Subadhra Sriram's Blog

Hate your VMS? Maybe it’s not the tool but how you use it

People like taking potshots at VMS; let’s face it — the tool has had its share of vilification. From buyers giving it a low net promoter score to suppliers irate about the money they spend funding the tool and the cutthroat competition it drives, the VMS is the thing the industry loves to hate.

But lately, VMS providers have a genuine complaint of their own when they say that buyers of staffing services want more functionality but don’t fully understand--let alone utilize--the feature set they already have. Brightfield Strategies’ Steve Knapp wrote an excellent article on the fact that it often takes years to understand the feature set that a VMS can provide. Does that mean that the functionality is unworkable? No, it’s just that one size does not fit all, he says.

But buyers are learning, and continue to show interest in VMS capabilities, as evidenced by interest in our annual VMS and MSP Competitive Landscape and Service Differentiators reports. And that interest is growing geographically, as well, with buyers in Europe catching up with their North American counterparts.

“CW programs in Europe have come a long way from the days when people did not even really know what the VMS was,” says Manuel Roger, SVP EMEA Markets and Operations at Beeline. Resistance to tools managing the non-employee labor force has reduced considerably, he states. In fact, “there is a growing demand for (CW) solutions and products [in Europe] because the market is ready and educated,” Roger says. As a result, we see strategic partnerships like that between Beeline and Pixid come into effect. They give customers more capabilities to track and address complex legal and financial requirements in multi-country labor engagements, covering the full spectrum of contingent labor (from light industrial staff augmentation to high-end SOW based assignments).

Innovation notwithstanding, customers have to dive in to see how they can fully maximize their tools to reap the benefits to their programs. It’s not enough to want and get the feature set. It won’t help you if you don’t use it. Simple rule: Focus on what you are going to use. The irony is that today’s VMS is light years ahead of its first iteration when it gave buyers visibility into their temp workforce. The big VMS providers talk about intense software development and pushing code at record levels. Still, there is a disconnect.

Perhaps it’s time for the ecosystem — buyers, staffing suppliers, VMS/MSP providers — to sit down and talk about their complex relationship. How can one choose a technically stable and localized VMS, yet address changing business needs for temp labor? What is too much customization and can it cause systems and vendor lock in? Some of these answers could provide the framework for the next generation VMS.

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Monument Consulting

Steven Jones 30/10/2014 8:45 am

Excellent points about how VMS users are not utilizing existing VMS functionality. However, I believe the onus is more on the seller, the VMS in this case, to educate the marketplace on the capabilities. As developers continue to pump out enhancements at a faster pace, it will become even more important that the VMS owner put money into teaching users how to take advantage of the enhancements.


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