The MSP’s guide to field service
September 30, 2019
September 30, 2019
Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are under constant market pressure to expand service capabilities in order to retain key accounts. For example, a small, regional MSP specializing in desktop/laptop system maintenance may need to begin servicing a client’s servers, or expand to include its national locations and other related systems.
The challenge is that expanding services using a traditional workforce can be time- and cost-prohibitive. Access to specialized, on-demand IT technicians solves this problem, enabling MSPs to quickly fill skill gaps and explore new markets without the risk of a large up-front, or ongoing, investment.
Welcome to the new world of work—a mix of independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers—that has more than doubled in size over the past decade. As recently as 2008, only fifteen percent of the average company’s overall workforce was considered contingent. Today, over forty-one percent of the average enterprise’s total workforce is non-employee, and ninety-seven percent of organizations consider independent talent to be critical to their success.
What’s causing this significant shift within our workforce?
Seventy-one percent of all enterprises cite agility as a top goal. Engaging a variable field service workforce allows MSPs to respond to real-time business challenges, quickly deploy skilled talent where and when it’s needed, scale up or down to meet seasonal demands, and focus on service or location expansion without committing resources to fixed staffing overhead.
Talented individuals with valuable skillsets are opting for greater professional control and autonomy, choosing to leverage their expertise to work how, when, and where they choose.
As business needs and worker preferences shift from traditional employment to flexible, project-based work, integrated SaaS platforms and other technologies make it possible to scale a complex variable workforce, which enables MSPs of all sizes to efficiently source, manage, and deploy on-demand technicians.
This guide provides a holistic view of how MSPs and other field service organizations can leverage a contingent workforce to reduce costs and risk, increase work order efficiency, and expand operations with greater flexibility than ever.
The cost of maintaining a highly-skilled, full-time workforce is rising, with benefits alone accounting for more than thirty-one percent of an average employee’s total compensation package.
By shifting part of their workforce from traditional W-2 employees to specialized contract technicians, field service-focused MSPs can reduce costs without sacrificing service quality—in fact, forty-three percent of companies using a contingent workforce report saving at least twenty percent in labor costs.
Comprehensive Service Level Agreements (SLAs) often require an on-site presence based on customer needs. In the past, this would require either expensive travel and additional costly overtime for a centrally-located workforce, or would require MSPs to establish satellite locations and additional staff to accommodate customer demand.
Because contract technicians can be found in nearly every location around the world, it’s now possible for MSPs to service clients in almost any area without the costs of additional infrastructure and travel.
Many contract technicians purchase and maintain their own equipment—vehicles, tools, laptops, and smartphones—further reducing the capital investment required for MSPs to provide a broad range of services.
To protect profits and maintain sustainable growth, job and project costs must be strictly controlled. Accessing a labor pool of expert independent technicians helps MSPs ensure that each job is completed quickly, efficiently, and profitably.
Many digital staffing outlets help indemnify MSPs by ensuring that all contract technicians sourced through their platform are compliant with specific industry regulations and certifications.
To minimize liability risks, MSPs can narrow their search to only include providers and contract technicians who supply their own insurance coverage.
Engaging with flexible contract technicians to fulfill work orders makes it easier to gauge demand before committing long-term resources and staff, offering a low-risk way for MSPs to expand into new geographic locations or service offerings.
Getting the most value possible from a blended workforce—the mix of both employees and independent contractors—requires ongoing communication and detailed tracking.
Freelance Management System (FMS) platforms have become critical tools for optimizing this complex mix of talent, allowing MSPs to efficiently find, recruit, and manage their entire workforce from one place.
Nearly sixty percent of organizations across the globe leverage online talent platforms, helping them manage both employees and contingent workers, as well as access data and reports from one integrated system. An FMS also makes it easier for employees and contract technicians to collaborate on projects, hit performance targets, and work together to drive the business forward.
Accessing an FMS-enabled variable workforce allows MSPs to accept more work by helping them fill labor gaps, complete projects more quickly, and balance out the peaks and valleys in field service demand—all without overloading their W-2 employees.
By using an FMS to source contingent labor, both hiring and project managers can quickly engage contract technicians based on skillset, experience, and location.
Offering a diverse range of services via access to a marketplace of expert talent helps MSPs win more bids by demonstrating their ability to deliver exceptional service.
Real-time labor pricing within an FMS makes it possible to quickly create accurate proposals for even the largest, most complex projects. Pricing data provides access to each territory’s local market labor rate, filtered by specific location, qualifications, skillsets, and other key criteria. These insights help MSPs control costs, avoid overpaying for work, and ensure that each project is completed within the agreed-upon budget.
According to a recent Blumberg Advisory Group study, companies using a variable workforce achieve eighty-two percent SLA compliance, compared with seventy-six percent of companies that don’t use a variable workforce model.
Best- in- class FMS users overwhelmingly outperform overall service industry averages for productivity and utilization: ninety-eight percent SLA compliance for FMS users compared to eighty-one percent service industry average, and ninety-six percent first-time fix rate for FMS users compared to seventy-eight percent service industry average.
Three-quarters of FMS users experience shorter travel time than non-users. The average travel time for emergency service calls is sixty minutes or less for seventy-three percent of FMS users compared to fifty percent of non-users.
FMS users also experience faster average travel time for emergency service calls: forty-five minutes or less for forty-two percent of FMS users, compared to nineteen percent of non-FMS users.
Pieced together software packages and sourcing strategies lead to information gaps that make it challenging for MSPs to scale field operations. To get the most out of your variable workforce, it’s critical to have a platform in place that allows you to integrate seamlessly with your existing systems, eliminates time-consuming manual data entry, and provides real-time reporting.
Take a high-level view and focus on identifying inefficiencies and areas for growth. An integrated FMS platform consolidates critical data into a single dashboard view, allowing for greater visibility, accountability, and control.
Establishing an efficient process for new contractor screening, vetting, interviewing, and onboarding enables MSPs to dispatch contract technicians and deliver on new SLAs as soon as they come in. The average onboard time is less than eleven days for eighty-eight percent of FMS users, compared to thirty-one percent of users of other types of variable workforce.
MSPs may be inclined to postpone expansion into new geographic territories until they can justify hiring one or more full-time field service technicians. The dilemma? It’s risky hiring a field service provider before entering and building up demand in a new market.
The good news? Eighty percent of FMS users reported improvements in geographic coverage.
MSPs can leverage an FMS to:
As the need for flexibility continues to drive both MSPs and workers, the use of a contingent workforce for field service operations will continue to grow.
Findings reinforce growth in independent contract work in IT field service is not a fleeting trend but an attractive and sustainable way of working for experienced technicians – while labor platforms and diversified projects make it easier to find and love their work.
To understand the landscape of independent contracting in field services, Field Nation surveyed over 800 field service technicians. Download our research study to see how contract work has evolved and why it's preferred.White Paper
Join Field Nation for an exclusive live webinar with Field Nation CEO Mynul Khan on 4/6 to get a sneak peek at the findings from our original research study: "The State of Independent Contracting in Field Services."Webinar