Stockholm Dispatch 2 – Ariba’s Costello “Here I Go Again”

Posted on October 8, 2010

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I don’t know where I’m goin
but I sure know where I’ve been
hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday.
An’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time
but here I go again, here I go again.

Lyrics from the White Snake Song “Here I Go Again”

You leave the country for a few days and look what happens!

Alright, I am not suggesting that Accenture waited until I was out of the country before announcing that they had acquired Ariba’s outsourcing unit for the rather pedestrian sum of $51 million US. Nor am I going to raise an eyebrow relative to the condition that $12 million of the total purchase price will be held in escrow subject to the performance of certain Ariba assets. Although given Ariba’s past track record the headline might as well read “Accenture buys Ariba’s outsourcing unit for $39M.”

I may even be inclined to look beyond the perfunctory “world class” references about the company or its new service capability, which seems to be one of a handful of stock quotes bandied about during the honeymoon period just following the culmination of a negotiated deal.

I might even be able to tolerate yet another senior executive proclamation that this transaction is somehow part of a “deliberate and overall strategy,” even though all evidence (and common sense) screams out otherwise.

However, the following “official” company line being delivered by Ariba President Kevin Costello is just too much over the top in terms of the disconnect from reality:

“In divesting our sourcing services and BPO assets and expanding our partner ecosystem to include world-class organizations like Accenture, Ariba can deliver on its strategy to provide companies with access to network-based solutions that allow them to more efficiently and effectively buy, sell and manage their cash.”

Now as a writer I appreciate the creative use of prose employed by Costello to deflect or perhaps distract the reader and market from the real story.  I mean referring to the Accenture deal as “expanding our partner ecosystem” is pure gold . . . where’s a tree, I feel like hugging one!

But how many ways can you say that your boat has sprung a leak and we are bailing unwanted cargo (and passengers)!  Oh well, I guess last year’s DNA transformation is this year’s ecological expansion.

After all, it seems that it was just a year ago that both Tim Minahan and Ahmed Rubaie (Ariba’s CMO and CFO respectively) came on the PI Window on Business amid proclamations that Ariba is “now in demand.”  While Minahan praised the courage of his fearless leader for making the tough decision to move from a traditional license model to a Software-as-a-Service model and Rubaie stressed a corporate DNA transformation in which very little head count would be lost in the transition, neither could really explain how the company had lost $3 billion US on $1 billion US sales between 2001 and 2005.  Nor as it now turns out by the Accenture deal, could they explain their company’s strategy for success.

Now fast forward to today, and Ariba is in the news again with another major shift that has some in the industry scratching their heads, while other grow increasingly cynical regarding the vendor’s ability to ever get it right.

No one really knows of course what goes on behind closed doors, so it is truly difficult to assess what in reality transpired relative to this latest move.  That being said, and using the above referenced interviews from last year to create a point of reference you tell me what you think . . . does the October 7th Accenture acquisition reflect a natural progression of the strategy Ariba proudly championed in my discussions with them?

The following are the links to both the the Minahan interview, and the Rubaie interview.

In the meantime . . . here we go again!

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Posted in: Commentary