Author Archives: Andrew Karpie



Independent Workforce and Online Platforms —  What’s a Services Procurement Practitioner to Do?

In 2019, services procurement practitioners in mid- to large-sized enterprises most likely have some awareness of — or even some level of interest in — independent contract workforce (ICW) and online work/service platforms (e.g., online freelancer marketplaces, contest/challenge crowd platforms, digital direct sourcing solutions). But for the most part, the new opportunities presented by platforms to source and engage ICWs are viewed as having an uncertain ROI, not being ready for prime time — or worse. Andrew Karpie, Spend Matters' research director of services and labor procurement, says it's worth your time and has some advice.

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

Welcome to the February 2019 edition of Spend Matters’ monthly Hot List, a look at the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) 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.

Perhaps overcome by the polar vortex, for many, January turned out to have been a frigid month. But the CW/S space continued to percolate, with a number of developments and changes and a few new third-party reports that offered insights into various aspects of this evolving space.

Are Organizations Using More of the Independent Workforce?

talent management

Several years into the gig economy hype cycle, much has happened and many questions remain unanswered (the least of which is: “What are we talking about?”). A handful of survey-based studies — using different population definitions, methodologies and time intervals, — have focused on the population of people in the U.S. engaging in some kind of full- or part-time alternative work arrangement, temp work, freelancing and/or independent contract work. The result, not surprisingly, has been widely varying estimates of population size and rate of change.

But trying to answer questions about the independent workforce population may be missing the point. A more relevant and important set of questions for procurement and HR practitioners in organizations may be: Have organizations been sourcing and engaging more workers in non-traditional work arrangements? Why or why not? And so on. To get at some of these questions, we have surveyed a panel of executives of contingent workforce technology solution and service providers and analyzed the results.

Field Nation: Vendor Snapshot (Part 3) — Summary and Competitive Analysis

Field Nation — as discussed in this Spend Matters PRO Vendor Snapshot Part 1 and Part 2 — provides an online marketplace and an enterprise solution that enables companies and their managers to conduct “on-demand” sourcing, engagement, dispatch, management and payment of IT field services contractors, services providers and even their own company employees. Today, Field Nation still largely plays in the narrow/niche of online marketplace/work execution solution segment of IT field contractors/providers (what might be considered a niche, duopoly market where it competes against WorkMarket, now an ADP company). But it has recently launched its broader, enterprise-level Field Nation ONE solution, which implies a considerably wider competitive context. If one expands the potential market to include larger, enterprise-level field service management (“FSM”) solutions (or further, to address other on-demand, on-site project work categories), the addressable market would be much larger and the industry competitive landscape and dynamics would be significantly different.

Part 1 provided a company and detailed solution overview, as well as a recommend fit list of criteria for firms considering Field Nation. Part 2 discussed Spend Matters’ perspective on solution strengths and weaknesses along with a rating of UI/UX for firms considering solution options. In our third and final installment, we provide a SWOT overview of Field Nation as a whole, a high-level, comparative competitive analysis, key fit criteria and, lastly, brief commentary and suggestions for organizations that might consider Field Nation as a potential solution partner.

Field Nation: Vendor Snapshot (Part 2) — Product Strengths and Weaknesses

In the first of this three-part Spend Matters PRO series, we introduced you to Field Nation, a digital platform that enables companies and their managers to conduct “on-demand” sourcing, engagement, dispatch, management and payment of technical field services contractors, services providers and, recently, employees.

For a number of years, Field Nation has been providing what was basically a many-to-many online spot-buy marketplace. But last year, the company launched an enterprise-level, blended-workforce sourcing and management platform solution called Field Nation ONE, and that is the focus of this product evaluation.

Among other enterprise technology solutions that address independent contract workers (ICWs) and are featured in the Spend Matters ICW SolutionMap, Field Nation ONE stands out with laser-like focus in the field services vertical and its integrated proprietary marketplace of roughly 15,000 field service contractors in the U.S. and Canada. But while Field Nation ONE is an enterprise, S2P solution addressing the ICW work category, it is nonetheless a specialized one and needs to be evaluated on that basis. It also bears noting that Field Nation ONE is at the very beginning of its product maturity curve.

Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO series provided company background and a detailed solution overview, plus a set of solution-fit considerations. In Part 2, we now cover what we see as the strengths and weaknesses of the solution as well as a rating of UI/UX. Part 3 will provide competitor and SWOT analyses, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Freelancers and Fintech — Follow the Money

Companies’ use of freelancers has become a hot topic of discussion as well as a source of considerable confusion among contingent workforce professionals and other human capital personnel in procurement and HR over the past several years.

It is a chaotic discourse. But there does seem to be something of a consensus that the number of individuals performing some type of at least “part-time” freelance or short gig-work has been materially increasing.

While there has been discussion of various potential drivers of this trend (e.g., business cycle, technology, personal income sufficiency, etc.), less attention has been paid to the state of ICW payments and financial services as a potential driver of ICW supply-side growth. And this is the case, despite that multiple surveys of workers have shown that payments is one of the top problems (along with development of new business and securing health insurance) that is gating ready-and-willing workers’ propensity to engage in part-time or full-time independent contract work.

But despite the lagging attention in the industry, market forces have been at work on solving the problem of payment and financial limitations that may be constraining the growth of part- and full-time independent work being performed. Developments in this particular area have become visible over the last year, as we will discuss in this article.

5 Areas for Services Procurement Professionals to Watch in 2019

platform

As we start off 2019, more procurement professionals may want to be on their toes with respect to the changing contingent workforce and services environment. With that in mind — and recognizing the wicked challenge of making even short-term predictions in this space — we are not offering predictions per se but rather commentary on several broader trends. No promises, no New Year resolutions. Instead, we’d like to point to some areas we will be (and perhaps you should be) watching in 2019. To avoid being caught flat-footed as new developments and opportunities arise, practitioners need to keep their eye on five areas in particular.

