Links: IT Connection

You've heard about managing commodities, like office supplies and auto parts, to make your company more efficient, but what about managing human capital? One company brushes up on its people skills by automating this dynamic process.

[From iSource Business, October 2001] Information technology (IT) specialists are a hot commodity in today's technology-driven business climate, and that is one reason why more and more companies are turning to staffing firms to help fill their needs for permanent or contractual IT professionals. The talent gap for IT workers is large, despite the recent downturn in the marketplace. It's estimated by the Information Technology Association of America that 425,000 IT positions will go unfilled in the United States because of a lack of applicants with the required technical and non-technical skills.

Of course, that's not news to Annette Quintana, CEO and founder of Denver-based TeamExcel, who for the past 11 years has been matching IT consultants with the companies that are searching for them. Quintana and her sister, Victoria, founded the Minority Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) organization and continue to share responsibility for managing and growing the company, which generated sales in excess of $30 million in 2000. Annette Quintana says it became very clear early on that, in order to be competitive in the staffing industry, the company had to achieve a high level of technology.

Workforce Management Challenge

Quintana wanted to partner with a company that could meet TeamExcel's many workforce management challenges, which include the ability to assess client needs, match those needs to the skills of highly trained IT professionals, and manage TeamExcel's 250-person contractual workforce. Because the company has more than 40 internal employees working in offices in four states, integrated and easy-to-use technology for workforce management represented an efficient and cost-effective way for TeamExecl to maximize its business opportunities and provide quality candidates to its customers.

In addition, TeamExcel was looking for a provider with which it could form an alliance, Quintana says. After months of searching, TeamExcel allied with another Denver-based company, IQNavigator, which provides e-workforce management solutions. IQNavigator's Web-based applications and services enable TeamExcel to plan, source, evaluate, recruit, hire, manage, measure, and retain contractors and full-time employees.

When it came to charting the right course  technologically speaking  for TeamExcel, Quintana says IQNavigator fit the bill. What IQNavigator's technology does is to provide sophisticated Web-based tools to facilitate the work flow in how we communicate and coordinate work activity with our clients and suppliers, Quintana says.

TeamExcel works largely with Fortune 500 companies that emphasize telecommunications, such as Qwest, Lucent Technologies and AT&T. It provides IT consultants a full range of jobs, from system development and/or support to engineering to project management. Besides being a supplier of human capital to its clients, TeamExcel also works with other staffing companies that are, in turn, suppliers to TeamExcel.

Some companies want direct relationships with all the staffing firms they use, Quintana explains. Others find the management of several staffing companies difficult and hard to track, because they are dealing with so many. They then turn to one staffing company to oversee and manage all their staffing needs, she adds. Staffing issues can be complex, so the trend is to consolidate. That is what TeamExcel is about, because we can facilitate that for our clients.

Dynamic People

But the real challenge with TeamExcel's search for a workforce management technology solution was to find a company that understood the complicated nature of managing human capital, which is more involved than managing commodities, such as office supplies and auto parts.

Ginger Margolin, senior vice president of corporate development for IQNavigator, says the company's applications are built specifically to help with the supply chain management of human capital, addressing all critical points along the supply chain, from requisition to payment. Its e-workforce management solutions are built around a patent-pending engine that matches candidates' skills with a client's requirement.

It's unique because it recognizes the fallacy that managing office supplies and workers are interchangeable, Margolin says. You just can't process professionals as a commodity using catalogs and mere text-based matching. IQNavigator's matching engine is built on the philosophy that people are dynamic, she notes.

The intelligent matching engine allows staffing companies, such as TeamExcel, to take a giant step in matching skills to requirements. Consider this scenario: High-tech Company A is looking for an IT consultant who is an Oracle 8i guru for a short-term project. TeamExcel is notified of its client's need and, using IQNavigator, begins to search for a consultant to match the need. The intelligent matching system will try to find a consultant with that specific qualification, as well as locate other consultants with relational data-based experience that is analogous to the client's specific need. IQNavigator will then list all the possible qualified consultants, ranking and scoring them based on their degree of fit. Quintana says the software can even go a step farther, prioritizing those candidates according to skills, references, availability or price.

In addition to matching IT experts with requirements, IQNavigator's application facilitates other processes, from interview to invoice. Quintana says that, once the match is made, IQNavigator's Web-based system generates an e-mail to notify the client of the match, further facilitating the interview-scheduling process. After a candidate is chosen, the system then automatically notifies TeamExcel and online contract negotiations begin. When the contract is signed and the consultant begins work, the consultant, using IQNavigator's online time/expense system, can enter time and expenses on a weekly basis.

The data is seamlessly distributed to the right people in the various participating organizations and invoices are generated that include the contractor's bill rates and hours. Quintana says IQNavigator helps expedite the process in which suppliers are paid by taking care of the collections and consolidating the invoicing for the enterprise (client), which, in turn, provides a more streamlined and efficient process.

Quintana qualifies the timesaving aspects of  IQNavigator in these ways:

  • A candidate's profile has to be entered only once as opposed to having to be entered manually every time a client posts a job for which the same candidate is qualified.

  • All communication between TeamExcel, suppliers and the enterprise client automatically happens online and instantaneously. This eliminates the time consuming process of phone calling, faxing and sending letters.

  • Time and money associated with marketing and prospecting is saved because suppliers can act as a reseller of a specific consultant.

  • The system's automated invoicing and time approval means less paperwork and greater time efficiency.

Because IQNavigator provides all the software and technology infrastructure, Quintana says there were no upfront costs, which is big selling point, for smaller and midsize staffing firms. IQNavigator is compensated because it earns a portion of each transaction that bills through the system, she says.

Despite the unique features offered by IQNavigator's system, Quintana says there were two points that completely sold TeamExcel on the company.

One, I believe we have a true partner for creating an alliance. It's hard to create an alliance with a big company because they don't usually lend themselves to collaborative efforts. Two, I think IQNavigator has an extraordinary management team, she says. We felt comfortable that, even though it was a new company, it would build and grow.

Quintana says the alliance is less than a year old, but its effectiveness will be measured in two ways: how the system allows her company to grow business and how TeamExcel benefits from collaborating with IQNavigator on joint sales, marketing and MWBE initiatives.

And, she admits, TeamExcel has already experienced improvements in the efficiency of filling clients' open positions while better managing the entire procurement, engagement and communication process.