A conversation that comes up often with our CWS Council members is how to effectively intake and triage business needs to the most appropriate sourcing channel. With organizations adopting diverse sourcing strategies beyond the standard staff augmentation and SOW channels, a guided buying process becomes a necessity to drive proper resource/supplier utilization and adoption of emerging sourcing channels like direct sourcing and on-demand talent sourcing. Even a seemingly simple process such as defining a series of questions to ask and perhaps even automating that decision tree into a tool requires a strategy to be effective.

Organizations are seeing the value of creating a guided buying process in many ways. Among the main drivers are ensuring work is being completed in the most effective way and avoiding misclassifying engagements. Through the creation of a guided buying model, a business can better connect all engagement channels centrally and can provide early visibility to labor needs. Through this centralized connection point, an organization can help to streamline and simplify its businesses experience.

To be successful at implementing a guided buying process, organizations should focus on three main components.

Process. In order to connect the various sourcing and engagement channels across your organization, you first need to inventory all labor options available. This comprehensive understanding of these channels should include the characteristics that make the channel unique. In addition to a listing of labor channels and characteristics, users will also need some understanding of how to best initiate and interface with these channels to ensure a smooth handoff once triaged. This definition of the engagement channels and processes will become a map for engagement managers to best understand their options.

Technology/automation. Like many other areas of the contingent workforce, the guided buying process can benefit from the use of technology and automation. Many vendor management systems and human capital management systems already have functionality available to address this need. The automation of the guided buying process can be as simple as asking a few questions about the labor need to get the user in the right direction or it can be an elaborate interface to gather all of the details of a need, suggest an appropriate engagement channel, direct the user to the system to start the engagement process and even script the details gathered into the requisition template. When multiple systems and processes are being leveraged, organizations may find it best to centralize this automation in a common/central location like a company’s intranet page.

Service/support. Organizations should consider who is responsible for administering and supporting the guided buying process. Business needs are often complicated and require some tailored, nuanced approaches to get the work done. By adding a support component to the guided buying process, an organization can help ensure the processes are adhered to and provide a higher level of human decision-making that may occasionally be required.

Implementation and After

While a guided buying process can add strategic value for your business, it can be challenging to implement. This approach requires buy-in from all labor stakeholders and agreement on the definitions/utilization strategy that is created. Companies should also consider a neutral/centralized group to manage these activities in an unprejudiced way. This center of excellence should be responsible for knowing and charting the labor channels available, driving adoption of the most appropriate channel, and helping your business explore the considerations of its labor needs.

If your organization is looking to better connect the various labor channels in your business, address misclassed/mislabeled work and streamline the decision and engagement process for your business leaders, then a guided buying approach may be for you. While this isn’t a new concept, many companies are finding that now is the right time to explore this strategy as a way to enhance their contingent labor maturity.