Category Archives: rants

Valid Uses for Gen-AI!

the doctor has been told he’s too hard on Gen-AI. He doesn’t think he’s hard enough, but there are those who keep insisting that Gen-AI has some valid uses. And they’re right, it has some. Not the uses that you need it for, but actual uses nonetheless.

So today, in a rare moment of weakness, he’s going to acknowledge those uses. Soak it in. He may never do so again.

1. Ensure your insurance / bank only covers and lends to people you like.
One of the great things about Gen-AI is that almost all models are biased, and it’s really easy to train them to be as biased as you want. Only want your health insurance to accept only young people between 25 and 40 with no family history or indicators of any illness whatsoever? No problem. Don’t want your bank to approve a loan to anyone who isn’t an all American Christian white? No problem. Race-Biased Gen-AI to the rescue!

2. Have it make up a new story for your child who constantly wants new stories every night.
Train it on thousands of stories kid suitable and it will make up a new story every night (with a high probability of most those stories being safe and suitable — chances are only a few will scare them into therapy). Your kid will be happy (at least until they get scared into therapy) and your brain will get the rest it needs at night (so it can start worrying about how it’s going to pay for that therapy). Put those constant hallucinations to use. It’s your own personal Scheherazade, with just a little bit of Grimm and occasionally a bit of King (Stephen).

3. Incite the mob.
Need a mob behind you to get your cause front page on the headlines? Incite a mob to cover your theft attempt at a corporate headquarters above a luxury department store? Maybe even help you overthrow a capitol? No sweat! Program that Gen-AI to be as hateful and incitory as possible and have it pump out fake news propaganda 24/7 until you have the mob you need on your side and there you go!

4. Scam the Scammers. (Or at least keep them busy and out of your inbox.)
Most scammers will keep trying as long as someone is responding to them (and eating up their time). Guess what AI has a lot of — GPU time. Most models have 10,000 (or more) GPUs at their disposal. That’s a lot of scammers an AI can tie up for you. (Especially if they can’t differentiate easy pickings Grandpa Joe from a very agreeable but completely broke GrandpAI Joe.)

5. Take down a rival’s network.
Simply train in some sleeper behaviour for a few months into the future, and once the competition is done with their tests and trust it … poof … down goes their network.

And if you want to be truly evil, you can always use Gen-AI to

6. Ensure your terror campaign is as lethal as possible.
We’ve read the stories of how even recent tests of self-driving systems decided to ignore the shadows of what were actually people RIGHT in front of them and drive into those shadows at full speed. A few minor alterations and instead of avoiding people-like figures and shadows, it will be the murderous trolley that tries to kill as many as possible. And who says you have to limit it to trolleys? Use it to program bomb-bearing drones and it will seek out the densest crowd possible. And so on. And yes, we went to a very dark place, but just where do you think AI is taking us? There are currently NO bright outcomes. Ponder that before you go singing its praises.

Of course, if you just want to be a little chaotic around the house, and only take that first step down the dark path, just hook up it’s hallucinatory outputs to a random direction generator and use it to:

7. Power your Roomba.
Your pets will think it’s truly possessed!

So there you go — 7 valid uses of Gen-AI. You decide how many of them you want to use.

Dear Sourcing/Source-to-Pay/Procurement Founder: Please STOP Making These Mistakes! Part 3

In Part 1, we reminded you of the 12 best practices for success that we published last year and noted that, since this obviously wasn’t read enough (or properly) understood, as the doctor is still seeing founders make the same old mistakes year after year, he needed to do more. So, using his 18 years of experience as an (independent) analyst and 20 plus years as a consultant, during which he has researched and/or engaged with over 500 companies, of which 350 were publicly covered on Sourcing Innovation or Spend Matters (between 2016 and 2022), he’s decided to make plain at least 15 of the same mistakes he has seen over and over again, in hopes that maybe he can prevent a few founders from making them again.

