Author Archives: Andrew Karpie



Simplify Workforce: Vendor Introduction, Analysis and SWOT

Because of recent M&A consolidation and multiple external drivers, the market for vendor management system (VMS) solutions has become fairly complex. Competing vendors have been absorbed or combined, draining the field of vendor choices that can be applied in a wide number of scenarios. Concurrently, businesses have shifted away from their focus on temporary staffing labor to a rising emphasis on statement of work (SOW) spend, while also exploring new talent engagement models that increase program complexity, to include the exploratory enterprise adoption of the “gig economy” in the form of independent contractors. Add in the typical challenges of effectively operating a temporary staffing program — from cost control issues to quality maintenance and the management of intermediaries like MSPs — and it’s easy to see why procurement organizations are finding the old paradigm for VMS solutions is no longer holding up.

Going against the grain of complexity is a newer VMS provider that incorporates simplicity (i.e., ease of use) into its name — and its solution. Founded in 2016, Simplify Workforce provides an end-to-end SaaS solution for managing the extended workforce.

The Jersey City, New Jersey-based provider enables this through separate modules for contingent workforce (or in our SolutionMap classification, Temp Staffing) and statement of work (Contracted Services/SOW), with an emphasis on configurability, adaptability and ease of use that has typically eluded past VMS solutions. In doing so, Simplify Workforce aims to address the long-underserved middle market — specifically, businesses with annual contingent workforce spend of $1 million to $100 million — with the ability to scale up or down on spend easily, with a VMS and SOW solution that can solve the majority of daily contingent workforce challenges without overwhelming users, implementation teams and budgets with unnecessary complexity.

This Spend Matters PRO Vendor Introduction offers a candid take on Simplify Workforce and its capabilities. The brief includes an overview of Simplify Workforce’s offering, a breakdown of what is comparatively good (and not so good) about the solution, a SWOT analysis and a selection requirements checklist for companies that might consider the provider.

SAP Fieldglass Takes Center Stage at SAP Ariba Live (Part 2) — Product Roadmap Insight + Procurement & HR Recommendations

At SAP Ariba Live last week, SAP Fieldglass played a key role not only on the main stage, but in over a dozen breakout sessions. From our research at the event, it is clear that SAP intends to bring these two offerings much closer together in the quarters and years to come.

This Spend Matters PRO brief provides insight into what we learned around the combined product roadmap, including the persona-driven approaches SAP Fieldglass and SAP Ariba are taking to integration scenarios.

Finally, we provide concrete recommendations to two stakeholder groups (Procurement and Human Capital Management executives) in terms of how they should think about the combination of SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass and the role they should take in selecting the best fit solutions for their current and emerging needs. 

Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit: Retooling How Enterprises Work (Part 3)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this four-part Spend Matters PRO series, we wrote about how the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit emerged and continues to evolve at Microsoft (based on our interviews with Microsoft managers who are central to the initiative). We now shift our perspective to the contingent workforce industry innovator Upwork Enterprise, Microsoft’s launch partner for the freelance toolkit.

In Part 3, based on discussions with Eric Gilpin, SVP of Upwork Enterprise, we look at the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit from Upwork’s perspective and examine Upwork’s role as a partner and key participant in the process as well as what the partnership means for Upwork itself. Part 4 will include an analyst perspective on the freelance toolkit, the Microsoft-Upwork partnership and what it may indicate for services procurement practitioners.

The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insider’s Hot List: April 2019

Welcome to the April 2019 edition of Spend Matters Insider’s Hot List, a monthly look at the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) space that’s available to PLUS and PRO subscribers. For those new to the Hot List, each edition covers the prior month’s important or interesting technology and innovation developments in the CW/S space.

In March, a warming trend continued throughout the industry — and particularly in the work intermediation platform space, with new M&A, innovation and solutions appearing and one major player not paying attention and stepping in something (I hate when that happens). Read about Contently, Figure Eight, Freelancer.com, Topcoder and more.

Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit: Retooling How Enterprises Work (Part 2)

In Part 2 of this three-part series, we shift our focus from the examination of what the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit is and how it emerged with a broader work innovation initiative at Microsoft to the major role of Microsoft’s procurement organization in the process from the very beginning to the present.

In Part 1, we focused on the “customer zero” approach to the development of the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit within Microsoft over the last 18 months. We also discussed the research, ideation and strategy process that started six to eight months earlier involving a number of key stakeholder groups/experts, including procurement, HR, legal and strategy in addition to the Microsoft 365 Product Content Group, led by Paul Estes.

We noted that this broader process was as much a cross-functional, organizational innovation journey into the future of work as it was a product journey motivated by the need to understand what the future of work would mean for Microsoft 365 products.

