The most interesting aspect regarding the current state of the typical contingent workforce is how the “contingent workforce umbrella” has transformed a once-underutilized strategy into a dominant corporate force. It wasn’t until the economic downturn of the late 00s that contingent labor captured the attention of business executives. Forced to “do more with less,” corporations turned to contract talent to quickly fill critical needs across the enterprise in a flexible manner. Although it took some time after the crisis for some companies to see an uptick in demand for their products and services, the need to prepare for a recovery soon emerged and contract talent proved to be an ideal means to support not only a business turnaround, but also true financial growth.
Soon after the economic downturn, a new concept arose to help enterprises develop a more holistic approach to this area: the contingent workforce umbrella. This “umbrella” encompassed the contemporary scope of contract talent, including:
- Traditional temporary talent, sourced via staffing vendors, agencies and suppliers
- Complex contract talent, which is comprised of SOW-based projects, professional services, consultants, etc.
- Independent contractors (ICs)
With the emergence of the more intricate attributes of the umbrella, specifically complex contract talent (SOW-based labor, professional services and independent contractors), data and intelligence became critical to understanding the ramifications of these workers (such as quality management, project output, cost of this talent, etc.) and how they fit into the long-term plans of the larger enterprise. In the current business climate, those organizations with significant contract talent numbers within their total workforce were forced to expand their programs to meet market demands and effectively manage the growth of contract talent.
With more workers generating more data and creating more complexities as a result, one critical tool (unsurprisingly) became a top requirement for program success: analytics.
The Current Perception of CWM Analytics and Intelligence
Even those enterprises without a robust grasp on the contingent workforce category understand that some semblance of visibility into various attributes of contract talent management is needed to manage the different layers of the contingent workforce umbrella effectively. With the revolution of contingent labor firmly at hand (and showing no signs of fading anytime soon), data provides the ideal backdrop for executing every significant decision within the average contingent workforce management (CWM) program. However, data would be critical for this industry regardless of the evolution at hand, and, for most organizations, reporting and analytics serve several major roles in managing contract talent:
- Tracking spend on all forms of contract talent and analyzing that spend against enterprise budgets.
- Managing all varieties of suppliers of contract talent (services, contractors, consultants, etc.).
- Providing some level of visibility into projects or initiatives that utilize contingent labor
- Driving visibility that can be leveraged to effectively aid in compliance and risk mitigation
- Allowing executives to accurately plan, budget or forecast for the future
While the above five items are factors in boosting the effectiveness of any contingent workforce management program, the hard truth is that basic analytics (and data reporting) is not enough to truly transform a contingent workforce management program: agile analytics is the next great step in the CWM intelligence arena.
Ardent Partners has identified the components to “agile analytics” within a CWM program, a concept that builds upon the foundation of business intelligence and applies its competencies to the contingent workforce management world. Agile analytics are not the classic form of data analytics and reporting, and even traverse beyond the notion of “drill-down” reporting. In the next installment in this series, we’ll learn how agile (or flexible) analytics is sparking a strategic evolution in how all enterprises currently manage contract talent. Stay tuned!