Upgrades from Elance, Fieldglass

Providers beef up services procurement solutions

Mesa, AZ — May 12, 2003 — Two providers of services procurement solutions rolled out upgrades today, with Elance adding collaboration and engagement features in support of such categories as offshore information technology development and IT consulting, and Fieldglass beefing up its tools for helping companies manage global services procurement initiatives.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Elance said that the enhancements to version 3.5 of the company's services procurement and management (SPM) application suite provide collaboration and engagement management features across service categories that Fortune 1000 enterprises have identified as mission critical today, including contingent labor, IT consulting, offshore IT development, facilities management and software license management.

"Unlike the procurement of goods, the process of procuring and managing services is unique for each individual service engagement," said Fabio Rosati, president and CEO of Elance. "Successful service engagements require collaboration and engagement functionality that enable procurement teams and external service providers to interact quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively."

Collaboration is required across all phases of the SPM lifecycle, said Elance, from defining service engagements, to negotiating deliverables and final service orders, verifying service delivery, reconciling invoices and evaluating supplier quality. The solution provider asserted that these features are especially important during the engagement management phase, when tracking a service level agreement (SLA) or assessing key performance indicators may require input from hundreds of individuals in many remote locations.

Elance said that its customers are already taking advantage of version 3.5's services management features to buy and manage services in various categories, including offshore IT development. To support the increasingly popular trend toward outsourcing of IT development to offshore service providers, Elance 3.5 supports "direct-to-order" sourcing from offshore suppliers with integrated change management features. Internal teams can collaboratively develop service orders and track changes as complex offshore service engagements are defined. In addition, built-in change order functionality allows enterprises to track the complex scope, cost and requirements changes that can occur in offshore IT engagements.

In addition, Elance 3.5 allows engagement sourcing for technology consulting projects. Internal teams can collaborate on the development of requests for quote or information for automatic distribution to multiple IT consulting suppliers. Features such as discussion boards help purchasing teams evaluate responses from multiple suppliers. After acceptance of a supplier's proposal, Elance's built-in order modification and change management features simplify the process of drafting and negotiating the final service order, according to the solution provider.

For facilities management and maintenance services, which are typically delivered incrementally, order-by-order against large and complex master service agreements, the Elance solution's features allow the performance of suppliers to be tracked on a per-order basis. Service quality can be evaluated collaboratively with the service supplier based on multiple key performance indicators (KPIs). Payment of suppliers can also be tied to KPIs. Elance believes that tracking supplier performance in this way develops and preserves detailed, enterprisewide knowledge about supplier capabilities.

With regard to software license management, besides ensuring compliance with licensing agreements, Elance 3.5 allows organizations to track the delivery of services associated with individual software purchases. For example, the delivery of software training services can be negotiated and managed through collaboration between internal purchasing teams and external software suppliers.

Finally, version 3.5 enables engagement sourcing for contingent labor. After staffing firms have responded to a request for contingent personnel, Elance can allow multiple hiring managers to schedule, interview, evaluate and score submitted candidates based on multiple criteria. Individual scores are automatically "rolled up" to a team score that can be used to identify the best contingent labor candidate. Elance 3.5's change management features allow for change orders, such as an extension to an existing contingent labor engagement, to be negotiated with external staffing firms.

Elance said that the new features in 3.5 are available now, with configuration, deployment and support available through a company's usual systems integrator or through Elance's own professional services organization.

Fieldglass Targets Global Services Procurement

Meanwhile, Chicago-based Fieldglass has rolled out a set of new tools in its InSite 3.4 to help companies manage global services procurement initiatives.

With the new features, companies can define multiple currencies and conversion rates to provide consolidated global reporting, and the provider has added capabilities covering legislative and compliance differences.

Fieldglass said that InSite is a vendor-neutral application from that creates a secure, private marketplace for a company and its chosen human capital suppliers. InSite automates and streamlines manual processes so that corporate users can track, measure and analyze every transaction from requisition to payment when procuring services, according to the solution provider.

"While companies grapple with a weak economy, smart businesses are thinking less about the types of workers to staff their organizations and more about the mix of solutions to meet business objectives," said Fieldglass Chief Technology Officer Sean Chou. "The latest version of InSite includes a number of features that strengthen and deepen an organization's ability to understand its services options, capturing and highlighting data to make more informed decisions."

Buyers can now opt for a "Bid Pool," which provides for a best-rate response from suppliers. Buyers rank a set of candidates, and the suppliers, in turn, can resubmit candidate rates with modified bill rates or markups to make their services options more attractive.

In addition, buyers can search requisitions to locate and include the most appropriate qualifications for the services they need. With workforce search, they can search for the best candidates by various criteria, including experience, geography and specific skill sets. A comparison matrix is designed to help buyers determine the best choices to meet their business objectives.

Other buyer improvements include further time sheet rule enhancements enforcing Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) policies and requisition tracking by United Nations Standard Product and Services Code (UNSPSC). Fieldglass said it has also improved its ad hoc reporting functionality with the ability to create and save custom reports via a template-driven reporting tool.

In addition, release 3.4 features a number of improved capabilities for streamlined, high volume business processes such as those found within light industrial temporary labor or call centers. Buyers can hire workers on a first-come, first-serve basis, bypassing the review and selection process. Suppliers can submit group time and expenses on behalf of their workers, and time sheets can be automatically converted to an invoice as they are approved.

For suppliers, release 3.4 can now calculate taxes automatically and add them to invoices. A worker auto-registration feature eliminates the need for a worker or supplier to physically register in InSite, which would benefit workers who do not have access to their own computers.

For more information on professional services procurement solutions, see the article "It's All About People," the Net Best Thing column in the January 2002 issue of iSource Business.