TalonFMS: What Makes It Great (Independent Contract Workers SolutionMap Analysis)

Lystable

TalonFMS is a provider of talent management and direct sourcing technology that enables organizations that are looking to source, manage and leverage independent contract workers (ICWs). TalonFMS’s technology solution was recently evaluated in Spend Matters’ SolutionMap framework with the Independent Contract Workers enterprise solution category. The ICW solution segment is the most dynamic part of the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) procurement technology market, which also includes SolutionMap’s Temp Staffing (Vendor Management Systems/VMS) and Contract Services/Statement of Work solution segments.

Unlike solutions for Temp Staffing or Contract Services/SOW, most ICW enterprise solutions have emerged over the past five years within the context of the so-called gig, freelance and peer-to-peer “economies.” While some new providers have developed external platforms like online marketplaces that function effectively as third-party suppliers of talent, others have developed enterprise software solutions that organizations can use to source and manage independent contract talent in ways that VMS, ATS and HRIS systems cannot. TalonFMS falls within this latter category.

TalonFMS provides a fit-for-purpose enterprise software solution that organizations can use to source and organize, gain visibility into and establish control over their external workers they engage as contract independents and not as employees of staffing suppliers. A young company launched in 2015, TalonFMS already covers most of the important ICW management requirements cost-effectively for any size and type of organization, and it boasts the highest client survey score among its peers in the ICW solution category.

The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insider’s Hot List: January 2019 (Special Focus Edition on Services)

Welcome to the January 2019 edition of Spend Matters’ monthly feature “The Contingent Workforce and Services (CW/S) Insider’s Hot List,” 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 within the CW/S space, where change may be accelerating or at least becoming more pervasive.

This edition also marks the first 12 months of Hot List coverage, launched in the February 2018 inaugural edition (and covering January 2018). Our goal was to show that under the surface of the obtuse, clinical label of “contingent workforce and services” (CW/S) was a hotbed of technologically driven innovation. We sought to set the record straight, perhaps turn a few heads (maybe even provoke a double-take) and possibly prevent some unwary practitioners from getting burned. Hopefully we have fulfilled our promise.

To mark the first anniversary of the Hot List series, this month we will leave the usual format behind and seek a glimpse of the CW/S elephant in the room: complex services spend.

The real features of this spend category have (strangely enough) been obscured in the shadow cast by contingent workforce. And while there has been lots of talk about SOW spend in the CW/S world, in reality, that’s been a little bit like lighting a match in the dark to survey the full enormity of the elephant (possibly only seeing a foot or a tusk).

With that, we will now begin our safari, turn our searchlight toward the relatively unexplored territory of services spend and wrestle with questions like: What is it? How is it being addressed in different sectors? Is there a pattern emerging that may mean more and more effective ways for businesses to source and manage complex services?

Field Nation: Vendor Snapshot (Part 1) — Background & Solution Overview

SciQuest

Across the growing landscape of digital intermediation platforms for contingent workforce and services, practically no two platforms are entirely alike in terms of market focus, function, capabilities, solution offerings, etc. For the last five years, variety has been the spice of life in this space — and it will likely continue to be.

Within this diverse population, one can find providers of external online marketplaces, providers of enterprise (FMS-like) solutions to manage independent workforce, or providers of both.

Field Nation occupies this last category as a digital platform that, today, enables companies/managers to conduct “on-demand” sourcing, engagement, dispatch, management and payment of technical field services contractors, services providers and, recently, employees. Field Nation aims to address other categories of on-site work in the future.

Part 1 of this Vendor Snapshot series provides company background and a detailed solution overview, as well as a summary recommended fit for when organizations should consider Field Nation. Parts 2 and 3 will dive into product strengths and weaknesses, competitor and SWOT analyses, and insider evaluation and selection considerations.

Vndly: What Makes It Great (Temp Staffing/VMS SolutionMap Analysis)

Founded in 2017, Vndly is a new entrant in the evolving contingent workforce and services (CW/S) enterprise technology solution market. While new entrants have appeared with solutions to address the emergence of the freelancer or gig economy, not one has gone after the temporary staffing and SOW solution segments, which have been the exclusive domain of what were long referred to as vendor management system (VMS) providers. Vndly intends to challenge top VMS solutions in all three of these spend categories on the basis of its new technology, its reassessment of organizations’ core needs, and its innovative approaches to old and new requirements. Let’s delve into the SolutionMap benchmark to find out where Vndly is great.

“What Makes It Great” is a recurring column that shares insights from each quarterly SolutionMap report for SolutionMap Insider subscribers. Based on both our rigorous evaluation process and customer reference reviews, each brief offers quick facts on the provider, describes where it excels, provides hard data on where it beats the SolutionMap benchmark and concludes with a checklist for ideal customer scenarios in which procurement, finance and supply chain organizations should consider it.

4 Seismic Events for Contingent Workforce/Services in 2018 — A Whole Lotta Shaking Going On

Japan earthquakes

Based on my discussions with people in the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) industry in the past months, it seems that many are thinking that 2018 was a year in which, relative to past years, something quite different was happening. But it was hard to put one’s finger on it. Perhaps it was a year when new technology became more of an exciting opportunity to better serve clients and talent and less as something to fear or be cynical about? Or a year when the industry embraced innovation and change more than it resisted it? Maybe even a year that would mark when a seismic shift in “industry structure” began?

This post provides an overview of four potentially seismic developments in the CW/S technology-based solution space, with references to corresponding 2018 Spend Matters research coverage. Armed with all this information and a sprinkle of analyst commentary, we will leave it to you to form your own perspective about the movers and the shakers in 2018.