Recognizing growing enterprise reliance on contingent workers, and building on its acquisition last year of the Fieldglass vendor management system, SAP has announced the ability to connect contingent workforce data from Fieldglass into its SuccessFactors Employee Central and Workforce Analytics HCM products.
Most enterprises — SAP included — have struggled to keep tabs on the growing army of freelancers, temporary staff or contractors brought in to work alongside permanent employees. As diginomica contributor Brian Sommer writes today, few HCM systems even provide for tracking contingent workers. As a result, he says:
No one has the singular view into what the true workforce looks like. There is no single point of truth — the breadcrumbs are scattered in multiple systems, emails, invoices, etc. At the very least, such lack of data makes it impossible to plan a workforce with any degree of certainty beyond vague dollar amounts.
The Fieldglass integration to SuccessFactors aims to bridge that information gap, accommodating the trend towards what SuccessFactors president Mike Ettling called the "boundary-less organization" in his keynote at the SuccessConnect EMEA conference in Rome.
With a contingent workforce of more than 20,000, SAP knows this phenomenon well, and is embarking on its own implementation of Fieldglass, starting in the US and Germany. As Amy Gordon, global head of SAP's External Workforce Center told TechTarget's searchSAP site in September, SAP has had poor visibility into what its contigent workers were up to:
When we were asked to provide overall global analytics and information on our external workers, it was extremely difficult because we had about 20 different tools, depending on which country or [line of business] you were in.
The deeper integration announced today will help solve that information gap for SAP and its customers, going beyond bare headcount data to bring in profile information on contingent labor so these workers can be included in HR processes such as people searches, organizational charts and workforce analytics. In an interview with diginomica, Mikael Lindmark, SVP EMEA at Fieldglass, explained:
We predominantly have large multinationals as customers. What we always have done, we have passed on information into the client's information system. That isn't necessarily new. What is new is what you try to do next.
We are addressing the next level question. How should we be engaging to get work done in the future? What options do I have?
For example, an organization might want to evaluate what mix of permanent and contingent staff would work best to fulfil a specific project. Or it might want to compare the impact of hiring an offshore team versus a local team.
Connecting both ways
The integration goes both ways, and so SAP is also looking at scenarios where Fieldglass holds information from SuccessFactors that may be relevant for other applications. Lindmark cited the example of SAP's plant maintenance application, which might issue work orders for repair or maintenance jobs that nowadays are often fulfilled by external contractors. Fieldglass would be able to connect into SuccessFactors to validate their credentials to do the work, as well as checking back with the plant maintenance application to confirm that the work had been completed. (SAP has worked out other scenarios where travel to attend on site is arranged and expensed using its Concur application).
The Fieldglass and SuccessFactors integrations will be introduced in phases, becoming deeper over time, said Lindmark.
SuccessFactors has a lot of compelling views in this current release. With deep integrations, I can trigger things in SuccessFactors that go deep into Fieldglass, for example learning, succession planning. As a next phase, these 'what-if' scenarios.
There's also a lot of practical things where these systems talk to each other — time and attendance, compliance, etcetera.
Shifting employment patterns
Lindmark outlined several examples of shifting employment patterns where greater integration could yield further benefits.
- Some organizations don't hire people until they've tried them as a contractor first. There's a clear case for connecting their track record as a contractor into performance management and learning records as well as succession planning.
- Conversely, there may be occasions when it makes sense to match permanent employees to contingent work requirements, for example in cases where the staff member is looking to relocate.
- Retirees often return as freelance contractors and this too can be managed more effectively if contingent workers are visible to talent management processes.
- A better view of contingent work requirements makes it practical for some brands to recruit temporary staff directly rather than paying agency overheads to find those people.
- Freelancers sometimes become employees of consultancies and an organization may not even be aware that it is paying twice as much for the same work by the same individual because the data has not been tracked.
He also noted that Fieldglass takes care of the all-important question — especially in these days of significant uncertainties over the legal rights of on-demand workers — of how contingent workers are classed under employment law:
One of the values we provide is that our customer is not in the risk area in this respect. You have the audit trail to show that you have validated this.
Enterprises are certainly becoming boundaryless — or as I prefer to say, frictionless.
I'm with my colleague Brian Sommer on the need to manage contingent workers alongside permanent employees and indeed I raised precisely this point on a panel at last month's HR Tech Congress in Paris. Workers in today's enterprise are increasingly contingent, even crowdsourced, but those collaborators still need to be motivated and engaged in the organization's business goals. A lot of the burden falls on managers and they should be given the tools to help them get the results.
Image credits: Businessman selecting from global people network © Romolo Tavani - Fotolia.com.
Disclosure: SAP is a diginomica premier partner and paid my travel expenses to attend the SuccessConnect EMEA event.