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eLance Goes Vertical With Software

Spend management software maker eLance launched Services Procurement and Management 4.5 (SPM) with an eye towards the vertical.

The point release, rolled out Tuesday, expands the customer's management of the services a company contracts -- whether it's a legal consultation or new marketing campaign -- within industry-specific (or vertical) sectors. Once the services have been contracted, SPM 4.5 keeps tabs on the contracts to cut down on costs related to hiring outside help.

According to officials at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based, company, savings can translate to millions of dollars or as much as a 17 percent reduction in spending. Andrew Bartels, Forrester Research vice president, said in a recent report that "services procurement applications have a real effect on the bottom line, both for buying companies and service suppliers."

Ashley Stirrup, eLance vice president of product strategy, said the company has been proactively looking for enhancements to its software.

"Initially what we've really been doing is evangelizing the fact you can manage any kind of service with an application," Stirrup said. "Now that we've got these applications in place, customers are saying, 'hey, what about these service categories?' "

Officials point to the fact that different companies have different needs: for example, a financial services company has more need for advertising and marketing to design new campaigns, while a manufacturing company will focus more of its services needs on maintenance.

The past couple years have been pretty rough for software companies. The crash of the dot-com bubble, as well as companies curtailing many new technology investments, forced vendors to bring their software more in line with customer demands, rather than forcing them to buy a generalized software suite and get a systems integrator to shoehorn the application into the specific enterprise.

Finding the best company to provide a service, and at a good rate, can pose problems for companies looking for an expedient method of searching, contracting and paying off vendors that provide these services. eLance's SPM offering cuts down on the time spent performing those functions and keeping a consistent record of the contracts for future use.

The company said its software dovetails nicely with the eLance's original business model as an online marketplace of companies and individuals who perform services-related functions. To date, according to Stirrup, the company has between 40,000 and 50,000 users registered to its marketplace.

With eLance SPM 4.5, the categories available have been expanded to allow for industry-specific services within marketing, advertising, print, asset maintenance, research and development, consulting and contingent staffing.

Also included in SPM 4.5:

  • External workforce management modules to manage the outsourced workers who are inside the company campus.
  • A marketing and campaign management offering assigns and keeps track of all projects, from defining the project to bidding to monitoring budgets.
  • Labor pay rate feature enhancements to include flextime, tenure-based discounts and temp workers. Support for different currencies is also included in SPM 4.5.
  • Order specification and supplier collaboration lets buyers set the key terms for an order and suppliers recommend additions to the order.