Gallagher and Consultants started six years ago with a mission to overhaul the MSP model. Their answer: the trademarked Agile Talent Program (ATP), which they believe gives customers what they are asking for in a new normal workforce landscape. It involves a talent supply strategy enabling multiple sources of talent from day one, advanced data strategy and market rate intelligence coupled with “consulting style” advisory and thought leadership. The company’s president and CEO, Terri Gallagher, emphasizes that ATP is not a staffing company, describing it instead as the purest form of the vendor-neutral model with resources dedicated 100% to one program rather than shared across multiple programs. She explains how their model adopts a flexible, modular approach that enables buyers to choose the modules they need while paying only for the resources they utilize.
Can you describe the Agile Talent Program model and the features it offers to buyers?
At its core, it’s a contingent workforce management model that is flexible and agile. It’s very focused on talent supply strategy versus requisition management, which has been the traditional MSP model. And it’s a modular approach versus one-size-fits-all. Buyers can bring in the models or the modules that they need.
The services module is like a traditional MSP, but flexible. You can insource, outsource or do a mix of the two — such as insourcing day-to-day operations while outsourcing strategic advisory roles. If a client wants to have advanced analytics or supplier optimization, what is the right talent supply mix? Most of our clients want the hybrid. They don’t want to completely run it themselves, but they want that oversight, ensuring they still have control over their contingent workforce strategy to ensure their business culture and company goals remain in focus. Another module is VMS lifecycle management. A lot of big MSPs have resource-heavy teams that manage onboarding and offboarding. We distilled that down into a shared services center to manage onboarding and offboarding; they’re lean and efficient because that’s all they do.
The rest of the model provides higher-level consultative expertise. We’ve partnered with HCM Strategies in our data and analytics market rate intelligence module to bring in market rate data, do advanced analytics, go beyond the quarterly business review and provide real-time data “heath checks” and dashboards which enable you to fix quality control issues within days — not three months or later.
We also have a dedicated tech support solution architect. A lot of MSPs will have their implementation team scattered across many different platforms, but we have a dedicated solution architect for each program to maximize the tech, ensuring that all the bells and whistles are optimized and the right features are continuously enabled as your program grows.
And then we offer a down-supply strategist, or supplier optimization, which is table stakes. We look at workforce mix and supplier optimization, as well as other forms of talent supply like direct sourcing, focusing on the best source of talent supply for each need. And then, of course, the last piece is a risk advisory and market intelligence specialist.
MSPs have that kind of market rate intel around trends — we also bring that in via a consulting arm and our extended network and advisory partners, just like any other pure consulting model.
What do you see as the model’s competitive differentiators?
We’re also not a staffing company. The MSP model originated from staffing, but our model is the purest form of vendor-neutrality. We take a consulting approach. We’re kind of like the PwC of MSP.
Furthermore, our talent is dedicated 100% to the program, not shared across multiple programs. This model was created by listening to the voice of the customer, learning what they wanted to see and what they wanted to get rid of. And that’s how we shaped ATP.
The other piece is that the buyer only pays for the resources that are dedicated to them. You have the same people, and as your spend goes up, more money goes back in your own pocket because you can scale with minimal increases in resources. With a supplier-funded MSP, as your spend goes up, the MSP keeps the extra to pay for all of its overhead, such as all the different branch managers.
Another feature of ATP is that we enable multiple sources of talent supply. We bring in a fully-loaded direct-sourcing option on day one. A lot of the MSPs haven’t really embraced direct sourcing because it reduces that top-line revenue for them, but our model opens up the floodgates to multiple sources of talent supply. And we do that on day one, with the right technology stack solution.
Tell us more about the origin and an approach of the model. Why this model, and why now?
I came from the MSP space, so I saw what needed to be changed.
Look at the electric car. Elon Musk did not invent the electric car. It existed, but it didn’t have a lot of range, and it was expensive to keep. What Musk did was fix those things, and now he’s the electric car guru. That’s really what our model is. We’re taking out what doesn’t work in the MSP model and keeping what does.
Customers need agility in their talent supply model as resources scatter post-Covid. Many women are not going back to work. As they’re taking care of kids and homeschooling, they’re going the solopreneur route and starting their own companies. As these resources scatter across different platforms, contingent workforce programs need to be able to find them. Technology is the enabler, but you need an approach that goes beyond staffing providers to widen the net.
