Minahan observation obvious, but should not be discounted coming from a software vendor

Posted on August 7, 2010

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“Bottomline: I agree that buyers and sellers need to put more commitment into their collaboration oaths. But online negotiation tools and collaboration can not only peacefully co-exist but actually can enhance one another.”

Tim Minahan comment in Commitment Matters Blog, August 6th, 2010

I for one have enjoyed the posts on Tim Cummins Commitment Matters Blog, as I have equally enjoyed his appearance as a frequent guest on the PI Window on Business.  The reasons are obvious in that Tim usually brings a cerebral perspective that extends beyond the traditionally siloed mindsets that have on more occasions than not limited the purchasing profession as a whole.

Tim Cummins

This includes covering subject matter that has ranged from the Buy American debate, to the challenges associated with transparency in the public sector procurement process, to the potential impact that Outsourcing will have on both domestic and global economies.

Simply put, Tim challenges the sacred cows of understanding in a manner that disarms and engages the reader, ultimately leading to meaningful exchanges such as demonstrated by Ariba’s CMO Tim Minahan’s comment above.

Cummins’ response to Minahan reflected the aforementioned balance when he referred to Dr. David Wyld’s position that while he is a “proponent of the applications now available to support business transactions and contracting,” the all important caveat is that their ultimate effectiveness “depends on correct use.”  Dr. Wyld is 100% correct with his assessment.

Unfortunately, and reflected in the high rate of eProcurement initiative failures which have been well documented within this blog over the past 3 plus years, this is a lesson that has not been readily embraced by the software community in general.

In their haste to sell a license or land an account, far too many vendors have adopted a “can do” mindset when it comes to meeting client requirements, without an actual appreciation of what is truly required of the client to successfully implement and realize the promise of the solution being offered.

This is a two-way street mind you as Cummins points out when he makes the statement “But in truth, the biggest issue is a lack of imagination and aptitude by the user community. It is once more a case of ‘a bad workman blaming his tools’. So this is the problem on which we must focus.”

While I am not inclined to place the full weight of the blame for initiative failures on the shoulders of the end user, who often times are more than willing to abdicate their implementation role and responsibilities in favor of a “just fix it” urgency, the “bad workman blaming his tools” analogy is still a good one.

So what is the answer.

From my perspective, and at the risk of sounding like Alan Greenspan in terms of his comments about self-correction within the investment market, it is the advent of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model that will ultimately lead to the required and necessary changes relative to the realization of efficiencies and savings.

The reason?  Unencumbered by large capital investments the client can now turn their attention from justifying a decision to one that centers on actual, real-world process improvement.  From the vendor perspective, with SaaS they are now operating on the basis of the writer’s equivalent of a “publish or peris”h edict in that they no longer receive huge sums of money up front for making something work 2 to 3 (or more) years down the road.  In short, vendors now get paid for delivering results instead of being paid solely the promise of results.  Hmmmm . . . perhaps this model should be applied to the legal profession?

All in all, this makes for a very interesting and even exciting time in our industry.

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Posted in: Commentary