Workspend's Approach to QBRs: Actionable Insights based on Systems Thinking


Almost every managed service provider (MSP) holds quarterly business reviews (QBR) for its clients globally. Workspend is no different in that aspect, except for one key differentiator: actionable insight.

By that, we mean that during our QBRs, we not only share the data but also answer questions surrounding “so what?” Data, in and of itself, carries little value, however, data, by comparison, shares valuable information regarding your program’s strengths and weaknesses. Workspend takes that a step further and shares specific strategic and tactical advice to help improve the program and meet the client organization’s contingent talent objectives, which ultimately is the real purpose behind the usage of a contingent workforce. One of our primary goals from the QBR is to deliver actionable insight, which is information that provides enough insight into the future that the actions that should be taken are clear for decision makers.

We view the QBR as a great opportunity for various business units to highlight the progress they have made, bring to light the issues they are facing, and to plan for the near- and long-term future. The unique, and oftentimes complex, feature of an MSP QBR is the interdependency of various functions that becomes apparent as one gets into discussions that revolve around different areas such as compliance, legal and contractual issues, employer branding, supplier payments, and more.


Systems Thinking & Dynamic Complexity

Viewing QBRs as an opportunity to align on program strategy and drive value for the client, Workspend uses a systems thinking approach towards conducting these important quarterly reviews. Systems thinking, often associated with a collection of tools and methods, is an underlying philosophy that applies a holistic approach to analysis. It seeks to understand how things influence one another within a whole. Applied to business organizations, where individuals tend to focus on individual results rather than what the organization produces as a whole, systems thinking provides a framework for people, structures, and processes to work together to produce positive outcomes. That is to say, it differs significantly from the traditional reductionistic analytic view, by analyzing the relationships between the individual parts of the system to understand the potential for better decision-making.


To better comprehend systems thinking, let’s use a practical non-business example. A basketball team, whose purpose is to win games, is a system, comprised of elements such as players, a coach, a field, and a ball, all of which can be changed at will. These elements are interconnected by game rules, strategies, and player’s communications. Now, what happens if we change the various elements of the system? By altering the elements, we would still have the basketball team; it may or may not perform better, but it would still be 5 players dribbling a ball. If we change the interconnections or the purpose, however, the results are more drastic.  A new set of rules (i.e. allowing players to kick the ball) could change the game entirely. Shifting the purpose from winning to having fun, and there would potentially be a shift in what we actually see occurring on the court.


In an area as multifaceted as a contingent workforce program with many moving pieces, we end up with what is referred to as “dynamic complexity”; that is, the same action has different effects in the short-term and long-term. For instance, think of a situation where a quick fix could be applied; while this solves the problem in the short-term, it usually doesn’t do anything for similar problems in the future, thus missing the dynamic complexity. Thinking through dynamic complexity, where the relationship between cause and effect can be very subtle, means that the conventional approach of forecasting, planning, and executing, employed by most MSPs during QBRs is not equipped to handle the ever-changing dynamics of the market and the talent acquisition/management landscape.


Systems Thinking Applied to QBRs

At Workspend, we aim to apply systems thinking to drive value in our clients’ programs, keeping an eye out for dynamic complexity. That is, we look for ways in which the solution might look completely different in the long-term versus the short-term, and then collaboratively make decision based on the full system (full picture) rather than just a facet (snapshot).


Using the services of the talent available in the Strategic Center of Excellence (SCOE), the Workspend program team for each client kicks off QBR planning two months before the actual event. The Workspend leadership team, the onsite program teams, along with the analytics, and research teams together decide the overall strategy related to the QBR – a specific and tailored strategy for each client. The planning focuses not only on the metrics for each program but also the multiple different aspects that impact or are impacted by the program.

The SCOE teams then start gathering the information, consistently updating it until about a week before the actual QBR. While the metrics often reflect the period being considered in the QBR, the SCOE team also focuses on the larger macro picture, which means keeping tabs on economic turns, updates in the compliance laws, changes in public policy or taxation laws, and more. In addition, the SCOE leverages Workspend’s ecosystem of technology partnerships to utilize online talent acquisition analytical tools, like People Ticker and Talent Neuron, that have real-time information on global contingent talent metrics, including the availability of talent in different countries, the rates, the time it usually takes to find candidates, etc.

Gathering the program metrics and market intelligence is only the first part of the job. After this information has been collected and analyzed, the Workspend team, using their experience and knowledge, creates strategic and tactical plans that will need to be executed to keep the program on a trajectory to meet the goals and objectives that were specified by the client leadership. These plans are dynamic and are kept up-to-date as the QBR approaches. The systematic thinking approach to data analysis allows us to offer our clients actionable insight, enabling our clients and program teams to make decisions that have pragmatic implications.


Even after the QBR, once the action plans have been approved and put into play, the SCOE and the program teams then work together very closely: While the program teams are more focused on the day-to-day operations with a client, the SCOE has the resources to support the program teams and focus on the changing market dynamics.


The actionable insights that Workspend shares is based on an in-depth analysis of the program, the operational updates, and the contingent talent ecosystem. A detailed action plan is laid out, along with the dates, and other key attributes that need to be kept into consideration.


Delivering QBRS that Drive Value

A unique combination of experienced leadership, onsite and industry experience from the program team, along with the applications of systems thinking towards research and data analysis allows Workspend to deliver highly strategic QBRs with unique information and a focused plan with actionable insights to achieve the goals of the program. Our approach to QBRs allows us to gain a deeper understanding of our client’s business and future plans, and to collaboratively strategize on how we can deliver more value based on these factors.

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