Over the past several years, Spend Matters has been researching to what extent — and how — larger enterprises have been adopting digital work platforms (such as freelancer marketplaces, crowd-based services platforms, etc.) as a way to source certain kinds of talent for suitable types of assignments.

We have also been focused on how services procurement/contingent workforce managers have been approaching (or could approach) these new sources on behalf of their organizations (see, for example, “How Procurement Can Participate in Platform Sourcing Initiatives: There Are More Ways Than One — Part 1 and Part 2”).

Based on our discussion with Chad Nesland, director of strategic sourcing at Microsoft, we now look at how procurement, starting two years ago, participated in Microsoft’s gig economy/work innovation initiative that, six months later, led to a supplier-partnership relationship with Upwork Enterprise and the subsequent development of the freelancer toolkit delivered to Microsoft 365 clients last December.

Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit: Retooling How Enterprises Work (Part 1)

The extent to which large enterprises are using independent contract workers, including online freelancers, has been a Spend Matters’ research interest for several years now. That interest has included the “what” and the “how” of what has been happening (including procurement’s role in the process).

In December 2018, when we covered Upwork’s partnership with Microsoft on the launch of the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit, we recognized the event as one more step in the gradual alignment of enterprises and online freelancer marketplaces. But we barely skimmed the surface of what this toolkit actually is, how it came to be at Microsoft and how it could help other enterprises and their employees.

At that time, we reported that the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit builds on Microsoft clients’ “existing technology investments and provides tools, templates and best practices that help enterprises launch, execute and manage freelance programs at scale.” And technology-wise, the toolkit consists of “built-in product features and integrations with Microsoft Power BI, Teams, SharePoint and Flow” that “guide enterprises through the freelance engagement process.”

This Spend Matters PRO series will take a closer look at the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit, clarifying what it actually is, how it emerged and took shape, almost spontaneously, as a part of a bottom-up yet multidisciplinary process (which included HR, legal and even procurement as key players). The series will share insights into this two-year process based on our discussions with key managers at Microsoft and Upwork.

In Part 1, we draw on our discussion with Paul Estes, the Gig Economy strategy lead at Microsoft and the product lead of the Microsoft 365 freelance tool kit initiative. In Part 2, we talk with Chad Nesland, Microsoft’s director of strategic sourcing and the procurement lead in the initiative. And in Part 3, we incorporate our discussion with Eric Gilpin of Upwork Enterprise, Microsoft’s launch partner. We wrap up with our overall analysis of the Microsoft 365 freelance toolkit journey and potential implications for other large enterprises and their procurement organizations.

Enterprises’ Use of Contingent Workforce Grows and Business Case is Strong, The Economist’s Research Arm Finds

talent management

Most procurement practitioners and contingent workforce managers won’t be surprised by the assertion that employing contingent workers can have a significant upside for companies despite some costs and a fair amount of preparation, which remains to be done, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s February 2019 report, “Sourcing and Managing Talent in a Gig Economy.” But it's interesting to see how the perception of this sector is developing and to gain a few more insights.

Sourcing and Engaging the Independent/Freelance Workforce — An Emerging Ecosystem? (Part 3)

The overarching question motivating this five-part Spend Matters PRO series is one posed to practitioners: “As a services procurement manager, should I be paying more attention — maybe even taking action on — the independent contract workforce, or ICW, as a supply of skills/expertise?”

In Part 1 of this series, we examined if measures of size and growth of the ICW population provided a clear basis for answering this question and found that, at least in our opinion, it did not (see Part 1).

We also proposed that, in addition to monitoring demand within one’s organization (something not adequately done by most procurement organizations), the extent to which a new ICW ecosystem is emerging could also provide some basis for answering the question. We also proposed looking separately at the extent to which an ecosystem has been forming to:

  • Provide enterprises with the required capabilities to source, manage and maximize the value of this independent/freelance population (Parts 2 and 3 of this series)
  • Provide independent/freelance workers with the access to the opportunity pathways and the support/services they require to function as viable “operators.” (Part 4 of this series)
Starting in Part 2, we began looking at the formation of an ecosystem enabling organizations’ usage of (source, engage, manage and pay) independent/freelance workforce. In Part 2, we reviewed findings from a recent panel survey of CW/S solution provider executives which suggested that a new ICW ecosystem has been taking shape recently. When asked this: “Over the past three years, have you seen the emergence of new digitally-integratable, configurable ecosystem(s) of solution and service providers focused on enabling organizations and independent workforce on the demand and the supply sides?” over 80% of respondents answered “Yes, to some extent,” while none answered “No , I haven't seen that happening.”

