Technology is driving the innovation within the workforce solutions ecosystem at a furious pace. AI, chatbots and blockchain are just a few of the developments impacting ecosystem. MSPs are responsible for understanding, extracting and maximizing the value that technology brings, outlines Dan Rothberg, president of Workspend, an MSP that administers 40 programs totaling $1.2 billion in spend under management. The expectations are different from a decade ago as MSPs continue to stay strategic while dealing with innovation and filtering what works best for customers. Here, Rothberg explores the scope of today’s managed service provider and how Workspend is leveraging strategy and tech to elevate the talent supply chain.

Dan Rothberg, President, Workspend

What tech trends are you seeing today that are helping to shape the talent supply chain?

Technology plays a big role in everything we do. And that certainly carries over to talent supply chain, and more specifically, what we’re seeing within the contingent labor landscape and external workforce management as  a whole. And while traditional VMS technology is still a very important component, we’re seeing a lot of innovation beyond it. We’ve also seen an exciting influx of younger, more technology-focused companies into the marketplace, which is driving innovation and competition.

Some key elements we’ve been observing are advancements in the integration of artificial intelligence. We’ve really just scratched the surface with AI in our space, but we’re looking to grab up enough data to test these models and drive forward. And on the sourcing side of things, and to some extent within the services side, we’re seeing the deployment and refinement within chatbots that are playing a much bigger role in the sourcing and candidate vetting process.

And as we look at technology overall, we’re seeing a convergence of data, which is exciting. Getting access to integrated data solutions has enabled us to provide more robust insights and analytics to drive a more focused, more strategic approach to the talent supply chain.

How are the MSPs leveraging these cutting-edge solutions within their own service offerings?

At the transactional level, automation is a very large benefit to the MSP environment. MSPs are seeing increasing  benefits, with technology playing a bigger role in the day-to-day and allowing the MSP to become a far more strategic collaborative partner, which is how MSPs deliver the most value to clients.

As we talk about big data and the convergence of data, MSPs have a lot more data available to provide the necessary insights to advise clients and to work with suppliers on the proper sourcing strategy and path, whether it be through results-based work, traditional, more staff augmentation or some of the other channels out there. So, we’re becoming better equipped to leverage and develop much more focused solutions that are really exponentially adding value as compared to what we were capable of 10 or even five years ago.

What is Workspend’s position on build versus buy models of workforce solutions?

The direction that we’ve taken is that workforce solutioning is more of an ecosystem for us. In doing that, we look to work with partners to build a more holistic solution that can plug in different technologies to meet the needs of Workspend, but more specifically, the client. Whether that be analytics, freelance or marketplace platforms, an SOW platform, and/or ATS types of platforms, we look at it from an ecosystem standpoint and the ability to say, “This is the solution that this client wants and needs and these are the components from a technology standpoint that we need to deliver the solution.”

And what is Workspend’s technology ecosystem and what value does it drive for the customers?

Our technology ecosystem includes the market-leading VMS platforms that are out there for staff augmentation.  We are increasingly engaging SOW and results-based types of platforms, and other components including direct sourcing. The ability to address SOW is a tremendous value since we’re seeing substantial growth in that area, as is direct sourcing. As we look at those components, it’s very different from what the traditional VMS does today in that you’re building and maintaining talent pools and then, ultimately, sourcing out of them for certain skill sets.

Marketplace freelance platforms are also components of our ecosystem. While clearly not a fit for every position out there, there are certain types of positions and roles and work to be done that are a good fit for that. So, the ability to pull that into our tech ecosystem is a value.

As a whole, VMS, SOW, direct sourcing and marketplace are the core of our ecosystem. But we evaluate it on a regular basis as new technologies and new sourcing streams come online. We’re always on the lookout for those and determining where is the value and how do we, ultimately, integrate that into our solutions.

What tech capabilities do companies need to possess to compete in today’s market, particularly, when it comes to total talent acquisition and management?

If you’re leveraging any type of nonemployee workforce, the VMS is still the core around which a lot of the talent supply chain is built. So, having solutions that can plug into other technologies is important. It’s difficult in some of the older programs that are out there today. So, make sure that your solution is flexible and adaptable and able to integrate new solutions and new offerings as they come online.

Beyond that, having a solution that not only integrates with other talent technologies, but has the ability to easily integrate with clients’ systems to really gain the benefit of coordinated automation. This leads to the ability to be strategic and to draw in the relevant client elements and the client’s activities into the overall talent supply chain, particularly in the contingent labor side.

How do you see a technology-enabled future unfolding for contingent workforce and total talent programs? Do you see technology taking the place of the MSP?

We’ve seen so much innovation within the talent space, and we’re going to continue to evolve and we’re going to continue to see innovation. Technology is here to stay and it’s going to keep advancing the way we work with, source, and manage talent.

But I don’t believe that technology will take the place of the MSP because I think the ability to manage it and to drive the value out of it still lies within the MSP, whose people understand the landscape, the market, and the innovation.

For example, when you look at Amazon, you’re buying things on Amazon, there’s variables to products — size, color, different types of things that you can choose from. But when you get into talent, those variables are unlimited. It’s not just about skills. It’s about personality. It’s about geography. It’s about culture. It’s about preference. At least in the near term, I just don’t see where we’ll be able to replace that.

I think that the MSP is still going to remain a strategic part of contingent workforce and total talent programs. But for MSPs to remain relevant, they’re going to have to embrace technology and they’re going to have to understand the technology, how to integrate it, and most importantly, how to drive the value out of it. Essentially, technology for the sake of technology doesn’t drive anything.