Category Archives: rants

Has the Death of the Enterprise Suite Been Exaggerated?

There’s a big movement towards best of breed in many Procurement, and a bigger promotion on the part of many vendors towards such a movement. It makes sense, given that there are few suite vendors in the space compared to point-based best-of-breed vendors, which constitute the majority of vendors. But does that mean that the end of the enterprise suite is near?

Over on deal architect, the disruptor asks are enterprise suites dying? He notes the big disconnect between vendor and customer talk, including the facts that:

  • the last generation of vendor suites disappointed
    and that most customers ended up buying a number of “ring fence” applications and customizing the packages to meet their needs
  • the concentration of dollars with a handful of suppliers led to “lock-in” and bad vendor behaviour
    and the promise of economies from vendor reduction just stayed a promise
  • enterprises are finding a wide array of cloud applications
    that they themselves are weaving together

And these are true, and yes many burned CIOs are now anti-suite, but does this mean the suite is dead? There are still a number of managers and executives out there with the one-suite solution dream. Plus, as best-of-breed solutions pile up, the number of solution providers an organization has to deal with gets unmanageable for those CIOs who are under-staffed and under-resourced. So even if they don’t like the current suite providers, as too many solution providers creep in, they’ll like that situation even less.

So, while suites haven’t lived up to their promise, as Procurement organizations try to support their operations end to end with platforms, they are going to want less providers, not more. While they may not centralize on one suite, chances are they will want to centralize on a small number of multi-application vendors, and isn’t that just the definition of suite?

The Big Bad Blockchain

It’s not just the big bad wolf you have to worry about, it’s the big bad blockchain … especially when it becomes disassociated with bitcoin.

Bitcoin, which is neither good nor bad (it’s just another currency), is powered by a special type of blockchain — one that is decentralized, open, and auditable by anyone using the system. And one that is extremely hard to alter because altering a block (to steal the currency) would require not only require that every other block after it were regenerated, but all copies of such block (and there can be multiple as all nodes participating in the decentralized system can store a copy of the block) be replaced simultaneously.

Theoretically, this can be used to record supply chain transactions because we could create a virtual currency for any real world unit we want to trade (such as CELLcoins, RAMcoins, etc.) but could also encode other related information in the hash and serve as a fully auditable record of ownership of the corresponding products end-to-end, source-to-sink, but this would require that a similar, truly open, system be developed.

But right now, when you get down to it, the most “open” blockchain proposals are akin to the most “open” supplier networks … and there are no truly open supplier networks. Every supplier network of note in existence is owned by a for-profit company and even those with “open” APIs or “open” integration are not really “open”. Yes, there is an API that third parties can integrate into, but in every case there is a “catch” — either the integration is limited or integration is only permitted at a “price”. It’s not open and free — and “openness” is only “open” as long as the network decides they are “open”.

If any company owns the blockchain, then it is not truly open, and not truly decentralized, open, and auditable by anyone and everyone. And that is necessary for a true block chain solution. So until a global non-profit conglomerate with Procurement punch and tech-chops steps up and creates a truly open, decentralized, non-corporate controlled block-chain solution, let’s stop pretending blockchain is the solution we’ve been waiting for … because all we’re going to get is a prison for our data that will come with hefty prison maintenance fees. And then we won’t just be talking about how Ariba doesn’t have customers, it has prisoners. We’ll be talking about how BlockChain Company X has everyone’s supply chain data as prisoner.

So while you continue your Bitcoin Buoyancy, we’ll keep our expectations realistic.

Vendor Scorecards DO Work – But Only if They are Done Right!

A recent guest post over Spend Matters by Andy Kohm, founder of VendOp, provided 4 reasons why supplier scorecards don’t work, which is a terribly inaccurate and a disservice to the procurement space because

  1. They Do Work if done right and
  2. what he was describing was internal vendor surveys, NOT scorecards.

Even worse, if he had said internal vendor surveys don’t work, SI would have totally agreed and hailed the post because, frankly, internal vendor surveys don’t work. Expecting enough people to fill out enough long surveys to get statistically reliable data when everyone is overworked, underpaid, and tired of doing everyone else’s job (because no one has time to do their own) is just ludicrous. It’s not going to happen, and when it does, the data and answers are not going to be that good or reliable because the surveys will be filled out in a rush. And all the reasons provided by Mr. Kohm will hold true.

