Strong Supplier Partnerships are Key to a Successful MSP

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Since the emergence of managed services programs (MSP) the governing theories regarding the place of suppliers in the supply chain ecosystem relative to the MSP and customer have evolved significantly. Today, world-class MSPs recognize strong and mutually profitable supplier partnerships are of critical importance to the overall delivery of the value and efficiency MSPs provide to their customers. What follows are some best practices that can help your MSP ensure strong and lasting supplier partnerships.

Embrace Vendor Neutrality

Competition thrives best when there is a level playing field, and the same holds true in the supplier community. A vendor neutral MSP, that which is not owned by a staffing company, creates a more competitive environment because it must rely on external suppliers to fill job openings. Using a vendor neutral MSP, suppliers are offered the same requisitions, under the same terms and conditions, at the same time. As a result, suppliers view vendor neutral MSPs as fair and non-competitive, thus ensuring a higher degree of program adoption and long-term participation. Using a vendor neutral MSP allows suppliers to view the MSP as a partner rather than competitor from the very beginning.

Facilitate Meetings with Hiring Managers

One of the primary concerns that suppliers voice upon the implementation of an MSP is that their hard work in cultivating trusting relationships with hiring managers will be cut off and the insights gleaned from those relationships will be lost. A world-class MSP understands the criticality of suppliers having a deep knowledge of customers’ lines of business and the individual needs of hiring managers. While the “walking of the halls” that suppliers may have engaged in previously may no longer be permissible with a MSP, the ability to speak directly to managers is still of great value.

To ensure that those lines of communication remain open and those relationships stay intact, an MSP should support facilitating a supplier and hiring manager call for every requisition released. These types of facilitated calls allows suppliers the opportunity to ask hiring managers pertinent questions regarding the requisition and gain deeper insights into the requirements of the role and responsibilities, the project goals and culture of the team. These calls may occur multiple times particularly for niche or difficult to fill positions and when changes are made in the requirements following its release.

Encourage Clear and Consistent Communication

The most important factor required for a strong MSP and supplier partnership is a culture of clear and consistent communications. To ensure that suppliers are successful, it is incumbent upon the MSP to maintain frequent and open dialogue to help set program goals and expectations. The MSP and suppliers need to be collaborating and sharing information on position fulfillment, resume review, candidate feedback, and pertinent updates. Without this transparency into the sourcing process, there cannot be success for the customer, the suppliers or the MSP.

Optimize Your Supplier Base

Upon going-live with a new customer, some MSPs often set about drastically cutting the existing supplier list believing that smaller is necessarily better. A world-class MSP has a fundamentally different view, one of supplier optimization. There is no magic number for the amount of suppliers a program requires in order to be successful. Rather than worrying about how many suppliers are enrolled in the program, an MSP should focus on ensuring the program has the right suppliers aligned to the right skills and geography requirements. The goal of an MSP is not to minimize supplier participation but to maximize the effectiveness of those participating through proper alignment and performance measurements to ensure that the customer has the appropriate mix of suppliers to serve their labor requirements.

Provide Ongoing Assessment and Feedback

All relationships need periods of reflection and assessment; the MSP and supplier partnership is no different. World-class MSPs provide routine opportunities for discussion of supplier performance and feedback. Supplier forums need to be established to provide a vehicle for the MSP, suppliers, and customers to gather and discuss the current program state, areas of improvement and opportunity, and future plans. Supplier participation allows them to give voice to their experiences and provide constructive feedback as to how to continually improve the program. In addition to the forums, scorecards and business reviews are needed to show how suppliers within the program are performing relative to service level agreements and facilitating discussion for areas of opportunity and improvement moving forward.


A world-class MSP recognizes the mutually beneficial relationship with supplier partners is critical to a successful MSP program. Communication, transparency, efficiency, and mutual trust are keys to ensuring such successful partnerships.

Trish Braa is an executive vice president of solution design and business solutions at Workforce Logiq with over 20 years of operations experience. She develops and deploys strategic global workforce solutions that help customers achieve their corporate goals. Trish is an expert in operations management and change management with a focus on improving supply chain efficiency.

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