SI Review: August 2013

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A Tool for All Seasons

Five Ways Suppliers Can use VMS to Their Advantage

By Edward Jackson

Vendor management systems are often considered a necessary evil for staffing firms, demanded by their clients. But working through a VMS offers many benefits in terms of compliance, cost savings, time savings and enhanced reporting. As businesses continue to expand their contingent workforces and suppliers move toward ownership of this technology, there may be a struggle to fully optimize these programs and take full advantage of the VMS.

VMS is more than a software application. Used strategically, these solutions can go beyond the basics of contingent workforce management and help guide effective decision-making. With key business data at your fingertips, you are better able to drive stellar client results, increase productivity and ultimately boost revenue. Here are five additional benefits a VMS offers to suppliers.

Increased Efficiency

A VMS solution automates resource management by allowing organizations to standardize the requisition and fulfillment process. By creating requisition templates for commonly requested positions, users can post an opening in mere minutes and find the best talent quickly, rather than wasting valuable time developing requisitions from scratch every time. The VMS also tracks key data on the talent pool, including tenure, performance data and other key metrics that help drive placement decisions. Users can define a process that includes a specific timeline and reminders to keep each stage moving along.

A VMS can also seamlessly integrate with your existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) and project portfolio management (PPM) systems. This eliminates duplicate data entry while also creating a single system of record for tracking spending and performance. This enables more efficient reporting, as standard reports can pull in data from other business systems to create a comprehensive view of operations.

By improving turnaround time on basic daily tasks and streamlining workflows, the VMS frees up valuable time that can be spent on program improvements that will help grow your business and enhance your client relationship by turning you into a true strategic partner.

Improved Worker Experience

Consider this scenario: A consultant arrives on a high-tech organization’s campus for her first day of work. The company is unprepared for her arrival, and it takes two or three days to provision all of the IT equipment and facilities access that is needed for her to begin her work. The staffing provider emailed important paperwork in Word and Excel formats for her to fill out — an archaic system that is hardly reflective of today’s technological advancements, and was very labor-intensive and cumbersome.

The lack of supportive technology in this scenario restricted her ability to dive in and begin working, forcing her to waste valuable time on administrative tasks that could easily be streamlined. Such a scenario leaves the consultant with a poor perception of the staffing provider as well as the client. By leveraging a VMS tool to coordinate these critical business functions, the worker’s experience becomes more focused and efficient. A VMS solution solves these issues with robust onboarding support and allows for provisioning and identity management tasks to be handled efficiently and proactively, so workers can get down to business — and boost productivity rates, which ultimately casts a positive glow on the supplier.

Lower Cost of Sales

A common complaint about VMS is it contributes to the squeezing of margins, as it is usually the staffing firm that pays a fee for its use. However, the VMS offers broader exposure to demand, which provides access to better opportunities that are a fit for the skill sets and services you provide. As a result, you are no longer dependent on your team proactively seeking out requisitions through aggressive sales tactics. The VMS gives immediate visibility when a requisition comes into the program that fits your capabilities, and exposes demand that your group would not otherwise have access to. This process ultimately affects pricing by reducing your sales investment. Because these opportunities are coming directly to you through the VMS, no additional dollars are spent to secure the work.

Companies that invest heavily in proactive sales tactics tend to use VMS as a last step to get an approved PO. Instead, the system should be used to facilitate more effective communication with the hiring manager and improve the quality of hire by providing access to the best resources for the job.

Enhanced Reporting Capabilities

A VMS captures detailed metrics that help suppliers analyze their program results and drive real change. With robust reporting features, you can view the data that matters most to you and your customers, and use this information to refine your strategy. These reporting capabilities also prove useful for billing purposes. If you choose to use disparate systems to track different areas of your workforce management program, you will need to merge the data together to get a complete view of reality and determine success.

Business intelligence (BI) provides proof of reality and can be used to drive meaningful quarterly business reviews that focus on actual results. The data from a VMS is irrefutable, and helps measure success against key performance indicators (KPIs) and service level agreements (SLAs) that drive vendor/client relationships. Without an effective system of record in place, you are simply estimating and guessing at results, which is hardly a solid foundation.

Flexible Access

Mobile capabilities for VMS enables workers and suppliers to access the system from anywhere, at any time. Workers can log their time directly into the system from a mobile device, instead of rudimentary Microsoft Office forms. Physical paperwork opens up risk of errors and requires additional work on the back end. With a VMS, data can be entered directly into the system for processing, which includes checks and balances that ensure accuracy.

Mobile VMS technology supports a flexible workforce who is out in the field interacting with their customers on a daily basis. Suppliers are able to visit their clients and handle requests on-site, with full system access that enables them to address any urgent needs and get immediate results. A system that is tethered to a physical workstation at an office does not enable the same level of responsiveness.

Mobile BI can also help boost productivity by offering on-the-go access to key data that supports sound decision-making. Reports or alerts for missing time sheets, pending response deadlines or the upcoming end of an assignment can help users resolve issues and keep processes moving. Additionally, the simplified interface enables C-suite users to view summary data and dashboards — just the information they need to see.

When thinking about the impact a VMS can have on your operations and client/vendor relationships, go beyond the basic functionality. The transformative benefits of a VMS extend far beyond the day-to-day workflow and reach into different areas of your business. By adjusting your perspective and allowing the tool to drive change in your internal workflows, you can see additional benefits in your sales process, quarterly business reviews and strategic engagement. The technology enables you to develop complete view of your clients’ business so you can become an integral part of operations and corporate strategy — and drive more revenue for your business.

Edward Jackson is president of Provade.

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