“QBRs” are historically an opportunity for contingent workforce program managers and their suppliers and/or managed service providers to discuss concerns and opportunities, provide project status updates and more. But many program managers dreaded these quarterly endeavors as they typically involved much time and effort to gather the needed data.

No longer. It’s time to reevaluate the structure and perhaps even frequency of these meetings with the greater availability of data.

Q Is for Quality

For a mature program that has the proper tools in place, the original “Q” — quarterly — no longer needs to hold sway, says Stephen Clancy, senior director, contingent workforce strategies, knowledge and research at Staffing Industry Analysts. With performance data much more accessible and updated more frequently than it used to be, the mature CW program is able to address adverse situations as they arise and prevent any potentially damaging situations from escalating. There is no need to wait 90 days to address such issues.

Information is now easily accessed on situations such as long-term open requisitions, rising bill rates, upticks in assignments ending early and more. By delaying action on negative trends until the next quarterly review, not only is it no longer top-of-mind but any damage may become permanent. It makes more sense to handle these tactical issues when they pop up in performance data and save the more formal meetings for strategic planning and the important, continuous improvement program changes the manager seeks to make to drive their program forward, Clancy says.

More Strategy, Less Tactics

The QBR was long meant to be a strategic tool; In a 2013 Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0 article, Adrianne Nelson, SIA’s senior director, global membership products, wrote that the ultimate goal of the QBR was “to develop contingent workforce strategy, advice and thought leadership for the future.” Yet then, because it took so much time and effort from both buyers and suppliers to gather the needed data, which was then presented and addressed in the quarterly review, the QBR assumed a tactical focus.

With such concerns now addressable on an as-needed basis, program managers can use the meetings to focus on strategic plans and continuous improvement, making for a more valuable, productive and efficient agenda. Rather than focusing on the day-to-day delivery, they can focus on how both parties can add more value to this process.

The new quality business review conversations can address big-picture, forward-looking concerns. Staffing providers are bringing innovative technology into their organizations to be more competitive, including sourcing and interviewing tools, and they are eager to share these advances with their buyers. And everyone benefits from conversations about strategy, quality, risk mitigation, expanding services, projects in the pipeline for the client or challenges ahead for the provider.

And they needn’t be quarterly, either. They could be more frequent, or less, depending on the needs and goals of the program.

Supplier Consolidation is Key

On the surface, scheduling time to address tactical concerns on an as-needed basis while also conducting strategic, forward-looking quality business reviews would appear to be more time-consuming than the old QBRs.

However, mature programs are reducing and consolidating their supplier count, realizing that having too many suppliers can lead to inferior service and candidate quality — making more frequent quality business reviews a more manageable undertaking.

Companies are all downsizing, optimizing and rationalizing their staffing partner portfolios. And once that happens, programs are positioned to be able to transform the way that they manage and execute those staffing partners and their relationships.

For example, if a program manager has 50 staffing providers, and conducts quarterly reviews with all of them, “there is a moment each quarter that you hate your life,” Clancy explained. And while providers are excited to showcase their offerings and leadership teams, much work must be done beforehand that focuses on tactical aspects of the relationship rather than strategic planning.

The value of this critical platform starts to fall apart.

Changing the review process to a quality business review requires managing change but can bring competitive advantages. Avoid overwhelming the agenda with tactical issues and focus on developing strategies for innovation for the benefit of both programs and suppliers.