Then, we covered the first four (4) of the 15+ mistakes we promised you, namely:

  • Assuming that because you were a CPO, you don’t have to do your market research. (Part 1)
  • Assume you can serve any company that shows interest in your product. (Part 2)
  • Assume you can go for disruptive or innovative first. (Part 2)
  • Assume you can take Tech Shortcuts and Fix It Later. (Part 2)

If the mistakes stopped here, we’d be done. But they don’t. So, today we’re going to cover the next two.

5. Assume that because you could run a Procurement Department that you can run a SaaS company.

When it comes to founding, running, and building a SaaS company, there are many truths you need to be aware of, including these four that are among the most critical:

  1. Using SaaS/software is not the same as building SaaS/software.
  2. Running a Procurement Department is not the same as running a Technology Company.
  3. Most importantly, running a SaaS company day to day is different from selling a SaaS company day to day and, most importantly,
  4. Growing a SaaS company is NOT the same as running a SaaS company!

What you need to understand is:

  1. effectively building SaaS and running a SaaS company takes mad tech skills, not just mad domain knowledge and mad management skills (remember, tech is the doctor‘s area of expertise)
  2. in Procurement you’re buying, in Tech you’re building; you’re managing architects and developers and testers, not process owners and users and stakeholders
  3. you don’t just need to build a solution, you need to sell, sell, sell it; remember, you were a buyer, NOT a seller (or a marketer or a demand generator etc.)
  4. you don’t just need to sell; at some point you will also need to raise money so you can scale (or at least take on some debt) … where your former peers are concerned, if you can make them happy and show them an ROI they believe, that’s one thing; but even getting the attention of an investor is another, and then keeping them interested through a pitch for a follow up conversation, then getting terms, and so on … and at the same time you either have to progress up the enterprise food chain in the pipeline or significantly increase the number of real prospects in the pipeline to keep those investors happy

It take s a lot to build a successful startup, and typically a lot more than a founder will even think of when they take the plunge. (For a very good overview, the doctor will again remind you that he recommends Garry Mansell‘s Simplify to Succeed.) And the reality is that most of us don’t have all the skills to be a successful growth CEO (and, more importantly, are much better suited to excel at other CXO roles and do an above average job when we are in those roles best suited for us). Thus, it’s critical that

  • you understand your weaknesses and bring in people to fill the gaps until
  • you are big enough to
    • add the right full time roles and
    • headhunt and hire your replacement (and step into the CXO role you are best suited for)

6. Assume you know the average process and technology competency in your potential customer base.

There’s a reason that best practice #6 was to understand your current customer process and typical restrictions and that’s because not all of your potential customers are at the same stage in their journey, and, more importantly, they might not all be similar to your experience. If your company was behind the curve in your vertical, you will need to develop more than you think to be relevant to your industry, and if your company was ahead of the curve, you will need to ensure your technology is as easy to learn, integrate, and use as possible. Even easier and more accessible than you thought when you started out. It may even need to disappear into their process entirely (with a lot of configurable automation). Every provider wants to be the portal the customer logs into every day, but while a company may need a dozen providers, there can be only one that provides the portal. (And if the portal doesn’t solve the key problem, it won’t necessarily be the most valuable solution. Remember, ERP isn’t sexy, but ERP and Big X consultancies get the biggest tech-related checks every year from traditional tech-consuming organizations.)

And while we still have many mistakes to go, we’ll stop here for today. Come back for Part 4.

Dear Sourcing/Source-to-Pay/Procurement Founder: Please STOP Making These Mistakes! Part 2

In Part 1, we reminded you of the 12 best practices for success that we published last year and noted that, since this obviously wasn’t read enough (or properly) understood, as the doctor is still seeing founders make the same old mistakes year after year, he needed to do more. So, using his 18 years of experience as an (independent) analyst and 20 plus years as a consultant, during which he has researched and/or engaged with over 500 companies, of which 350 were publicly covered on Sourcing Innovation or Spend Matters (between 2016 and 2022), he’s decided to make plain at least 15 of the same mistakes he has seen over and over again, in hopes that maybe he can prevent a few founders from making them again.

