June 03, 2015

Recently, TheNew York Times published an article headlined, “What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work.” In it, the author marvels at the “Hollywood model” of work: where ad hoc teams carry out large and complex projects, requiring diverse talents with complementary skills. Per the article: “A project is identified; a team [of contractors] is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands.”

This article is just one of many recent commentaries on what amounts to a seismic shift in the way services work gets done, a shift toward flexible, just-in-time delivery of talent being fueled by several forces, including:

The acceleration of the freelance economy — according to Freelancers Union, 34% of the American workforce, some 53 million people, are freelancers. Another study by Intuit projects that number will reach 60 million or 40% of the workforce by 2020.

The proliferation of network and productivity technologies — from Google Apps to LinkedIn to O-Desk to Join.me to Survey Monkey — that make the process of sourcing, managing and administering distributed freelance talent quick and efficient.

A general change in workers’ attitudes, which demonstrates a recognition that careers will be shaped by the projects one pursues versus a long-term open-ended relationship with a single employer.
Corporate cost pressures, which make the idea of turning fixed labor costs into variable ones very appealing.

So, what does this mean to you?

Well, if you are a life sciences marketer of any kind — a brand manager, market researcher, digital marketer or a procurement lead — these trends mean you have an opportunity to re-think the way you purchase consulting or agency services. Here’s why: so-called "networked" consulting firms or agencies — those embracing the Hollywood model — offer multiple advantages over the traditional approach, which still prevails.

The traditional approach emphasizes staffing full-time employees. Anyone who has worked at an agency or a consulting firm knows first-hand the pressures full-time employees feel to remain billable. Freelancers are typically staffed by exception only when full-time talent is not available.

The networked model turns this approach on its head, staffing the right talent for the project from the burgeoning marketplace of independent talent. As a consequence, clients have a greater chance of getting the particular skills they need versus the skills that happen to be available. And, because the freelance model is project-driven, networked firms can easily staff up or down based on the ebb and flow of client needs.

The traditional approach also emphasizes working centrally in physical offices where employees commute to every day. A large percentage of client fee dollars go to supporting such overhead expenses, which often do not add direct value to a client’s project. In the networked model, projects are regularly completed in a virtual, distributed fashion. As a consequence, clients do not pay for extraneous overhead, and project teams and clients enjoy the benefits of increased productivity.

Making the Shift

The networked model of consulting or agency services offers tangible benefits to clients measured in quality, efficiency and flexibility. Better quality by tapping the right talent, regardless of whether it’s “in-house,” from the thriving independent workforce. Better efficiency by eliminating extraneous overhead. And better flexibility by enabling clients to swiftly staff up on and staff down based on fluctuating demands.

In many senses the model underscores the core value of a health consulting firm or agency in today’s economy — to be a curator and manager of specialized talent to solve a particular set of client challenges.

TheNew York Times article reminds us the workforce is rapidly shifting in all sectors of the economy. As a result of these trends, many astute life sciences marketers have begun to seek out firms who embrace this model and can rapidly and flexibly deploy specialized talent from their networks. What steps have you taken to adapt? Please share!

By Gregg Fisher
About the author: Gregg Fisher, managing partner, The Stem
Courtesy of mediapost

 

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