One of the major challenges in the management of projects in the gig-economy is the identification, assignment, tracking, compensation, and evaluation of a diversified and/or blended workforce, (e.g., direct employees, contractors, temps, part-timers, etc.). We define “representative” as individuals of a blended workforce, contracted or employed, to perform work for the company responsible for managing a project. Representatives will include multiple worker types: employees (full-time, part-time, temps), independent agents/contractors, sub-contractor agencies, field service representatives, partner agencies, and sub-categories of any of these types. Each representative type has unique attributes, constraints, and requirements in the way they must be managed. Also, representative types, and related sub-categories, will have unique temporal, physical, communication, documentation, tracking, and reporting constraints. Therefore, laws, guidelines, regulations, competitive business practices, working group norms, and other constraints associated with each representative type must be considered and supported by the project management system.
This series of posts discusses “the new economy”, where the gig worker becomes more prevalent and necessary to successful project management. The thoughts expressed here are by Mark Dean, PhD, Electrical Engineering, Stanford University. A former Vice President in many capacities for IBM, he was also awarded IBM’s prestigious IBM Fellow status for his technical knowledge and accomplishments. He holds more than 40 patents including three of the nine original patents for the personal computer.
When using a gig-workforce to deliver infrastructure services, it is important to maintain focus on the areas of service delivery supported by the company. A company must have a well-defined list of project, work-order, and activity types which can be supported by its portfolio of gig-workers. This is even more important when designing a project management system to support delivery of infrastructure services in real-time using a gig-workforce or any other method of getting work done. Thus, the project management system must have the flexibility to support assigning, tracking, and reporting of all types of workers (e.g., employees, trade contractors, specialized OEM technicians, warranty repairs …) based on the project and/or work-order type. Therefore, we will define both project and work-order types for infrastructure services and unique elements needing support from a project management system.
Three major questions exist:
- How do you plan, assign, manage, track, and assess a project and/or multiple activities in an environment where the workforce is made up of independent agents/contractors (e. g. part of the gig-economy with no common association with a single company, organization, or agency)?
- What is required to support project managers ability to assign and complete, in a short period of time (hours to a few days), activities with high variability in scope, location, and specific actions required?
- How do you select and manage independent agents when all you have is a profile that cannot express things like cultural norms, biases, present challenges, existing distractions, work ethics, and other insights you experience when working with someone every day?
There has been a significant amount written on the emergence of the gig economy. Mark Graham and Jamie Woodcock, researchers and professors at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, have written extensively on the emergence and impact of the gig economy on businesses, workers, governments, and society in general. Their book, The Gig Economy: A Critical Introduction, provides clear insights on past, present, and future trends driving this new economic model. Another of their papers, “Towards A Fairer Platform Economy: Introducing the Fairwork Foundation” describes the nine preconditions which facilitate and drive the growth of emerging gig-work. Another prominent author, Nick Srnicek, a lecturer in Digital Economy in the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, talks about gig-work being mediated via advanced technology through digital platforms (Srnicek, N. 2017. Platform Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity). He argues that the platforms that mediate gig-work use “tools to bring together the supply of, and demand for, labor”. The insights provided by these academics, as well as those provided by many other researchers, business leaders, and intellectuals, help define the trends, opportunities and impact the gig-economy has, and will have, on business and society. The primary focus of the following is to explore the history, preconditions, and platform capabilities that enable infrastructure projects to be supported by a gig-workforce.