A traditional managed service provider (MSP) solution’s plan begins with analyzing the prevailing business constraints in a talent supply chain and then addresses the standard set of program issues using a well-worn solutions playbook. However, this leads to a tactical “one shoe fits all” approach to service delivery, generally resulting in only marginal improvements in a client’s contingent workforce program and is usually limited to operational (i.e., tactical) program features.
Introducing “Design Thinking”
Enter the concept of “design thinking,” which is “…both an ideology and a process, concerned with solving complex problems in a highly user-centric way.” Design thinking seeks to understand the pain of the end user and address this pain from a human-centric perspective. It is often applied in creative functions like website and UI/UX design; however, forward-looking MSP providers are adopting and implementing design thinking within their solution delivery methodology as a means of championing the customer experience.
Shifting Demand in the MSP Landscape
It is our opinion that the traditional approach to solution design employed by numerous MSP solution providers in the marketplace lacks a true understanding of the end users’ pain points. Typically, the MSP is offering a traditional solution suite and, as a result, selling all modules within that suite. This results in a higher cost footprint and “big box” solution that is not client-specific. In turn, a dislocation has occurred between the services delivered and the needed results, leaving clients asking questions like, “how can my MSP truly help me solve my specific challenges?” In addition to this dislocation, we often find that service delivery becomes more about setting up a software solution like a vendor management system (VMS) and educating end users on the tool, as opposed to building a truly holistic, cohesive, contingent workforce plan to help solve existing issues and to propel the client forward in a strategic manner.
Focused Internal Team
In today’s market, innovative MSP providers are addressing this solution delivery design dislocation by building an internal team focused purely on solving the complex challenges that clients are experiencing, but doing so in an empathic, user-centric and pain point specific manner. This is a considerable departure from a solutions delivery team, who have typically focused on setting up a traditional “big box” solution suite MSP. Rather, this focused internal team team takes into consideration the human element of the solution.
Design Thinking’s Evolution
The concept of “design thinking” has existed for quite some time, but its application has historically been limited to elite technology firms attempting to accelerate their human-centric innovation labs. A good example of this is Steve Jobs’ initiative with IDEO. However, as MSP and VMS solution providers and other technology partnership ecosystems have become more intertwined, expected and required to solve today’s client challenges. The application of “design thinking” is now being adopted by firms who, in conjunction with their consultative delivery approach, have invested in a new permutation of delivery design and are already applying it to their solution suite. The value of design thinking is that it creates outcomes that benefit stakeholders and end users.
An Iterative Approach to Service Delivery and Implementing Design Thinking Innovation
Design thinking is also based on the principles of “integrated thinking,” which means building around the foundation of competing constraints. By using the very same principles as Steve Jobs did for Apple’s approach to product design, leading providers aim to draw deeper insights from statistical, procedural and experiential observations from their client engagements, bring their learnings back for a holistic review, and then, based on these results, create new, meaningful and innovative service and technology offerings.
This approach is especially useful in global contingent workforce programs, where in some instances localization (i.e., customized program requirements for a specific local geography) may be difficult to achieve as they are unique in nature and therefore difficult to benchmark for statistical comparison purposes. The iterative design process and tool configuration is in a state of constant flux and, through data collection via primary and secondary sources, the program is iteratively recalibrated and redesigned until an ideal state is realized, thereby optimizing the end result for the client while accommodating the program’s constraints.
The Passionate Pursuit of the Ideal Contingent Workforce Program State
With the application of design thinking principles for implementing MSP and VMS programs in place, clients receive a tailor-made experience that is perpetually evolving the solution towards an approximation of an ideal state.
Functional benefits alone are simply no longer a valuable proposition for our clients or any clients for that matter. An ideal state of operational, administrative, technological and consultative efforts is needed to truly drive value in today’s market environment. Design thinking is just one new approach that can be employed in being able to better analyze client programs, innovate with clients and drive greater overall value.