Category Archives: rants

One Reason Why PE-LED M&A May Be A Good Thing

M&A Mania seems to be at an all-time high! It’s crazy days and crazy nights.

But as per a classic post from 10 years ago, sometimes there’s something to be said for private equity

and the ability to tell Wall Street to take a hike!

Ten years later, the situation described in a classic piece on the intersection of Wall Street and Private Equity with the Supply Chain from the Supply Chain Digest still exists. And sometimes, the situation is even worse.

To jog your memory:

… one large retailer had the opportunity recently to save an expected $50 million from a supply chain network redesign project, included shifting from a number of smaller distribution centers to larger ones. The project had a great ROI and the capital was available — but the company delayed the project just because of the potential for Wall Street to view the project as too risky operationally and financially …

There’s wanting a good return on assets and there’s pure stupidity. And sometimes, all VCs and Wall Street care about is pure stupidity! The best returns come from a long term outlook, not a current quarter outlook.

So PE inspired acquisitions and roll-ups might actually be a good thing. But of course, only time will tell.

Dear Vendor: Your Code is Ugly …

You heard me! Your code is ugly! Butt Ugly! And if it’s not, then your UI is ugly. And if it’s not, then your functionality is ugly. But trust me. Something is ugly … and uglier than that horrendously ugly sweater you are wearing with pride this holiday season.

So just accept it — and stop complaining every time a new analyst report comes out that doesn’t put you on top. Because, first of all, only one vendor can be on top … and that’s not going to be you. (And if it is you, it’s not going to be for long.) Regardless if it’s a pure quadrant, blended quadrant, wave or some other report, the rating system used is only going to put one vendor on top — which is the vendor with the most mature, complete, and fleshed-out platform against that rating system. Unless you picked that exact path, how could it be you? And if it is you, and you’re far ahead, it’s probably going to look like the rating system was specially designed to put you on top. (We all know the story of the One Million Dollar PO — you don’t want someone thinking that you paid for your rating, do you?)

The goal is to be in the top quadrant, wave, or other leader area, not to win!

So stop complaining every time you don’t come out on top and start learning instead. (Do you seriously think complaints are going to get you anywhere?) If the rating, or at least a considerable portion of it, is objective, then, for every factor your solution is scored on, there’s a specific criteria you can access and evaluate. Generally speaking, if the analyst firm is at least worth its weight in salt, there’s a good reason for that criteria. If you don’t meet it, why?

  • is it because you just haven’t had time to implement the functionality yet?
  • is it because you feel the functionality is too simple or advanced for the market?
  • is it because it’s an area that you don’t define as core to your solution offering?
  • is it because you don’t think it’s relevant to your customers?
  • etc.

You should have a good reason, and you should re-evaluate that reason if the analyst firm considers a specific piece of functionality to be moderately to highly relevant, because:

  • the analyst firm has a reason for including it
  • the analyst firm talks to considerably more vendor companies, that collectively have considerably more customers than you
  • the analyst firm talks to customers YOU DO NOT HAVE
  • the analyst firm has a more comprehensive read on the direction of the market

Now, you can’t win them all, can’t serve them all, and can’t do everything (and definitely can’t be best at everything), so you may want to make some conscientious decisions not to go down some paths and instead go down paths where you can win and serve the majority of the market niche, and that’s okay. But if you make enough of those decisions, you need to understand that the more you have to make, the more niche the map has to be for you to win. And that’s not a very big market.

Winning is not winning the map. Winning is surviving long enough to win the market. That means being ahead enough to win more deals than average, but not being so niche you start winning less or shrinking the market available to you.

Just When We Thought M&A Had Peaked … WorkDay Tries for the Win with Scout!

Now, while I thoroughly agree with the acquisition, as I quoted in Spend Matters’ initial coverage … because it does make perfect sense for Workday and for Scout … I have to admit that the valuation is incredible and the multiple almost non-sensical at first, second, and even tenth glance.

So let’s take a step back. One of the rules that investors follow is the rule of 40, which means that, in 5 years, the company revenue should be 5X what it is today. It might be a bit less, but if growth stays steady, revenue should at least be 3.5 to 4X what it is today, and that’s enough to justify a 7X investment as the investor should be able to “sell the company up the chain” to a bigger investor at 3X what they invest today. And if the deal is just right, maybe a 8X to 10X if there is a lot of cross-company application synergy with another company in the portfolio and they can quickly market and sell to a larger customer base than either company could on its own, but that’s about it. (And of course, assuming the revenue is focussed entirely on license/subscription fees and not services.)

