Bold Predictions: Partnership will ultimately be the path to dominate the freelancer/FMS landscape

The “gig economy,” “talent on demand,” “freelancer management systems,” or just plain “FMS.” Whatever you wish to call it, the on-demand talent market is a hot topic at organizations these days.

Earlier this year, I was slated to be a speaker at a national conference to discuss the topic. I had planned to lead a general discussion regarding the FMS space, and share some of my recent experiences and predictions regarding this growing segment of non-employee labor. That event was canceled due to Covid-19, so I thought I would share some of those thoughts here instead.

The challenges. While our organization has been able to launch a pilot FMS solution, in order to limit and control the scope of the pilot, access is set manually. Additionally, invoicing and payment is also limited to the pilot sponsor’s cost center for facilitating payment to the FMS provider. That said, in order to deploy a solution to our users at scale, we will require integrating the FMS with our infrastructure to utilize such things as single sign-on, and with our ERP to automate the invoicing and payment process. This requires internal resources that we simply don’t have due to other organizational priorities in this current environment.

This same internal resources dilemma raises another concern — we want to ensure growth across the enterprise is controlled so it does not become yet another avenue of tail or rogue spend. In discussions with other program owners/buyers, several are interested in deploying these types of solutions in their organizations, but are facing many of the same challenges.

Assistance. Addressing these challenges requires assistance from a partner. In our case, that would be our MSP provider, which assists with curating our overall talent strategy, guiding our internal stakeholders in terms of what avenue is the most appropriate to accomplish the work required. For example, is it the type of engagement that a contingent worker should perform? Or, is this a skill with defined deliverables that might best be suited to engage a resource via statement of work? Or, would the work actually best be sourced via an on-demand talent platform/FMS?

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Resistance. Most of the players in the FMS arena that I have spoken with do not want to partner with us in that manner, though. They feel the way to increase adoption and create revenue growth is to try to bypass that type of partnership with MSPs. At the risk of giving away my age, this is reminiscent of how suppliers viewed the MSP/VMS back in the early 2000s. Soon, though, buyer organizations saw the value these tools and programs provided, and the writing was on the wall. Then suppliers who initially were resistant began to also see the value, and those that embraced the changes in the market became dominant.

And that is the crux of the “bold prediction” I had planned to leave attendees of that conference with: —As this fast-growing segment of the industry matures, the FMS provider that embraces the partnership strategy/path will ultimately dominate. Because, expansion/adoption of an FMS solution will be a controlled, it will be massively easier to implement these solutions and reach all parts of the enterprise in a compliant manner with the assistance of the MSP partner.

To buyers out there who are experiencing the same challenges we are, communicate and push FMS providers to consider partnering with your MSP. And FMS providers: I encourage you to agree to such requests to help address program managers’ challenges, lest you lose market share to early adopters.

Eric Osterhout

Eric Osterhout
Eric Osterhout is senior category specialist, SCM Contingent Labor, at Enbridge.

Eric Osterhout

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