Vendor neutrality - Myth, reality, or ... who cares?

Recently, I met with an executive from a well-known MSP and VMS firm, let's say from company X, and we got talking about the age-old topic of . yes, you guessed it vendor neutrality. Is vendor neutrality really an issue? Or is it just a myth that is used as a marketing tool?  

Depending on who I talk to about this, the responses fall under two categories: If I am talking to a staffing company that owns the VMS or acts as an MSP, typically, they brush away the question as an archaic phenomenon that doesn't come up anymore, or it doesn't matter anymore. If I bring it up to an independently owned VMS or MSP, for them it's still a big deal and a differentiator.

So, sure enough, this executive from company X was quite passionate about vendor neutrality. Basically, the point of debate was how neutral can an MSP be if it is a staffing company? Wouldn't the company take a lion's share of placements? Wouldn't the staffing company have an advantage over its competitors who respond to the requisition? They can definitely glean through all the pay and bill rate information and have the inside information about what bill rates clients are willing to accept.

The truth is that there are so many variables involved. Some customers really care about their MSP or VMS being vendor neutral because they believe that they can get better quality of workers and, of course, better rates with more competition. Others don't really worry about it, or their level of sophistication on this issue doesn't extend to this level. Some may not be aware that their MSP is owned by a staffing firm. Some contracts specify the percentage of orders that can be filled by the parent staffing firm, if any. The list of variables goes on: cost, simplicity, efficiency, quality of workers, etc. It's a business issue that a buyer of staffing services as a user of VMS or MSP services has to answer.

So, to me, there is no real right answer to the question 'Does vendor neutrality matter?' I think the answer is, 'it depends.' What do you think?

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