Additionally, we heard from the buyer that they need “more consultative advisory and workforce management versus babysitting reqs” — that’s a quote from one of our clients — which has been the traditional model. And according to SIA, the top three buyer needs going into 2022 will be enabling multiple sources of talent supply, advanced data strategy market rate intel and advanced advisory and thought leadership. Those three things are the cornerstone of this model. We just built the model around that.
There’s been a lot of talk about the evolving MSP. What are your views on that, and what does ATP mean for today’s MSP and other staffing providers?
The MSP model has not really changed that much in 20 years. It was originally designed to automate and protect the staffing business, which is where the biggest margins are. Also, it was trying to climb into a multitask supply strategy and embrace technology.
What we’re seeing is that they are trapped a little bit by their legacy — systems and processes that have been around for two decades. Some are pivoting, but most are not. And of the few that get it, they’re having to make radical, painful changes — including to the resource model and how they’re staffed.
Another important factor — and this is a pet peeve — is that the new models need to enable and support the staffing supplier sector. A lot of the MSPs take an almost punitive command-and-control approach that limits the supplier community. We have some staffing clients that are going through a digital transformation and onboarding CRM and ATS products to level up their sourcing and workforce solutions approach, so they’re well-positioned to help with that down-supply strategy. Finally, the new model needs to address the gaps in the customer feedback. Listen to them and build something.
Who are your competitors?
We’re primarily focusing on lower-spend clients, such as those that don’t want an MSP model or prefer an in-house program. We’re going after clients that are under $30 million in spend. But increasingly, we are facing competition from other MSPs and sometimes the consulting arm of MSPs and other staffing companies, for example, Kelly and Monument. Sometimes the big four consulting are our competitors, although we find the bigger consulting firms will also consider partnering with us as they don’t have these solutions in-house.
What are the biggest challenges to establishing or expanding the model?
For us, it’s the emerging versus the established. With every single client, it’s a David and Goliath scenario as we compete against companies 10 times our size. We’re up against these larger players that clearly have established market share and brand recognition. They’ve got the marketing budget. So we just have to work a lot harder to stand out and give clients that assurance that we can handle their needs. I’ve got partnerships with different paralleling providers and software providers, so it’s not just me and my handful of employees.
Another challenge is the financial aspect of being a consulting firm. There’s out-of-pocket costs until you get supplier invoicing up and running. We’re bidding for the business of a Fortune 100 firm. We’re competing against an MSP that said they’ll come in and do everything for free. There’s no out-of-pocket costs for them. We do have out-of-pocket costs because we’re a consulting firm, but we’ve been working with some of our payrolling providers and software providers to get creative with footing that bill.
However, we’re also seeing MSPs that are moving to upfront cost as well because they’ll land a big client that promises $100 million in spend, and they’ll come up with an MSP fee. It turns out it’s only $50 million in spend, leaving the MSP holding the bag on these costs. More and more, MSPs are actually putting in their contracts that they need a certain amount of spend, and if they don’t get that, they will charge consulting fees. What we’re doing isn’t all that much different from that end result. We can’t go in and do it for free. But you know what? You get what you pay for.
You mentioned that you’re targeting a different size of firm. Does that help you?
Sometimes it does help, but it’s really interesting as we’re seeing the MSPs competing against us there too. They’re starting to go after some of these lower-spend clients. But I think that two years from now, there won’t be any limits. I think we’re going to have Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 clients, because post-Covid, they are going to be willing to embrace creativity and emerging solutions. And you’re not going to get that from the big players.
In your rap video, you refer to elephants not being able to dance. Tell us about that.
Our rap video is about how traditional MSPs are too large to pivot quickly enough to make the changes needed to optimize this very nontraditional workforce and our new workforce landscape.
From what we’re hearing from our clients, MSP employees are mired in legacy processes that have been the status quo for 20 years. They’re facing challenges now trying to get through that legacy resistance and make the changes necessary to be agile. To be successful, they’re going to have to pivot quickly. They’re going to have to make radical and painful changes. And we’re just not seeing that happen with a lot of the bigger players. We’re a smaller animal, so we can pivot quickly and move quickly. We can dance.
To learn about how the Agile Talent Program can take your contingent workforce program to the next level, contact Sarah Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.