Originally posted on www.crn.com by Michael Novinson.
Core Technology Solutions received a particularly daunting project request last summer.
A major retailer asked the outsourced integration services provider to swap out equipment in 12,000 of their locations all over the country in just eight to ten weeks, according to Gary Dedoussis, CEO of the Whippany, N.J.- based company. This would require CTS to visit 300 to 400 sites every day for this project alone while still running the rest of their business, Dedoussis said.
“We would have had to add 50 to 60 people just to manage the project,” Dedoussis told CRN.
But CTS instead turned to Work Market, which has developed a freelance management software platform that allows technology companies to build pools of skilled technical labor that can be deployed or managed on demand. Dedoussis said CTS has relied on New York-based Work Market for more than five years to scale up for massive projects such as the retailer’s request.
“Without a tool like this, this project would have been nearly impossible,” Dedoussis said. “Now, you don’t have to say no to business like that because you know you can get it done.”
Work Market’s database of more than 150,000 skilled IT-focused freelancers and extensive use of automation has made it possible for solution providers to take on projects that simply would have been too ambitious or unprofitable if they had to manage their own pool of freelancers or send their own employees, company CEO Stephen DeWitt told CRN.
Roughly 300 OEMs, distributors, VARs/integrators or third-party maintenance service providers today use Work Market exclusively or in conjunction with other platforms to manage their labor force, according to DeWitt.
“This company is kicking ass and taking names right now,” DeWitt said.
HPM Networks had a client in Ashland, Va., approach the Fremont, Calif.-based company, No. 139 on the CRN Solution Provider 500, about a seasonal project opportunity, according to HPM CEO Romi Randhawa. With just two engineers based in the Washington D.C.-area with the requisite skills, HPM would have either had to fly out two engineers or source through its network of partners in the area.
“We didn’t want to take on full-time employees,” Randhawa said.
Plus HPM is wary of sourcing through local partners it doesn’t know well since it could potentially lead to the poaching of HPM’s clients.
“You don’t want to give too much information to a local partner who, in turn, could sell into your customer base,” Randhawa said.
But with Work Market, HPM has found it very easily to identify the profile of engineer needed for the project and vet those who match the profile. And with just 25 pre-sales and post-sales engineers employed full-time at HPM, Randhawa estimates he could double revenue by using a stable of 10 to 15 Work Market contractors when the need arises.
“I can only do so much with my guys,” Randhawa said. “It’s kind of a big headache for partners.”
But Work Market isn’t just for contract workers – companies can also use Work Market to provision, monitor and assess their own internal labor force as well as the workforce of any IT service provider partner. Provisioning to internal technicians, skilled experts outside the company or other VARs/integrators can take place in just minutes, DeWitt said.
All told, Work Market customers see a 30 percent to 50 percent reduction in labor costs pretty much right out of the gate, DeWitt said, while improving their profitability and net promoter score (which gauges the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships). And with Work Market, the utilization of field technicians can improve from 70 percent or 80 percent for the best-run companies to virtually 100 percent.
“It is real, it is now, and it is incredibly impactful to the channel,” DeWitt said. “The enterprise is embracing this because the enterprise has to transform.”
Work Market is on the cutting-edge of making labor more efficient and redefining relationships between employers and workers, with DeWitt expecting automation around multiple pools of labor to become the de facto norm for enterprise companies by the end of the decade. Unfortunately, many VARs have little experience building and operationalizing an engaged community of contract workers, DeWitt said.
For this reason, Work Market expects to double its business this year and again in 2017, according to DeWitt, and is enjoying financial backing from Union Square Ventures.
“We have brought in a tech all-star team to really scale this company right now,” DeWitt said.
Work Market customers have found that the on-demand talent obtained through the platform is actually of superior quality to their permanent staff since Work Market’s software makes it possible to specify which criteria are most important in a prospective contractor, DeWitt.
As a Software-as-a-Service offering, Work Market can be procured by customers either on a transaction-by-transaction basis or on a subscription basis at less than double-digit labor costs, DeWitt said.
Project wins are the most common reason VARs turn to Work Market, DeWitt said, as they have to rapidly scale up and scale down a labor force for a one-time fixed project.
Another common use for Work Market is to fill a one-off gap when demand is high or workers are otherwise unavailable, DeWitt said, such as if a customer needed work done by a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) at a time when all 60 CCIE’s employed by the VAR were already being used.
This situation arises frequently for Source Support Services, which is obligated under the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) it signs with mission-critical enterprise clients to be on-site and working on repairs within four hours of a complaint, said Mike Stolz, chief operating officer of the Lawrenceville, Ga.-based company.
But that can be very difficult to pull off if it’s 4 a.m. and the nearest technician lives 90 minutes away, Stolz said, or if it’s 3:30 p.m. and the technicians have to fight brutal Los Angeles rush hour traffic to get to the other side of town.
“When something happens, it always happens at an inopportune time,” Stolz said.
For this reason, Source Support teams up with Work Market to research, identify and assign at least three technicians to each client to ensure the company can always fulfill its end of the SLA, said Eric Lomascolo, Source Support’s senior director for marketing and technical recruiting.
Work Market’s role means that Source Support no longer has to undertake the time-consuming process of finding qualified technicians available at a moment’s notice, which can prove quite challenging in rural areas, Lomascolo said.
“They’ve done a really nice job of building a robust database of resources,” Lomascolo said.
The final frequent use of Work Market by VARs is when a customer requests a new product or a product in an unfamiliar technology area and the solution provider fears the client might switch to a competitor if he or she is unable to meet the customer’s needs, DeWitt said.
Work Market is very compatible with other professional services software. DeWitt said it integrates fully with Autotask and ConnectWise, can be mounted by Salesforce or pretty much any cloud platform, and is also capable of provisioning labor inside of broader tools employed by a particular company.
Warranty solutions provider Safeware developed its own proprietary customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage its workflow and built applications on top of it as necessary, according to Bryan Schutjer, CEO of the Dublin, Ohio, company.
But as the IT ecosystem evolved, Safeware’s proprietary tool failed to evolve alongside it. The tool didn’t interface easily across tablet and smartphones, lacked a fully integrated system to survey customers, and lacked geocoding features to automatically track the location of service technicians, Schutjer said.
By switching to Work Market, Schutjer said Safeware was able to access tools and functionality that would have taken the company two years to build on its own. The geocoding features means Safeware no longer needs folks in its back office manually tracking whether or not service technicians made it to their assignment.
And by outsourcing the need to continually evolve and redesign its service platform, Schutjer said Safeware’s workforce can remain more focused on its core warranty business.
“They’re going to be innovating and accelerating their platform constantly, rather than us having to make this a core competency,” Schutjer said.
Work Market is, additionally, very powerful when solution providers need to reach remote areas, said Dedoussis of CTS. This came in handy when CTS took on a project to install photo kiosks in Rite Aid locations throughout the country, including near Mammoth Mountain, isolated deep in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Rather than paying to fly somebody in, Dedoussis said CTS just tapped a qualified contractor already signed up on Work Market to complete the job.
“If you’re busy and you’re growing, you need to use new resources all the time,” Dedoussis said. “It [Work Market] is a convenient way to become uber-scalable with the comfort of knowing that you have a logical, well-thought-out platform that enables that scalability.”