An abiding struggle faced by every one of us is uncertainty in regard to the wishes of the people we deal with. This uncertainty never gets completely resolved in a personal relationship, even when we believe that we really ‘know’ the other person.. In a professional context, understanding the needs and preferences of target buyers is critical. Companies spend endless hours and dollars attempting to answer this question, yet all companies fear that they may not actually know the answer.
When developing software applications, where the product must accommodate a wide variety of customer-specific needs, the challenge is great, and when the product is a Vendor Management System, the range of varying requirements can be daunting. That should not stop a VMS solution provider from reviewing their product’s functionality, and matching it with market standards and more importantly, customer needs. Now, here’s the rub. When discussing “customer requirements” to be incorporated into a VMS, most providers consider features from the perspective of the end-client’s Procurement and/or Human Resources teams. While these organizations almost always play a critical role in selecting a VMS, they are not the only “buyers”. In reality, the majority of companies implementing a VMS system also outsource responsibility for managing their overall contingent workforce management program to a third party company known as a Managed Services Provider (MSP). It is the MSP who serves as the primary “user” of the system, yet few VMS providers actively solicit opinions of MSPs when determining the functionality to be incorporated into their next release.
Most VMS product managers solicit requirements from existing clients, and from the industry analysts. In many cases, the existing clients focus their feedback on improving the quality of intake, meeting the targets for fill ratios or achieving high levels of adherence to regulatory requirements. The analysts, on the other hand, will talk about the ‘needs of tomorrow’ when all companies will develop comprehensive, proactive plans for an enterprise-wide, blended workforce of permanent and temporary workers. The dilemma for the developers is simple – how does one build a product that simultaneously meets today’s needs, allows companies to seamlessly expand over the next 18-24 months, and moves in the direction of the vision of the analysts? Practical, experience-based input from MSPs is of critical in understanding how to build this bridge.
The best VMS products are grounded in reality. By sharing actual experiences and serving as the voice of the client, MSPs can provide insight into client priorities for program expansion. They can offer guidance not only on the features to be incorporated, but also on how these features must be designed for ease of use. As importantly, they will provide suggestions on the support services (training, usage hotline, version upgrade support, etc.) that must accompany at launch.
So, the innovative, forward-thinking VMS provider approaches this issue from both sides to make sure to that they are offering a product which is not only operationally effective but also aimed at meeting the changing environment and challenges posed by it. It is not enough to learn about what an MSP wants and it is also no use to ask oneself ‘Are we there yet?’ on this quest. As every company focused on delivery knows, customer satisfaction is a moving target and not a stationery one; which makes it a journey without a specific destination!
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