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The Cloud Delivers a New American Workforce

Companies are turning to the cloud to deliver solutions to better manage their contracted employees

A new American workforce is emerging. A recent report from Accenture says the number of U.S. workers who are independent (such as freelancers, contractors or temps) is up 6 percent from 1989. Work as we know it is changing. Because of constant connectivity, companies across the globe no longer need their employees in the same building - or the same state - in order to do their jobs well.

The rise in smartphones and cloud-based platforms has made it easier for businesses to tap into contractor networks to expand their workforces. For many companies, using a contractor or temporary employee helps them manage busy seasons and scale when demand rises unexpectedly. For instance, an air conditioning company may need extra employees in the spring and early summer to do seasonal cleaning and updates. Or during hurricane season in Florida, a home improvement store may need extra technicians to install storm shutters.

Supplementing existing employees with a contractor network is a relatively new concept, made much easier with technology such as smartphones and tablets. According to an IPM survey, more than 66 percent of respondents indicated they would take a lower-paying job if it provided flexibility.

To accommodate for this rise in the new American workforce, companies are turning to the cloud to deliver solutions to better manage their contracted employees. Virtual dispatch and job-management tools allow companies to find and remotely manage contracted or independent technicians closest to a service call, increasing employee utilization and service efficiency.

The History of the Cloud and the New American Workforce
As this workforce grew (and continues to grow today), company executives were struggling to manage the number of service calls and dispatch the correct independent contractor quickly. With the cloud, companies saw a way to get affordable access to shared resources.

The cloud was first born when IT departments were unprepared for the need for speed. As company employees began to demand things faster than IT departments could deliver, service providers saw a business opportunity. By delivering hosted services - now known as the cloud - in the early 2000s, workforce management companies offered a solution to their customers, effectively reducing the overhead cost of hosting and maintaining hardware and software themselves.

When the economy fell hard in 2008 and 2009, companies needed solutions that helped reduce cost while maintaining or increasing productivity. For companies that still needed - or wanted to gain - functionality, lowering costs became increasingly difficult. Companies needed a self-supported machine to store and share product and customer information with their full-time and contract workers. They needed increased bandwidth for storage, and they needed it at an affordable price.

What the Cloud Offers to Independent Contractors
Using a cloud-based platform, companies can manage all of their operations securely from the web. While using independent technicians or contracted workers, companies can collect information on customers, inventory and lead generation while storing it securely in the cloud. This means an independent contractor can be in a different state than the companies' corporate office, yet can access a customer's history, parts needed and skills required before going on a service call.

With cloud computing, the power is in an individual's hands. By taking hardware to the cloud, managers can manage people instead of software. Companies that offer cloud hosting services do the heavy lifting for these busy business owners, and ensure that everything runs smoothly and can be found easily.

The cloud can also store information on these independent contractors, which makes it easier for companies to ensure this mobile workforce is prepared before they go out on a service call. For example, companies can search for a contractor who specializes in cable installation. They instantly have access to contractors who qualify and can see their location and availability. Later in the process, they can view whether the contractor accepted the job, view status updates on the service provided, and generate reports to analyze the entire service process.

The cloud offers a seamless, affordable, easy-to-use platform to manage this growing workforce. The Accenture study showed that the majority of executives surveyed described the extended workforce as highly valuable for their business. As companies increasingly see the value of this skilled group, they will need cloud solutions that are affordable and easy to use.

More Stories By Mark Duffin

Mark Duffin is CEO and president of ServicePower. He joined ServicePower in November 2007 and is responsible for strategic direction, sales, operations, and development, together with finance, personnel, properties and MIS facilities. He is a qualified Chartered Engineer in both Mechanical and Manufacturing Control Systems with an MBA from Reading University.

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