“Work is no longer a place” -- oDesk launches Private Workplace to better manage freelance talent online

By Michael Carney , written on September 25, 2013

From The News Desk


The workplace is changing and with it the needs of companies to manage their personnel. Flexibility and efficiency are the buzzwords of the moment. This shift has been a boon for online talent-as-a-service (TaaS?) platform oDesk, which recently announced that it has crossed $1 billion in total wages paid through its platform since its founding in 2005. In 2012, the company booked more than $360 million dollars in services and processed a total of 35 million hours worked.

Today, oDesk is rolling out a major update to its platform to address the growing workforce management needs of its clients. The newly launched oDesk Private Workplace allows businesses to bring their existing contingent workers online and manage these talent resources alongside those freelancers engaged through the oDesk network.

The system allows these companies to replace manual time cards, to automate freelancer payroll and tax filings, and to organize and document the skillsets of their workers for rapid deployment when new tasks arise. Management can also gain insight into staffing utilization and cost, on an individual and aggregate basis, through oDesk’s reporting features. Through the oDesk API, companies can integrate with third-party project management, collaboration, payment, and ERP systems.

“The biggest change we’ve seen is a shift to a more mainstream enterprise customer [from those primarily in the technology sector],” says oDesk Vice President of Enterprise Matt Cooper. “And along the way, we’ve consistently been hearing, 'We need a better way to manage and pay this large workforce that we have ready and waiting.'”

It’s not just HR efficiency that improves with the use of oDesk, according to Cooper. Overall billing regularly goes down as well, as workers move away from manual time cards and can less easily “game the system.”

“We’ve seen a consistent drop of 25 percent in billable hours from 40 to 32 hours per week after companies move their workforce onto Private Workspace,” Cooper says. “It’s like magic. And while this may not be popular among workers initially, it actually makes their lives easier and allows them to bill against different activities and add transparency by drilling down to the task level.”

ODesk’s Private Workplace is publicly available but is not designed to be self service. Companies must contact oDesk to enroll. The pricing model is the same as the company’s base staffing solution, meaning that businesses using the platform pay oDesk a fee of 10 percent of all wages paid through the platform. The alternative solution of engaging traditional staffing and payroll firms would be far more costly, according to Cooper.

ODesk runs its own business using its Private Workplace platform and counts 350 freelancers among its global staff of 470 workers (120 full time). The company has raised a total of $44 million across four rounds of venture funding from backers including Benchmark, Globespan Capital Partners, Sigma Partners, T. Rowe Price, DAG Ventures, and SV Angel.

As oDesk CEO Gary Swart is fond of saying, “Work is no longer a place.” And as the working environment shifts toward flexible and distributed arrangements, platforms like oDesk grow increasingly vital to businesses managing their teams effectively.

[Image via Thinkstock]