But, as far as can be fathomed, Workday payed a 20X+ multiple for Scout, and that, on the surface, is usually beyond absurd. Even at aggressive growth, it will take Workday at least a decade to make their investment back if we follow the rule of 40. And a lot can change in the market in ten years. But it’s more than just an application and another market for Workday. It’s a strategic acquisition that will give Workday much more than a key component missing in its B2B wheelhouse. Why?

Whatever the reason the acquisition team came up with internally, Workday has to contend with the fact that not only was it’s suite lacking in S2P, and significantly lacking in upstream capability, but that in order to move upstream in the ERP world, and contend with the likes of Oracle and SAP (and fend off any efforts of SAP and Oracle to poach Workday’s customers as the customers grew and matured), Workday needed a good S2P offering, tightly integrated with their Finance and HR applications, and Workday needed one fast. Scout, with which they already have a few integrations with, fits the bill and has a track record, like Workday, of rapid development. It is Workday’s best shot at building and integration an 80% S2C solution for the mid-market quickly.

Also, Workday also has to contend with the fact that some of its earlier interfaces, while more modern than many of Oracle’s and SAP’s older interfaces, are not as modern as some of its newer applications and even some of its newer applications could use a facelift. And Scout has the interface customers like.

Finally, if the mid-market is moving towards a combined Procurement/Finance suite, Workday is going to need to have a true cloud-native S2P platform integrated sooner rather than later. (It’s not a party that Workday, with its ambitious growth plans, wants to miss.)

So while a deal like this would usually be absurd and one that any investment firm should run from as fast as they can, this was a very strategic acquisition investment for Workday and the sooner they got started on the S2P path, the better their chances of actually becoming a serious player both in the ERP market and the S2P market before it’s too late to make a difference.

(This is just a high level analysis. If you really want to understand all of the nuts and bolts behind a deal such as this, I recommend checking out the prophet‘s 4-part deep analysis over on Spend Matters Nexus [membership required]: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. In addition, the prophet and the maverick teamed up for a customer recommendation piece over on Pro [membership required]. Note that the prophet‘s views may not entirely correspond with the doctor‘s.)

However, the end result is that they’ve just taken the M&A mania up a notch, and now firms that don’t have a solid grip on the models, but want in on the action, will be making mad men bids and all hell is sure to break loose. So buckle up, the ride’s about to get rough!

Reuse, Recycle, Re-manufacture … Now! (Updated)

Sourcing Innovation has been promoting sustainability since the beginning and design for recycle since the very early days, which is essentially what you are doing if you are designing for remanufacturing, which is taking way too long to take hold in the manufacturing sector, with even fashion poised to overtake it (considering H&M and Zara are not only taking back clothes, but working on technology to create fabrics that can be more easily reused in the future).

When you think about the average complexity of today’s consumer products, especially in electronics, it becomes clear that when a product breaks, it is typically only one component that is broken and a replacement of that component makes the product useable again. That’s why a lot of computer, tablet, and phone manufacturers have entered the refurbishment business — once the damaged or defective part in a product that was returned under warranty or reclaimed upon disposal by a customer, it can be reused and, more importantly, resold.

But the concept doesn’t end with electronics, and doesn’t end with refurbishment. Electronics can be designed more modularly with re-manufacture in mind, so that parts can be upgraded en-masse when the products are returned en-masse in a regular upgrade cycle. For example, if laptops were designed for easy replacement of not only memory and drives, but processors and peripheral connectors (in anticipation of USB 4, Thunderbolt 2, etc.), the previous generation models could become the next generation models and resold as either lower-end offerings in the same market or new offerings in a foreign, emerging market.

And automotive suppliers, who not only know that parts wear out, but when parts are likely to wear out, and which parts wear out together, could not only design their engines to make it easy to replace parts, such as spark plugs, batteries, belts, filters, and pumps that wear out quickly, but also the engine block as a whole, that is going to wear out in 7 to 15 years, depending on the average annual mileage, if the rust-proof frame can last for 15 to 30 years. Given the choice, many people on a fixed income (who don’t live by the ocean and have rust to worry about) would rather replace the engine for 3,000 to 5,000 and keep the car for another 7-10 years if the frame is fine than pay 25,000 or 30,000 for a new car. And while this may not look as attractive from a bottom line perspective to a manufacturer, it significantly reduces the chance of the customer migrating to a different car company, which is very common if a competitor is offering a significantly better deal on a comparable car.

