Assimilating Innovation (Part 2 of 3): Does Steve Sabol bias govern industry bloggers coverage? by Jon Hansen

Posted on April 15, 2013


In 1969 Steve Sabol produced a 22-minute review of Super Bowl III for NFL Films. In his pro-National Football League stance, Sabol focused more on the sore-armed Johnny Unitas’s valiant effort to rally Baltimore than on how the Jets made good on Joe Namath’s victory guarantee and beat the Colts, 16-7.

Sabol, the president of NFL Films, confessed: ”It was a cinematic triumph, but as a sports documentary, it was a disaster. I was so biased toward the Colts that I didn’t use the good Jets stuff.”

After the game, Namath turned his back on the NFL Films cameraman in the winners’ locker room.

from the New York Times article “Super Bowl III Revisited, on ESPN” by Richard Sandomir

Putting aside for the moment that I am sticking with the NFL -AFL theme from part 1 in this 3-Part series, it is kind of ironic that almost two years ago I wrote a post about Coupa guaranteeing savings titled Pitching a Joe Namath-type guarantee, COUPA has both the moxie and track record to pull it off.

I did this – as indicated in the title – by suggesting that with the “same moxie and a track record of successes a mile long,” Coupa’s then VP of Marketing Jason Hekl “delivered a Joe Namath-type guarantee that should put the staid old ERP fuddy duddies on notice that the game in terms of eProcurement has changed.”

Steve Sabol

Steve Sabol

Not everyone from the old guard was impressed with the model upon which Hekl and Coupa made the guarantee.  In this context there were a number of Coupa detractors including Jason Busch.  Busch, who was one of the speakers at this year’s Coupa Inspire event – a point that I will touch on shortly – was certainly one of the old guard bloggers who’s coverage of the upstarts was comparable to that of Sabol’s coverage of Namath and the Jets.

For example, my March 2nd, 2010 post (Unfortunately, some traditional mainstream pundits continue to miss the mark when it comes to Coupa and similar-type vendor solutions), in which I shared another blogger’s sentiments that perhaps Jason was missing the point relative to the emergence of web-based solutions, led Jason to suggest that I was heading “down the path of becoming the Fenimore Cooper of procurement blogs.

Not surprisingly I did, and still do, stand by my position in the above referenced post.

Of course Jason did not limit his somewhat biased “assessment” of the new league of emerging web-based solution providers to Coupa.  In my December 5th, 2011 post (Reference to Busch being blinded by familiarity and the decline of the old guard leads to a few interesting questions over the weekend), I touched upon his somewhat dismissive review of Source One’s WhyAbe offering.

Now it would be unfair to suggest that Jason was the only one to fall prey to the Sabol effect.  Negative terminology such as bolt on solutions had been around a long time before he launched his Spend Matters blog.  He was however in later years the most vocal detractor.

This brings us back to the here and now, and Jason’s participation in this past week’s Coupa Inspire event.  When I discovered that Jason was slated to be one of the main speakers at the venue I could not help but feel a deep sense of personal satisfaction on many levels.

To begin and like Sabol, who in later years was able to reconnect with Namath, Busch demonstrated a willingness to see things in a different light.  Don’t get me wrong, Jason is still attached at the hip to his old guard network but, his willingness to publicly realign his thinking with the new reality is nonetheless an important marker in the progression of Coupa and similar-type players.

Beyond the above recognition Jason, like many many bloggers and industry pundits, have a role to play in the merger of the old league with the new league.  Let’s face it the SAPs, Oracles and IBMs are not going away anytime soon.  They may be changing – and in some cases dramatically – but they are still going to be around for the foreseeable future.  As a result, someone from the past will also have to be around to share the stories from the pre-merger years.  Jason, and those from his era, are ideally suited for this contextual task.

All this being said, the next 12 to 18 months should prove to be very interesting as the old mixes with the new.  So stay tuned.  Who knows, given their prior affiliation, maybe Oracle will buy Coupa?  Just kidding . . . well maybe just a little.

In part 3, I will introduce you to the game changers that will herald in the new era of cloud based supply chain solutions.

Editor’s Note: In Part 1 of this series I had indicated that shortly after publishing and sharing that first post on the Coupa LinkedIn group I was expelled and subsequently blocked.  Yesterday, I received a DM on Twitter from Coupa indicating that they did not know what had happened and that if I sent them my e-mail they would add me to the group.  I sent my e-mail and now once again have full access.


Posted in: Commentary