Workforce-as-a-service scales to meet IT staffing needs on demand

By Sharon Florentine , CIO |  Small Business, hiring

One of the major benefits of a services-delivery model such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) or the Cloud is the capability to quickly scale computing resources - networking, storage, bandwidth, for instance - on an as-needed basis. IT simply adds more resources when they're needed and removes them when they aren't. What if you could do the same with personnel resources; that is, add teams of skilled tech pros on-demand and release them once a project is completed?

Peter Cannone, CEO of OnForce, says, his company allows for just that kind of service.

The WaaS Business Model

"For the last eight years, we've serviced the IT industry using what we call an IT on-site service delivery model," Cannone says. "We provide highly skilled IT professionals on an on-demand basis to 99.2% of zip codes across the United States," Cannone says.

As a self-service model, it lets CIOs or other IT executives quickly find and request personnel to fit the needs of their project, says Cannone. And OnForce's offerings aren't limited to just installation and implementation, the company also provides what Cannone calls "workforce optimization."

"We also offer the ability for businesses to optimize their existing, legacy assets, not just to add new ones," Cannone says, including both technology and employees. "For those folks who have a maturing or declining tech deployment like an aging network infrastructure, or server or network hardware that's reaching the end of its life we can provide teams that are skilled in helping businesses get every last drop of productivity and usefulness out of older technology," Cannone says.

The WaaS model also helps businesses that have concerns about their aging workforce but aren't willing to hire full-time staff or train existing personnel on newer skills.

"We analyze in great depth the client, their technology and their support requirements, so what we provide isn't just the hardware, but the maintenance personnel, too. This is great for companies who don't want to hire or train new employees, but who need to fill a need without having such a huge upfront investment," Cannone says.

Cannone says this WaaS model allows businesses to achieve three major objectives: lower the cost of labor delivery, guarantee the quality of that labor, and mitigate the risk involved in adding new teams or personnel.

"We function as the 'general contractor,' so to speak," Cannone says. "We test and screen all personnel to make sure they can deliver on the requirements for the job, and have mastered the skills needed to perform this work. We also remove a major administrative and human resources headache that is making sure these on-site contractors are covered by insurance and workman's compensation coverage so that our clients aren't carrying that additional burden," he says.

Service Quality Guaranteed

Cannone says that OnForce has nearly 1,000 independent contractors signing up with the company each month, but that doesn't mean they're all hired. Applicants go through a rigorous screening process, he says, that includes a personal and skills questionnaire, an online battery of tests, a phone screening, a background check, drug testing, all to guarantee that customers are receiving 'W-2 quality' workers.

OnForce says it also uses proprietary talent matching algorithms that take more than 20 data points into account to make sure workers are a good match for the job. These algorithms are constantly reviewed based on on-site performance, and workers are given continuing assessments and performance reviews to make sure they're performing at peak levels, Cannone says.

"One issue we address with this WaaS model is the misclassification of workers - how many times have you hired someone for a position and found their skills weren't quite right? That's a costly mistake, and one we can address," he says.

Consistency and Communication

OnForce also ensures its workers are covered under the umbrella of its insurance policy, which can remove a major administrative headache for customers, says Leslie Rudolph, vice president of Operations, Field Services Division, for Tampa, Fla.-based OnForce partner Vital Networks, which delivers networking solutions, monitoring and management, as well as rapid-response support.

"We are a services delivery company, but we saw that with the increasing mobility of our customers that it was tough to provide a consistent staffing solution; we have our own field services engineers, but it was hard to communicate with them consistently, and difficult to manage all the insurance and risk management for all of them," Rudolph says. "It was becoming an administrative hassle and a quality assurance problem," she says.

"We still have our own teams of field service engineers, but we partnered with OnForce to increase our efficiency for customers," Rudolph says. "This is an innovative way to approach the business. It's flexible to the needs of our customers, and it means we can be responsive and fast at addressing their needs," she says.

Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at sflorentine@cio.com Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.

Read more about outsourcing in CIO's Outsourcing Drilldown.

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