In this third part of the series, we will continue this same assessment of an emerging ecosystem enabling organizations usage of ICWs , but dissecting it at the category and provider level.

In Part 4, we will provide a similar assessment, but from the standpoint of how ICWs are enabled/supported to function as viable operators. In Part 5, we will synthesize the findings and offer recommendations for services procurement practitioners and senior executives.

Upwork’s Latest ‘Future Workforce’ Report Shows Differences in Freelance, Remote Hiring by Millennials/Gen Z and Baby Boomer Managers

contingent workforce

The freelancer website Upwork on Tuesday released its third annual “Future Workforce Report,” which examines hiring behaviors of more than 1,000 hiring managers based in the U.S. It looks “specifically into how younger generations’ (hiring managers) are shaping the future of work.” The study is far-ranging, but our coverage will focus on some areas relevant to our procurement audience: younger generations’ attitudes toward changing work models — namely, remote work and external workforce.

Coupa, Services and Coupa Contingent Workforce: A Progress Report (Part 2)

In this two-part PRO series, Spend Matters provides a review and analysis of Coupa’s recent evolution in addressing the category of services spend, including Coupa Contingent Workforce. In Part 1, we provided an overview of where Coupa is at with the integration and leveraging of DCR Workforce.

First, we revisited the Coupa “services procurement” background/context leading up to the DCR acquisition last year. We also recounted our September 2018 briefing, in which Coupa discussed the acquisition and what to expect as far as integration (or “unification”) of the acquisition over the coming months. Additionally, we discussed what we learned from our most recent January 2019 briefing by Coupa on the current state of the integration.

Based on this analysis, we concluded that, six months in after the acquisition, Coupa’s integration at the organizational and product levels appeared to be on course. The priorities seemed reasonable even given the unique dynamics of the VMS market — and the plan, based on Coupa’s history of stamping out post-merger integrations, seemed on track.

But beyond this, what has happened to the DCR product under the Coupa umbrella? And how is it fitting into the changing world of services procurement — and potentially even help to shape it? In Part 2 of this research series, we will provide our own observations on where Coupa seems to be going, in terms of the contingent workforce technology solution segment and its increasing overlap with other procurement technology solutions.

The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insider’s Hot List: March 2019

Welcome to the March 2019 edition of Spend Matters’ Insiders’ Hot List, a monthly look at the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) space that’s available to PLUS and PRO subscribers. For those new to the Hot List, each edition covers the prior month’s important or interesting technology and innovation developments in the CW/S space. In February, the CW/S space continued to simmer, so for this edition we’ve taken a taste of what’s cookin’ in the kitchen — M&A, millions in funding raised and organizational developments.

Vndly Closes $11 Million Series A Funding Round: A VMS Category Buster in the Making?

Workforce Reimagined concept on the gearwheels, 3D rendering

Vndly, which describes itself as a “cloud-based work management system (WMS) to power the new gig economy,” announced Thursday that it has closed an $11 million Series A funding round led by Battery Ventures and Hyde Park Ventures. According to the announcement, the “investment will be used to drive product innovation, customer adoption and global expansion.”

Vndly describes itself as a software-as-a-service WMS system, which “unlike legacy VMS offerings … uses an ‘outcomes’-based management approach rather than a traditional ‘process’-based approach, along with machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms to automate manual tasks.” The announcement also states that the Vndly platform has four major modules: contingent workforce management, statement of work (SOW) management, independent contractor (IC) compliance and total talent acquisition.

When Cincinnati-based Vndly entered the contingent workforce/services (CW/S) solution space, launching with beta clients in mid-2017, it came out swinging.

Co-founder and CEO Shashank Saxena has been clear about the intent to reframe the problem and the solution of businesses managing the non-employee/contingent workforce at the end of the second decade of the 21th century. In the announcement, Saxena said, “We founded Vndly ... to address a rapidly growing problem fueled by the rise of contractors, freelancers and the gig economy” and “we are poised to transform the legacy VMS market with our WMS platform.”

Spend Matters has spent over a dozen hours reviewing and demoing the Vndly solution in recent quarters and validating its RFI responses as part of Spend Matters SolutionMap. We have also created a summary research brief exploring where it excels on a comparative basis compared to peers.

In this Spend Matters PRO briefing, rather than focus on the specifics of the funding event, we instead examine Vndly’s approach to addressing current and emerging requirements (of organizations, suppliers, intermediaries and workers) for CW/S enterprise technology solutions. In addition, we place Vndly in the broader context of a once well-defined, VMS-centric CW/S technology solution industry in which the solution provider landscape has been evolving and the boundaries of solution categories have been changing over the last five years.