Forrester’s Duncan Jones and His Big Bang Theory Relating to Market Evolution by Jon Hansen

Posted on July 10, 2013


“I don’t see any evidence that this product was at all significant in IBM’s decision to acquire Emptoris, let alone be “based on the acquisition” as you seem to be suggesting.  Its too early to expect IBM to have coherent plans for what to do with its services procurement product, and while it doesn’t fit within the Smarter Commerce vision as well as Emptoris’s other products, IBM wont want to ignore its potential.”

Forrester’s Duncan Jones’ comment regarding my December 22nd, 2011 post “With IBM’s acquisition of Emptoris the other shoe drops vis-à-vis the latter’s 2009 acquisition of Click Commerce . . .”

I inadvertently came across the above comment recently when checking a link into my Procurement Insights blog.  For some reason I had missed it when it was originally posted.  However, and with a better late than never attitude, here are my thoughts regarding Duncan’s response to my post.

Like the Longfellow poem about shooting an arrow into the air and not knowing where it landed, Duncan Jones’ suggestion of incoherency relating to IBM’s acquisition of Emptoris suggests that things just happen.

Along the lines of a Big Bang event, Jones asserted that acquisitions such as the one made by IBM when they acquired Emptoris are largely intuitive and representative of a nebulous fear of falling behind as opposed to being a reflection of a deliberate, forward thinking strategy.  And you wonder why traditional analyst firm creditability is waning?!

The fact is, that it is not the strategy or vision relating to the acquisition that presents uncertainty but, the execution of the strategy in the real world.  Or to put it another way, you have a clear idea of what you are doing at the time, including your intended outcome.  At least in most instances. There are exceptions.

In response to a Jason Busch criticism that I lacked both the expertise and experience in such lofty matters such as the IBM acquisition of Emptoris, I would write the following about said exceptions:

Thank you for sharing your comments Jason. This is what I love about our business . . . the ability to respectfully agree to disagree.

Pertaining to your questions regarding actual experience in the areas you had highlighted, the answer would be a resounding yes.

When I had led the research to develop a platform leveraging the utilization of advanced algorithms under an agent-based model the end result was a solution which led to my company being acquired for $12 million.

The organization that acquired my firm was a publicly traded company whose core competency was in the area of IT component distribution.

In the late 1990′s and early 2000, their stock was significantly buoyed by the dot com “craze” providing them with more capitalization than actual, real-world smarts. In an effort to maintain the stock’s performance, this company went on a buying spree largely spurred on by the promise of a financially strategic relationship with one of the large telecoms.

Besides my company, which at the peak generated close to $2.3 million profit on $6.9 million in sales revenue, they acquired a web development firm, a secure payment firm as well as other ancillary acquisitions. Talk about a “departure from core competencies!”

Unfortunately the senior executives for the acquiring company’s focus on stock valuations caused them to go off course creating a blurred mandate. In essence, in trying to be everything to everyone they failed to focus on their strengths. In the end, this 15 year company ultimately collapsed under the weight of it’s incomplete visions of grandeur.

Having lived and breathed it on a very real basis, first as a senior executive of a company that was being acquired, and then as the president of a publicly traded company that had acquired other entities, I can say with full certainty that I do not see a parallel with Emptoris.

Understanding their organization from a technological perspective, as well as a practical business standpoint there is no such division of attention. In fact, based on my R&D days, which is why I referenced the three-part Dr. Raskina posts, I would be surprised if Emptoris had not made the move into this space.

Thank you once again for your thoughtful contribution.

Similar to my response regarding the Emptoris acquisition of Click Commerce, I do not see any parallel between the absence of a coherent strategy associated with the company who acquired my firm, and IBM’s strategy relating to the acquisition of Emptoris.

Even though it seems that Jones is suggesting otherwise, a recent Forrester report rating IBM procurement solution as a leader, in which they specifically cite Emptoris as a key element in their assessment, speaks volumes.

Jones and Busch (separated at birth) - they even have the same hair cut . . .

Jones and Busch (separated at birth?) – they even have the same hair cut . . .


Posted in: Commentary