Every Supply Management Vendor Should Review Their Strategy, Not Just Ariba

There was an interesting article over on Fast Company recently that described three steps for re-evaluating your company’s strategy. To illustrate why a company might need to reevaluate, the article chronicled Ariba’s rise, fall, and their recent 300% growth in their stock price over the last year.

According to the article, Ariba, which has a Supplier Network with over 500,000 participants that conducts 170B in transactions a year, had to change their model and refocus when their stock crashed from over $700 a share to $10 in a matter of months. This included opening up their network and switching to SaaS. Furthermore, according to the article, this change was the result of learning the following three strategic lessons:

  1. Don’t Confuse Missed Timing with Missed Vision
    Often the vision is right but ahead of its time.
  2. Look for the Rise in the Fall
    When a company is forced to revisit its strategy, it may find an opportunity it overlooked.
  3. Build the Snowball
    Find a solution that will draw in customers that will in turn draw in more customers.

While the lessons are important for Ariba, if Ariba has truly learned them (as I believe they could have done, and could still do, better than they have done with respect to lessons two and three), they are equally important for Ariba’s competitors. And, as the article points out, Ariba’s competitors have to ask the following questions:

  • If it ends up taking three times as long to achieve our vision, what would we do differently today?
    While some would argue the Supply Chain space is dead, only the leaders have adopted modern solutions, and the laggards are still struggling to get past a spreadsheet to an outdated ERP.
  • If our core business fails, how else could we profit from the assets and activities of our business?
    Sometimes it’s the right vision, but the wrong implementation. Sometimes an idea belongs in the consumer space. Sometimes the add-on becomes the application. And sometimes its just a different deployment model. The original business plan is just the starting point.
  • What is the kernal of our snowball?
    It’s all about making it almost viral.

If they do, many will be in a better position than they are today.