By John Winsor
What’s the best way to help an employee navigate multiple freelance resources? That’s a question we often get when a company begins to source work through one—or sometimes many—on-demand open talent platforms.
Some companies handle this by selecting and customizing one dedicated platform to work through. Others, like NASA, require and benefit from the unique capability offered by a variety of platforms, so they secure several agreements—some with customized capability—and employees learn to utilize all of them. This can create some crazy busy chaos, so I recently invited Steve Rader, deputy director for the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI), to talk about how NASA helps its employees navigate using multiple platforms. Rader and CoECI have gotten uber good at helping other orgs onboard and navigate the transition to the “future of work.” Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Q: How many platforms and projects are you working with?
Though we have about 16 different crowd platforms that we use, most projects at the agency or in other federal agencies are typically working with just one platform at a time. We’re currently facilitating about 30 projects using nine different contractors simultaneously across NASA and other federal agencies that are all at various stages of execution. All of this work is predicated on previous efforts to put an approved legal framework in place, establish contracts, and build up a process framework.
Q: How do you get them feeling comfortable working this way?
We want our employees to learn to use our open talent platforms with more process automation and less assistance required from our team. Teams that have done three to four projects with us take much less of our time, and our sales-force workflow is beginning to automate our processes. Some challenges—especially international challenges with the agency brand name—will always require some level of coordination across the agency. We’re also working with NASA procurement on new contract methods to access crowd or gig talent and on making NASA’s internal talent more flexible for assignment across the agency. Our hope is that these efforts will result in a culture that moves away from only using static, local employee–centric teams toward more dynamic distributed teams where talent needs are met on demand with a mix of internal and external gig/freelance/crowd resources.
Q: How does CoECI support the employee process?
Our CoECI team, which includes about six project coordinators, works with the client team through six steps. The first step is education, workshops and outreach to organizations and projects. The second is managing/monitoring the overall engagement with that client group. The third is developing project scope prior to selecting a platform. The fourth, advising on possible platforms and/or working the competitive task order process for the NOIS contract where we release mini-RFPs to the vendors on the NOIS contract and have them propose plans for executing the task order. The fifth is facilitating meetings and communication with platforms as needed to get them up and running and work through any issues as they come up. And the sixth is about gathering metrics and results data for each project for program performance analysis, case studies, and research.