To what extent, then, will collaborative consumption affect the workplace?
‘Well, that largely depends on the organisational aspirations, the functional characteristics and the culture of the business,’ says Andrew Mellett, managing director of Plexus, a Melbourne-headquartered virtual law firm that provides high volume, lower complexity legal services that companies have historically found to be high cost and commensurately low value.
‘A private-sector corporation that aims to return to its core competencies may use the principles of collaborative consumption to subcontract its non-core tasks,’ says Mellett.
‘Another business might leverage the potential efficiency benefits of accessing services on-demand instead of having to otherwise own a whole bunch of underutilised employees – we’ve branded this ‘just-in-time talent’ to borrow from a manufacturing term. And another firm might be attracted to the scalability offered by this model, which can be ramped up and down in real-time.’
‘What I’m suggesting,’ says Mellett, ‘is that businesses are moving from large static teams to a more dynamic operating model where they will bring in the required specialty skills on-demand to cover spikes in resourcing.’ In other words, volatile business conditions can be negotiated more confidently if the talent base is somewhat dynamic.
Mellett’s proposition is driven by research that suggests that for every dollar spent on salary, a further 80 cents is spent on other associated hidden costs. Corporate real estate alone costs a business on average over US$12,000 per person every year. Firms like Plexus aim to eliminate many of these associated costs by stripping overheads and redundant resource capacity. ‘If you add this to the high profit aspirations associated with legal partnership models, we can deliver our clients a 70% saving through our virtualised model,’ says Mellett.