Then, we covered the first of the 15+ mistakes we promised you, namely:

  • Assuming that because you were a CPO, you don’t have to do your market research. (Part 1)

If the mistakes stopped here, we’d be done. But they don’t. So, today we’re going to cover the next three.

2. Assume you can serve any company that shows interest in your product.

If you recall, best practice #1 was to identify the market sector you are competing in and best practice #3 was define your target industries because you can’t be everything to everyone. More importantly, if you try, you will fail miserably chasing every deal, building features your ideal market has no interest in (and that can’t compete with other companies already there), and wasting time and money for naught (as you will close very few deals this way). In order to compete, you need to do something very well, and better than the majority of your peers, not do the 60% solution from a number of competitors.

3. Assume you can go for disruptive or innovative first.

It doesn’t matter what great new feature your product has or how innovative or disruptive it is if you don’t solve one or more of the customer’s core problems AND have all of the baseline functionality required and expected for a product in the category you are selling in. For example, in sourcing you need to have very extensive and configurable RFX functionality as even e-procurement platforms have simple RFP now. Supplier Management needs to be able to not only store any information of interest about a supplier (extensible and organizable/tagged into categories), but support a more specific organizational need around simplified Procurement (especially in direct where you need to replenish quick after contracts), compliance, risk, or program management. e-Procurement has a whole host of requirements around PO (compliance), catalog support, order acknowledgement, approval requirements, etc. (And in our Source-to-Pay+ series we did overview a lot of the baseline requirements for core modules.) The reality is that when it comes down to a face-off evaluation, if your solution doesn’t check core boxes, you won’t get the deal, even if your functionality, usability, and customer commitment are far superior.

4. Assume you can take Tech Shortcuts and Fix It Later.
There’s a reason that best practice No. 5 was understand the data needs and design the full data model and that’s because if you take shortcuts, you will never get it right and you will never be able to fix it. You need to understand that every single line of code written without forethought and care will become technical debt the second it’s checked into the code repository, vs. technical debt five to ten years out when the language and stack you use is deprecated. If you start in the technical debt hole, you never get out of it.

Moreover, as per our last mistake, if you can’t capture the right data, no one will want your product, and if you can’t support the right process, no one will want your product. This means that, at the foundational level, you can’t take shortcuts. You see, just like you can’t build a 10 story apartment building on a foundation you poured for a two-story house, you can’t eventually build a best-in-class solution for an enterprise on a foundation that doesn’t even support a micro-mom-and-pop shop!

And while we still have many mistakes to go, we’ll stop here for today. Come back for Part 3.

It’s Conference Season, so Marketers are Marketing Like Mad!

And, as usual, some of it is driving the doctor a little bit nuts.

So, dear Marketer, if you’re reading this, here’s a few tips when trying to sell to someone actually in the market for a Procurement solution, vs. just looking for a good excuse to get approval to go to a conference for a good time.

They don’t care about your story
Yes, PR people love stories. Yes, journalists love stories. Yes, company storytellers like stories. But guess what? People who are drowning in their job and need a system that can actually help them be more productive only care about what you or your product does, and how you or your product will do it, not what circuitous route got you to the point where you decided to start a company.

They don’t care about your passion
Yes, Investors do. They want people driven to work hard to solve a problem with a solution they believe will make them a lot of money. Yes, Executives use it as a check box, and it will differentiate you from the other collared shirt when you make the final three and get to present your case. But someone who is going to have to use your solution and follow your process day-in and day-out in the Tower of Spend isn’t going to care about that in the slightest until they see that your solution might actually help them.

