CWS 3.0: April 5, 2011 - Vol. 3.9

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In the Spotlight: Don't take a big bang approach

For the April issue, CWS 30 features Holly Olszewski, global contingent workforce manager at BMC Software, Inc., a provider of software for multiple functions, including IT service management, data center automation and performance management. Olszewski manages a $36 million hybrid global CW program that is administered both internally and by a MSP (depending on the region). It also uses a VMS in some specific locales. BMC utilizes 1,090 contingents mainly in information technology and research and development. Read about how the program is administered worldwide and what her views are. 

Q: What are your goals for your program?
A: We have a hybrid program. Manpower (our MSP) manages our staff augmentation workers in seven countries; BMC Software has Contingent Workers in twenty-seven countries. We manage all our statement of work (SOW) consultants internally. And in the countries where our VMS tool is not deployed for staff augmentation purposes, we manage those workers internally too. The way the numbers work, 38 percent of our CW program is temporary workers, including interns; the rest of our program is statement of work consultants. We really don't have any independent contractors. We take a very conservative approach. Our goal is to engage Manpower in at least three more countries. We also want to streamline the process of hiring contingent workers. In addition, we're deploying a corporate Contingent Worker Policy in mid-April.

Q: What are your SOWs used for?
A: They're used for outsourced engagements and projects, mainly project-type engagements. An example is developing a specific function for a product. We also have hybrid SOW engagements where consultants come on board for very long-term engagements, such as product quality assurance testing and support.  

Q: Let's talk about the contingent workforce arena when you first entered it. What was it like?
A: I first entered the space around four years ago. Back then, we only had the VMS deployed in the U.S. It was a stand-alone system and was only for U.S. workers who were brought in for staff augmentation purposes. Today, however, our VMS is integrated with our ERP system and deployed globally for both staff augmentation and SOW. And we're managing almost of 90% of BMC's workers through the tool.  

Q: Was this your first exposure to contingent workforce management?
A: Yes. 

Q: What did you find coming in?
A: What I found was that there were no standard practices. There was no right way of doing anything. People managed contingent workers in different ways. So when I went to my first CWS Summit (sponsored by Staffing Industry Analysts), I expected to learn how you do it. But what I learned was there's no right or wrong. And although everybody manages their Contingent Workforce program differently, you pick up ideas from others that you can use in your program. Now there seems to be many more people with contingent worker programs. The last Summit I went to (in 2010) there was definitely more talk about global and SOW. The landscape has really changed.  

Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: There's always something new, every day. Because we're a global company, there are always interesting issues that crop up.

Q: What don't you like about your job?
A: I guess what I don't like is the administrative task of checking the integrity of our contingent worker data. Keeping it evergreen is laborious because end dates come and go and it's just always evolving. 

Q: Outline something to me that helped you on the job.
 A: Well, just understanding that it's a huge challenge and staying very positive about it helped. The first year after we integrated our ERP system with our VMS tool, was very, very hard. But seeing the use of the data that we're now able to provide to the business units has been really good. So, seeing why we did this and knowing it's the right thing to do and just staying positive about all the challenges helped. 

Q: Is there any advice you would give to other contingent workforce managers?
A: I'd advise them to network, share ideas, and bounce ideas off of your peers. That has been wonderful for me. It's just been great. Build a network, because that lets you know there are others who have been there. I'm a lot further along in this field now, whereas four years ago, I was at the beginning and I didn't understand any of it. So I would tell others to share that knowledge and build your network. 

Q: Please tell us about your biggest CW success since you took on the job.
A: I would say being able to provide information on-demand regarding contingent workers -- whether they are still at BMC, what role they are filling or what project they are working on, how long they've been here. I like the fact that I can give details about any worker at any point in time. This was not the case two or three years ago. This is due in part to the VMS and our integrated program -- it all works together. 

Q: Describe any challenges that you have faced in this job.
A: I think one of our challenges is trying to deploy a U.S. program globally. Assuming that it's going to work everywhere since it works here is a mistake. There are local labor laws and a lot of nuances about contingent workers in each and every country, so we learned a lot. 

Q: If you could have done something differently in terms of going global, what would you have done? 
A: Initially, we were going to do a big-bang approach (deploy globally day one including adding our SOW workforce) and we ended up having to back off on that approach. It was impossible to get all countries up and running at the same time. We should have done a lot more due diligence up front in order to understand all the nuances of deploying a program worldwide. That's what bit us. I would tell others to proceed step by step, country by country.  

Q: What is your opinion of the contingent workforce management as a profession?
A: At times you feel like an island, but then when you go to conferences it's nice to know you have this network of other contingent workforce managers. It's a growing profession. I know there are big firms that are just beginning to look at kicking off a contingent workforce program. It amazes me that there are huge firms out there that don't have a program and lack visibility into their contingent workforce.

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