Yee-ha! The Online Staffing and Human Cloud Platforms “Spring Roundup”

Yee-ha! It’s springtime, and it’s time for a roundup of Online Staffing/Human Cloud platform developments!

So you ask, what is a “roundup?”  Well, Merriam-Webster defines it this way:

So I guess my roundup of “to-date 2014” developments in the online staffing and human cloud platform space is characterized by all three of the above definitions. It’s certainly a summary of information and a gathering of scattered persons and things. And – while not a herding of cattle, etc.— it is… well, you get the idea: it’s a lot of new stuff happening, a lot of diversity… By golly, it’s innovation! It’s happening here and now, and some of it’s going to stick somewhere.

So let’s see what we have corralled so far in 2014.

While the last major event of 2013 was the big announcement of the Elance and oDesk merger plan (which, by all accounts, appears to be heading toward completion), the year 2014 did not start with a big bang. However, even in the generally slow early months of the year, there were already some significant developments:

  • Work Market announced a very innovative looking deal to serve SAP’s VAR ecosystem,
  • SIA issued its first long-range forecast of the value of transactions that could be occurring via online staffing platforms in 2020,
  • freelancer.com issued its first annual earnings report as a public company,
  • And a number fresh new start-ups came on the radar (including but not limited to Wonolo, HighSkillPro (UK), Freelance Physician, MyCrowd, etc.).  Another Japanese online staffing platform, JobHub (which has been around already for a few years, unbeknownst to us), suddenly popped onto the radar when it announced a partnership with a Silicon Valley video technology firm; it will use video to improve how collaboration can occur in an online work engagement. Clearly, there is no “let-up” of new kinds of platforms and innovations of how work can be accomplished through these platforms).

And, in just the past month, it seems there’s been a bit of a stampede of further developments. Some of those developments—which clearly reflect the dynamic, emerging nature of this space--are noted here:

  • OnForce announced Converge (a so-called Freelance Management System or FMS that OnForce says will complement a VMS and allow enterprise CWPs and MSPs to manage freelancers, aka “short assignment” contractors).  
  • Elance and oDesk became subjected to Denial of Service (Hacker) Attacks (showing that staffing has indeed entered a “brave new world” and that online staffing may come with a whole set of risks that traditional staffing businesses never even imagined).
  • Freelancer.com completed another acquisition, this one in Poland (answering the question of whether the company will continue its roll-up/consolidation strategy—which seems to be working).
  • Randstad announced its Innovation Fund and its investment in Gigwalk (the first publicly declared investment of a major staffing firm in an online work platform business).
  • ICON announced a partnership with OnForce (indicating—as described in the recent SIA research report—that there is a continuing trend of more established, traditional staffing firms and online staffing platform businesses to seek ways to work together)
  • Finally—perhaps a bit of an anti-climax--TaskRabbit seems to have closed its “For Business Services” Portal (potentially signaling the company’s retreat from the strategy announced last year to serve businesses, not just consumers, in a way similar to a staffing agency W2 worker model).

So that is what has happened already in 2014, leaving out several items for the sake of brevity. That is the Spring Roundup.

I am not going to try to tame what we’ve rounded-up here into some ill-fitting categories. My purpose is just to open a little window into innovation and evolution “in progress” on the fringe of the $400B+ global staffing business ecosystem. It’s messy, it’s unpredictable -- it will yield successes and failures, it will bring forth challenges and adaptations.

Powerful forces of innovation are at work: new developments in the online staffing and human cloud space do not seem to be abating—rather they seem to be surging ahead.

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Arizona State University-W. P. Carey School of Business

Tim Olsen 04/03/2014 08:14 pm

Excellent update! Comprehensive and broad in reach. Thanks!


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