But you see, a scorecard, at least a proper scorecard, is not a survey, or a summary of soft, qualitative feedback survey scores, but a summary of hard, quantitative metrics built up from hard data over time. A scorecard summarizes hard performance metrics, KPIs, and unarguable (undisputable) incident counts, not subjective scores on reliability.

We have to remember that just like anchoring can be a problem in negotiations, it can be a problem in subjective ranking. If the last couple of interactions with the supplier were problematic, the recipient is likely to fill out a fairly negative score even if the 20 interactions before that were great and, overall, the supplier is batting 800. Similarly, if the last few interactions were particularly good (because the supplier knows their review is coming up and making extra effort just to score enough to pass), the recipient may rank the supplier very positively even though 8 out of 10 requests are ignored on average. In short, for reliability, surveys suck.

But hard scorecards, built on on time statistics, reject rates, incident counts, billing accuracy, and so on are unbiased, anchored in fact (and not fiction), and work. They allow both parties to zero in on true issues, problems, and disagreements, and work collaboratively to fix them. They are the best supplier relation management tool the average organization has at their disposal and should not ever be discounted. Proper scorecards are the solution, not the problem.

Future Trend 34: Digital Transformation

How did SI miss this one in it’s two in-depth series on the future of procurement and it’s follow up future trends expose???

This anti-trend is as old as the internet!

But let’s back up. Recently, the procurement dynamo published a piece on the digital transformation of procurement where he asked if it was a good abuse of language. In this post he started off by noting that the digital transformation expression is an overused buzzword — which is an understatement.

Secondly, as the procurement dynamo notes, no one has a proper understanding of what it actually means. the procurement dynamo attempts to rectify this by giving a clear definition of the term with respect to the also overused digitization and digitalization terminology. According to the procurement dynamo

  • digitization is the conversion from analog to digital … atoms to bits …
  • digitalization is the process of using digital technology and the impact it has and
  • digital transformation is a digital-first approach that encompasses all aspects of business

… and, in particular, digital transformation is a digital-first approach to the extent that digital can be applied.

And this means that this is yet another anti-trend in Procurement as leading organizations have been doing this ever since the adoption of e-Auctions. The best organizations have been adopting, to the extent possible, new technologies since the e-auction hit the scene 20 years ago. RFX. True e-invoicing. Supplier Information Management. Contract Management. Decision Optimization. And so on. The leaders (which are very, very few) have pushed for, and embraced, digital transformation for the last two decades.

And, to be honest, when you get right down to it, the concept of digital transformation is, as a farmer would say, hogwash. You’re either continually adopting and using the best tools and processes available to you, or you are counting down to the days your doors close. The organizations that have survived decades have embraced multiple technological revolutions. They’ve went from carbon paper to copiers to digital transmission. Digital transformation is just the latest technological revolution, and may not be the last. (If quantum tech gets perfected, you’ll have to move to technology based on qubits … a blend of atoms and bits.)

So don’t fall for the latest fad — keep focussed on the goal. Better business building.

London Bridge Has Fallen Down!

Back in October, in our post on how London Bridge is Falling Down, we brought to your attention a post by the public defender that discussed how The Garden Bridge was, again, put on hold, which it should have been given that a review did find major breaches of good procurement process. From allowing a supplier to submit a bid after the formal deadline, to a lack of documentation, to changing the evaluation process once bids were received, to treating suppliers differently – as we said, if any unsuccessful bidder had challenged in court there is no doubt that they would have won their case.

But now it seems, as per a recent post from the public defender, that we are now at the point where The Garden Bridge Loses Treasury Support and London Bridge has, indeed, fallen down. And maybe this time it’s for the best.