Plus, if the components are themselves designed for remanufacturing, it will be relatively easy for the manufacturer to reclaim the raw materials from the damaged or defective components, which is where a lot of the cost comes in, especially if we are talking rare earth metals. For example, the price of praseodymium-neodymium oxide exceed 1.70 an ounce and prices of terbium oxide (a semi-conductor that is used as an activator for green phospors in colour TV tubes) exceeded 112.00 an ounce this summer, and it keeps rising!  Gold, a metal used in many electronics products, is now hovering around $1500 an ounce. And while there is not much gold in a single laptop, when you put fifty of them together, you’d likely get an ounce. And given that there are roughly 100 Million PC laptops and computers sold a year, that’s close to 2 Million ounces of gold that need to be reclaimed!

And, as per a now classic green & clean article, remanufactured products offer cost savings in the 45% to 60% range! So if doing the right thing isn’t enough, that should be enough of a justification to invest in remanufacturing! This goes double if you are in electronics (for some of the reasons given above) or automotive, where the global market for remanufactured auto parts is projected to reach $91 Billion by 2026. (Source:
Persistence Market Research)

So, regardless of what you want to call it, it’s time to do it. It’s not just good environmental stewardship, it’s good economics.

Futurists are Still Stuck in the Past! Leave them there!

And the reasons are the same as they have always been.  (And the doctor just wishes they’d stop speaking at the events he has to go to.)

  1. They Have No Knowledge as they come from different backgrounds which offer them no education or experience in Supply Management.
    Just because you can get high, have psychedelic visions, white them down, and spin a good yarn doesn’t mean you can be a futurist. A poet, sure, but not a futurist …
  2. They Have No Vision beyond what the rear view mirror (or the hydrocarbon gas from the bituminous limestone) offers them.
    When Meatloaf said “it was long ago and far away and it was so much better than it is today“, he was referring to newly discovered young love, not business processes identified 30 years ago …
  3. They See Too Many Organizations Stuck in the Past and a few organizations (in the Hackett top 8%) ahead of the pack and they think they can peddle these best practices as future vision.
    This is not 1914 (which was 12 years before the first transatlantic telephone call) where good ideas take years to spread (and the first person to bring a new idea or technology from a different continent can make millions on someone else’s work) and a career can be built on one single improvement — this is 2019 where it only takes a few seconds for a story to be spread around the world. But I guess if you can’t look beyond the rear-view mirror …

So, why are so many organizations still stuck in the past (and fueling the flame that powers these fantasy futurists spinning the same yarns they spun five years ago and driving the doctor mad)? There’s a few reasons, and they include:

  • Lack of Education
    Many Supply Managers were simply thrust into the role, with no training or background for the role. And despite the fact that they have some competence or experience in other areas, they are so ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the role that they might as well have been dropped in The Lost World.
  • Lack of Resources
    Most Supply Managers are overworked (and underpaid, but who isn’t these days) and resource-constrained, with no time for training and no budget even if they had the time (or would sacrifice their few remaining free hours to get better and more efficient so that maybe someday they can take a whole weekend off).
  • Lack of Clarity
    With no formal education, no training, and no resources to make sense of the barrage of BS being thrown at them by futurists and analysts alike, how can they differentiate between current and past processes and technologies and what they need to embark on a path that will ready them for what comes next?

And the third reason is the most crucial. Until they get some clarity, Supply Managers are going to continue to be taken in by modern con-men (who include 2nd rate analysts, consultants, and salesmen of outdated technology) selling them silicon snake oil when they just need modern sourcing and procurement tools that fit their workflow and daily needs.

That’s why SI is here – and why the doctor co-invented (and single-handedly developed the sourcing, supplier management, and analytics) Solution Maps which grade a platform on functional capability only — not subjective vision, market size, arbitrary inclusion parameters, and other factors that are easily embellished or hidden behind a smoke screen.

So if you want a vendor who can help you, chose one based on solid capability.  And if you want an analyst that can help you, choose one that bases recommendations on real data.  Then you will make progress.