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As organizations expand their external workforces to fill skills gaps while taking steps toward recovery, they seek simple solutions to wring out the complexity associated with managing contingent workers, freelancers, contractors, consultants and other temporary laborers. In this quest for simplicity, they must keep sight of the outcomes they want an external workforce management solution to deliver — chiefly in engaging highly skilled talent, ensuring compliance with regulatory agencies and internal policies, and providing sustained cost benefits.

Though individual managers may not need to be exposed to all the audit and compliance information that an organization collects, tracking adherence to internal and governmental policies is essential. For instance, an external worker’s tenure – the length of time he or she may remain in an engagement – can be gauged without burdening a manager.

An organization’s external workforce program office plays a critical role in verifying compliance. Rules can be built into the digital platform so that it gathers information and intelligently flags potential violations, freeing up managers from time-consuming oversight requirements. Removing complexity while creating transparency is an important way that cloud-based digital solutions simplify external workforce management.

Still, simplification has its limits. When an external workforce management solution is oversimplified, it runs the risk of omitting processes and capabilities that organizations need to source, engage, manage and off-board external workers. Organizations often find the “simple to use” mantra that certain vendors sell, fails to live up to the ability to meet the capabilities needed. In many cases, the customer attempts manual workarounds or customizations to so-called “solutions” that fall well short of fulfilling compliance requirements.

Managing external workers is, by its nature, complex. From ensuring government compliance and systems security to maintaining cost controls and worker records, the responsibilities are vast. Organizations should demand an external workforce management solution known for dependability and intuitive design that helps customers with these business requirements while keeping the promise of simplicity. Simplicity mustn’t come at the expense of functionality.

With some platforms, substandard functionality tends to reveal itself during implementation. A vendor may not necessarily have the requisite global business footprint or operational experience to support the varied requirements of, say, the United States versus France or the City of Prague versus the State of Hessen, Germany. Ensuring compliance across all jurisdictions is essential. So it’s crucial to seek out a solution that draws on broad expertise in external talent management and services procurement throughout the world.

But which one? How can organizations avoid the hollow promises of vendors cloaked in the guise of simplicity?

Take the time to clearly scope out your business needs. Do more than “speed date” potential vendors. You are no more likely to pick the right vendor without a thorough review process than the right mate for a marriage after one dinner discussion. You need to understand what makes the other person tick and whether there are shared values and objectives.

Likewise, the right vendor of an external workforce management solution can only be identified by exploring whether its solution delivers on its marketing messages. Make the vendor show you how its solution meets your needs. Try product demos that go into self-service and administration of the solution.

Gain an understanding of the vendor’s solution network and how it delivers compliance. Ask the vendor to show you how it builds compliance into its system. Insist on knowing who configures the software — the vendor, you, or a third party during implementation? Be sure you know who will load the data into the system and the dependencies for success.

Will you lose valuable time waiting on the vendor to set up or make changes post-implementation to the system for you? Will you receive the necessary training and tools to instill confidence in the outcome?

Do not just take a vendor’s word. Check its references. Ask about its agility. How satisfied are its customers with the capabilities and configurability of the solution?

Additionally, select a solution that will grow alongside your external workforce needs. For instance, when compliance requirements change, who will make the adjustments? Will it be the vendor or a third party, and can it make changes at scale globally?

When you select your external workforce management solution, do your homework. All solutions are not created equal. Examine the solution up-close for yourself. Get to know the vendors who sell them. Make sure their solution carries out the integrated set of capabilities your organization requires to glean full value from your external workforce.

    Vish Baliga is the Chief Technology Officer and has been with the company almost since its inception. He plays an integral role in SAP Fieldglass' award-winning solutions, establishing product strategy and managing the application's design, development, testing and delivery. He oversees several departments including technology operations, product management, information technology, quality assurance and security.

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