It is safe to say that 2016 has been a tumultuous year. From the chaos that comes with the American presidential election cycle, to the sovereign debt crisis that affected global markets, to the stunning Brexit vote, which threatens the European Union itself, the list goes on. Simply put, now more than ever, we are confronted with an uncertain future. In 2017 we will be forced to deal with this uncertainty and create strategies to survive if not thrive under difficult circumstances. The question then becomes what can you do to prepare?
See the big picture. Many programs owners toil away in a life of quiet desperation, working on discrete goals and undeniably bringing real value to their organizations while having little understanding as to how their program contributes to the company’s bottom line. While it is important to always have a firm grasp of the role your program plays in creating a competitive advantage, it is especially so in trying times.
Understand how your program relates to the company’s ability to be competitive enables you to focus your program resources where they will have the greatest impact. Maybe your program is nimble enough to provide the on-demand labor to get the product out the door faster. Or your program is able to reduce the time to value for new product launches. Beyond saving money and improving efficiency, your program may bring tremendous competitive value if you just look beyond margin savings.
Start at the beginning. Take the opportunity to revisit your program charter documents, RFx files and supplier contracts. Usually, you will find a consistent theme in these files, but if not, ask yourself: Why was the program created? What was the vision for full implementation? Were the volume considerations realistic and what were the expected performance standards of the providers? Basically, what you need to discover is the DNA of your program and then you need to test all those assumptions from the past against the realities of the current time.
Often, we connect with a program owner who is not able to articulate why they have the provider they do and why the program is structured as it is. This is not necessarily because the parties are not performing, but maybe because the DNA of the program is not aligned with current market realities. As Einstein reportedly said: If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. Once you have gap-tested your program’s DNA against your current expectations, you can use this information to make a more current program structure instead of beating up your partners for playing by the rules of an old game.
Support your suppliers. It is a natural tendency of many program managers to take out their organizational challenges on their suppliers. These are usually implemented in the form of blanket reductions in margin (i.e., “reduce all bill rates by 10% or we will fire you from the program”). While this is a tempting shortcut to savings, you may be missing out on real value by taking a different approach. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a career procurement professional and you will be hard-pressed to find anyone more committed to saving money than me, but there are often more significant savings to be found by working with your suppliers. Your suppliers will often know where the savings opportunities lie and will be willing to work with you to identify them. For example, your suppliers may be able to identify job categories that are out of alignment with the market or help seek out instances where candidates are not correctly classified.
Seek out challenges. Often, contingent workforce initiatives may die a slow death on the drawing board or at the business case level as other organizational priorities emerge. In challenging times, those priorities sometimes fall by the wayside. Use the uncertain future as the burning platform to take on established norms and inefficient processes. That VMS implementation that was once deemed not important may suddenly rush to the front of the queue as your company seeks to stamp out risk or save money.
No matter what the future holds by paying attention to the right things, you can start crafting a program that is bullet proof regardless what comes your way.