Given contingent workforce programs’ unique combination of talent and procurement elements, there are some very specific challenges to work through. Luckily, these evolving programs have new options and approaches to solving those challenges. And tech can be a big part of the solution.

Strategic utilization. A foundational challenge of contingent workforce management lies in how we define the workers, which ultimately speaks to how they are used and engaged. Regardless of what we have called them in the past — temps, contractors, contingents, consultants or even non-permanents — we must step back and examine the strategic ways to utilize this population and recognize that there are several ways to engage them. Changing how we look at and define contractors will require a mindset shift within your business but could help position your organization with more options to fill talent gaps.

Once you have defined the various populations of contingent workers and inventoried how to utilize them effectively, the next challenge is how to advise your business on these approaches. While many companies would have traditionally looked to train their business or engage an MSP to help triage labor needs, they are now becoming more sophisticated in gathering the requirements of the work and recommending an effective path to engage talent. Organizations are building and adopting centralized decisioning tools and automating the process of requirements gathering and using AI and machine learning to make decisions based on that data.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is not the only way artificial intelligence and machine learning are being applied. These concepts are creating a buzzworthy impact in several areas. One of the most notable applications of these technologies is in the sourcing and identification of talent. This long-awaited solution helps program managers make more accurate recommendations not only of the right engagement path, but also of the right talent in that engagement path. This potentially shortens the identification and hiring cycle time to drive efficiency in the sourcing process. The excitement around this potential advancement is helping to drive an entire platform movement that is starting to shift several traditional service organizations into more self-service, talent pool-like platforms.

Data visibility. At the core of these two technologies is the need for data and visibility. While VMS is still the core for managing our processes and providing reporting, organizations are starting to have a greater need for data analytics and trying to find ways to better leverage this information. Many contingent workforce programs are tapping into their internal data and informatics team to learn how they can leverage existing business intelligence platforms and data sets. By funneling data to these central tools, companies are able to better explore the data and compare it to other like data from across the organization. This new approach to data is giving contingent workforce program visibility like never before.

With the acceleration and advancement of technology over the past several years, there are now commercially available solutions that require little time to implement while delivering extreme value. While these solutions are exciting now, they are just the start of what we will see as creative program managers step back and re-solve our industry’s traditional problems in new ways.

Regardless of the problem your contingent program is trying to solve, one consistent theme that comes up is technology that can make life easier for different stakeholders. While it isn’t a requirement to leverage technology to solve these problems, it would be foolish not to think about tech first.

This topic was the subject of a panel session at the CWS Summit Europe held in London, featuring Madelyn Abreu, head of professional services procurement at Syngenta, and Ross Mandiwall, global category manager, contingent labor, at IBM, and moderated by Chris Paden.