based innovation across the existing contingent workforce supply chain (staffing suppliers, VMS, MSP and others). This Spend Matters Plus brief helps contingent workforce and services procurement professionals form a broad, strategic perspective on how technology, specifically, may bring about changes to the contingent workforce supply chain and how that may unfold. However, as will discuss later in this series, this is not just the “long game,” as both specific opportunities and threats will arise along the longer path forward.

The Freelance Frontier: How the Future of Independent Work is Happening Now

On May 15, we will be joining the Freelance Frontier webinar to contribute our own perspective on emerging, alternative sourcing channels and ecosystems for independent-freelance contract workers.The webinar will also feature three young, innovative solution providers — IC PreCheck, Bunker and Genesys Talent — that have started their journeys across the Freelance Frontier.

In addition to developing their own digitally enabled solutions, these providers have chosen to partner and configure themselves as part of an ecosystem that can bring together organizations and independent-freelance workers in an efficient, fast, compliant and mutually beneficial way. In the webinar, the providers will discuss their own solutions as well as how they work together.

The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hotlist: May 2018

Welcome to the fourth edition of Spend Matters’ monthly feature, “The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List,” available to Plus and PRO subscribers.

Today, based on our own observations and our discussions with supply chain participants, change in the CW/S space (both its scope and pace) appears unprecedented; moreover, it may also be accelerating. The staffing industry of 10 years ago was mature, stable, highly concentrated and hardly innovative. But between then and now, much has been happening.

Change, up and down the supply chain, is being driven not only by enterprises beginning to require more effective solutions in the current environment but even more so by other external forces (e.g., new technology/solutions, workforce demographics and so on). While it is important to consider these external factors/sources, it is also important to watch how the core/traditional supply chain is responding to them. There is little, if any, disruption occurring, but there are many signs of assimilation, adaptation and, in some cases, innovation. For more on this, see our discussion, under the heading “Wildfire? Or Slow Burn?," in last month’s Hotlist.

Given the above, the past month did not disappoint, with developments in both the core/traditional category and the external/innovation category. We’ll start with developments in the first category and then proceed to those in the second.

Is Corporate America Now Embracing the Future of Work? It’s Complicated

In this heady and confusing time of freelancers, digital platforms and the gig economy, there are different perspectives on the extent to which large enterprises are — or will increasingly be — sourcing and engaging independent workers, using new technology solutions, digital platforms and new internal processes to do so. In this PRO brief, we look at the state of affairs in 2018 by evaluating this question: When will enterprises, thus far reserved, recognize the tactical and strategic importance of leveraging the independent workforce and start deliberately taking steps to make the independent workforce a part of their total workforce strategies?

The answer is complicated, and predictions are impossible. But trying to answer the question offers procurement and HR practitioners insights, from which they can draw their own conclusions and form their own managerial perspectives.

Catalant’s Reimagining Work 20/20 Report: Good Imagination or Perfect Vision?

Catalant, a provider of innovative solutions to access and maximize the value of expert talent, recently released a report entitled “Reimagining Work 20/20.” In essence, the report focuses on the evolving relationships among organizations, expert workforce and the so-called future of work. Reimagining Work 20/20 examines why and how organizations are already or will need to begin a transformational journey (our words) to arrive at place where they can take full advantage of what Catalant calls the “radically agile workforce.” It also acknowledges and cautions that the journey to becoming an agile organization will be a challenging one.

The SAP Fieldglass Digital Network: What Is It and What Does It Mean?

SAP Fieldglass announced in March the first stage in the development of its Digital Network, a new way for businesses to access alternative digital suppliers of workforce and services. Prominent among these suppliers are online talent marketplaces, which engage and aggregate one or more general categories of talent, typically freelancers/independent workers. While larger enterprises have generally been slow to utilize these emerging digital suppliers — especially through a managed buying channel and a VMS — we’ve observed that levels of curiosity and interest have been trending upward. Within SAP Fieldglass, these marketplaces and other digital platforms are treated as additional contingent workforce suppliers within a “multichannel” sourcing framework.

We had an opportunity to connect with SAP SAP Fieldglass President Rob Brimm and members of his staff to discuss what the Digital Network is and what it means from the SAP Fieldglass perspective. Below, we share some of what we learned, as well our own perspective on how this development fits into a broader industry context.