How does a smaller or lesser-known MSP take on a big name like Oracle or SAP?  One way is to adapt to a changing world, carving out a niche that addresses a need that the bigger companies have failed to meet. Here’s a look at how some workforce management services have incorporated features that help customers better handle their sourcing and vendor management needs.

About 6 months ago, Forrester Research published the Forrester Wave: Services Procurement study. For this roundup, Forrester evaluated 11 vendors: Ariba, Beeline, Emptoris, Fieldglass, IQNavigator, Oracle E-Business Suite, Peopleclick, Authoria, PeopleSoft, ProcureStaff, SAP, and WorkforceLogic. Forrester concluded that “IQNavigator, Fieldglass, Emptoris, and Beeline are Leaders because of their full-featured solutions designed to meet the specific requirements of contingent workforce management.”

Based on information gathered in interviews conducted for the study, Forrester says that “companies are re-evaluating their staffing strategies” and need technology that will help them more efficiently handle contingent staff, SOW relationships, and project-based services.

Take IQNavigator, for example. This company is no newcomer. It’s been around since 1999 and works with major companies like Ameriprise and Limited Brands. Still, its name isn’t exactly as familiar to the average person as, say, PeopleSoft or Oracle.

IQNavigator offers a platform—a mix of managed services, SaaS, and mobile apps—designed for managing an extended workforce and procuring services. According to Lou Andreozzi, CEO and president of IQNavigator, 2010 was a good year for the company. Echoing a point made in the Forrester study, Andreozzi  said that “with talk of a double-dip recession, we are now witnessing an unprecedented cyclical trend of utilizing contingent workforces to effectively meet the economic climate.”

With a move toward outsourcing and an increased dependency on contingent workforces, it’s not surprising that businesses big and small would seek solutions that help them manage a different kind of work force.

And the IQNavigator continues to bolster its offering of features designed specifically to help companies manage the procurement of services. On March 30, the company announced the new IQNtelligence Data Xplorer and Visual Xplorer tools. These analytics and reporting tools, according to the press release, are designed to help businesses manage procured services and will provide deeper insight into such data as “metrics about non-employee headcount and spend.”

Fieldglass, another company topping Forrester’s list, has also witnessed an increase in the dependence on contingent workforces. “As demand for contingent and project-based workers continues to grow,” says Sean Chou, CTO of Fieldglass, “our customers are broadening their use of Fieldglass to include more geographies and services spend categories.”  The Fieldglass press release, dated March 28, goes on to announce that the company was rolling out a variety of enhancements into its vendor management system (VMS).

Granted, a company like IQNavigator may not be a small business. But there is an important lesson SMBs can learn here. You need to do more than just market your service as a solution that can handle a particular need. You can’t just adapt your messaging, but must also adapt your actual service offering to the needs of these customers. Of the 11 vendors Forrester looked at in terms of services procurement and vendor management, the truly successful services come from the MSPs that have embraced this niche and designed products that not only address these needs but make the process more efficient. And this sort of agility and tailoring of services to particular scenarios provides an opportunity for smaller service providers with narrower product offerings to outperform larger corporations that are not as quick to develop and roll out features designed for such specific needs.

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