2021 has been a big year for Utmost - in more ways than one. For us, 2021 has been a significant turning point: We’ve tripled our customers in production, quadrupled our product footprint, more than doubled our team, and seen some major changes in the market. It’s been a busy year (video).
For any organization to continue to be successful, it must make sure to learn from its mistakes and learn from the market. As we reflect on 2021, here are some of our key takeaways:
1. HCM Suites Are the Wrong Home
In 2021, we came to the conclusion that the needs of the extended workforce require a dedicated application that embraces the diversity of the worker population and the diversity of stakeholders and enterprise applications in the back end. We formed Utmost on the thesis that a talent-centric view of the extended workforce was essential. We initially assumed that a talent-centric view meant a HCM-centric view. We were right about talent being important. We were wrong about it being HCM- centric. Over the course of 2021, we’ve come to realize that HR systems are incapable of any natural extension to manage the extended workforce. At their core, HR suites manage the relationship between an employer and an employee. In the world of the extended workforce, there is always a 3rd-party “supplier”. The fundamental complexities introduced by the wide variety of 3rd-parties make it essential to have a distinct application to manage the extended workforce - an Extended Workforce System (EWS).
Furthermore, the EWS needs to treat the HCM suite as a first-class citizen alongside the Financial and Procurement Suites. For many enterprises, this means SAP Financials and Coupa Procurement. Equally, more and more managers are going to internal portals such as ServiceNow to get tasks completed. When it comes to reporting and analytics, many organizations use Tableau and Snowflake. Finally, for casual user interactions, the default is Slack or Microsoft Teams. The EWS is best conceived as a standalone application that merges seamlessly into the modern, diverse application landscape. We look forward to making this diversity a cornerstone of 2022!
2. Networks Are Key
Right at the beginning of Utmost, we believed that a network of workers, suppliers, and enterprises was an essential building block for enabling the disruption of the existing VMS software market. Only through a network can you create the kind of efficiencies needed to offer general value for all members of the community in the extended workforce. One single persistent profile empowering workers; one efficient way of transacting with all customers for suppliers with access to a community of talent, and insights for enterprise users. The narrow focus of VMS on point-to-point, financial interactions between a set of suppliers and the enterprise is fundamentally the wrong starting point: It leads to the VMS becoming hostage to the Staff Augmentation use case. With almost 100,000 workers, we’ve finally seen the real value of the network come alive.
3. Get Work Done
Through the development and deployment of Utmost Front Door™ during 2021, we’ve learned that the most important thing is helping managers “get work done”. It’s easy for managers to get lost in the complexities of the enterprise system they’re supposed to navigate - a complete acronym jungle of VMS, P2P, FMS, IDM, ATS, etc. Therefore, you need to step back and think about the core problem: a manager is simply looking for the best way to get work done. What is the fastest, most cost-effective way to get a task performed? It’s up to software to abstract away all the underlying complexity and make that task as simple as possible. That is the challenge that we’ve taken on and successfully completed with Utmost Front Door™. In 2022, we are going to make Utmost Front Door™ even smarter and connect it to a wider range of internal and external data sets and systems.
If there was one technical product area that we really devoted a large amount of intellectual time to during 2021, it was invoicing. Again and again, we would hear from customers about the complexity of invoicing inside VMSs. As we pulled this apart, it became clear that the VMS approach to invoicing is rooted in the history of a VMS being deployed on the MSP side of the fence - the legacy VMS insistence on being the system of record for invoices is rooted in the notion that the VMS was part of an outsourced service. The drawbacks of this legacy approach are myriad: it means invoicing is the most challenging element to deploy and prevents the VMS from being a global solution.
5. Raising the CW Game
One of the many profound learnings from 2021 was a deeper understanding of the role of the Contingent Worker Program Manager inside large enterprises. It is very typical to find a single individual tasked with managing a contingent work program in excess of $100M. For historical reasons, an enterprise has focused on its employees and disproportionately underfunded the support it offers in the area of non-employees. This has led to an overly transactional view of the contingent workforce, which in turn leads to a purely tactical focus on outcomes: is the CW program within spend? Are we getting the best rates? Are suppliers filling headcount efficiently and effectively? In 2022, we’d like to help the CW Program Manager make the program more strategic. We’d like to help answer questions such as: is the organization getting the most from all its non-employees? Does the organization have the right blend of employees vs. non-employees?
Through the early part of 2022, we’ll be diving into each of these points (and more) in detail as we share our point of view and vision. We look forward to hearing your feedback as we continue to innovate and disrupt the market.
If you put all these elements together, we believe that 2022 will be very bright for Utmost. We envisage a network with millions of workers, tens of thousands of suppliers and thousands of enterprises. All of these actors are collaborating to get work done in the most efficient and cost effective way possible. For the first time, an enterprise has direct relationships with workers and suppliers have real-time insights into the work being done and the workers doing it. This is what disruption in the Extended Workforce looks like to us.
Finally, we’d like to thank all the customers, partners, and other stakeholders who’ve come on the journey with us in 2021. For all those who’ve put their trust in us, we say: a very big thank you. In 2022, we are poised to become the main disruptor in this space. We’re going big, and we’re not going home!