They don’t care about your clear and regular communication, great service, commitment, follow-through, willingness to do what it takes to hit the implementation and integration deadlines, your ease of use, great UX, shiny new offering, or disruptive value proposition either (or any of the dozens of ways you can say this with effectively the exact same lack of meaning).
This is because this doesn’t say anything about your solution, the problem it solves, and how it is different from the 20 to 200 other solutions they could also choose. (And if you think the doctor is exaggerating, please refer back to the Source-to-Pay+ Mega-Map with 666 unique clickable logos for your research pleasure.)

In fact, during conference season, about the only thing most of them actually care about is if you have a booth, what Brand Ambassadors are going to be there, and if you’re giving away free booze, culinary delights, or unique (cool) swag.

Also, before we end this, just a little FYI that the analysts, consultants, and social media influencers (unless, of course, in the latter case, you have a cool booth with free booze, food, and SWAG and give them an all expense paid trip to the booth to show it off on TikTok) that you want to cover you probably don’t care about any of the above either!

Dear Sourcing/Source-to-Pay/Procurement Founder: Please STOP Making These Mistakes! Part 1

Last year, the doctor ran a 5-part series on 12 best-practices for success, in an effort to let you know, in a very polite way, things you needed to do for your business to grow and be successful.

This was based on his experience as an analyst who has been consistently researching, engaging, covering, and providing due diligence on vendors for the past 18 years (having covered over 350 publicly on Sourcing Innovation and Spend Matters and researched and/or engaged with over 500 on/in projects).

However, one thing that has become clear to him over the past year is that many founders did not read this, or if they did, missed one or more of the key points. So, as per our introduction yesterday in Mayday! M’aidez!, he’s going to be a lot more direct and instead focus on the same old, same old mistakes he’s been seeing for 18 years as an analyst and over 20 years as an independent consultant. This is because if some of you don’t stop making these mistakes, and, more importantly, another founder tries to enter this very crowded space (don’t believe me? check out the SI Source-to-Pay+ Mega-Map with 666 clickable logos) making these same old, same old mistakes, the company is never going to grow and reach its potential, and this is a shame considering there are some really great solutions that should be market names but are not (and will not be) because one or more of these mistakes are preventing these companies from growing. the doctor wants your well intentioned innovative start-up to grow. Think about it. Why else would he cover 50 to 75 vendors a year FOR FREE? It’s because he wants to educate potential buyers on the value of these new solutions and ensure the message gets out there.

So please, please, please read this series carefully, admit the mistakes you are making (if only to yourself), and stop making them.

1. Assume that because you were a CPO, you don’t have to do your market research.

the doctor has talked to too many founders / CXOs who believe they know almost everything important with respect to what their product needs to do, how, and why and don’t need to do any market research or engage with any expert analyst or consultant because they did the job at 1 to 3 companies for X to Y years and know what those companies needed to do and, also, what the products they used were missing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, you know intimately what the companies you worked for needed, but do you know why Coupa brags about their millions of configuration options? It’s because every single company does things a bit differently. There are also more variations between what a company classifies as “indirect”, “direct”, “services”, and “[complex] project” spend, as well as even more variations by category and even Procurement size than you think. the doctor the guarantees you don’t know everything.

Futhermore, as the doctor recently stated in a LinkedIn comment, just because the two or three big name companies you looked at didn’t solve your problem, that doesn’t mean one of the other 20 to 200 companies already out there delivering solutions don’t. Over the past five years, the doctor has heard statements like:

  • we started our AP/Payment company because bill.com didn’t solve our problems
  • we decided to build a new supplier management solution because supplier on-boarding sucked in all the solutions we used
  • etc.

And while

  • bill.com and other, simple, payment platforms don’t do detailed I2P/AP, there are over 100 platforms that do
  • first generation suite providers had very clunky supplier on-boarding, some have improved but, more importantly, over the past few years, we’ve seen a few dozen SXM players start or re-focus their offering because of that
  • etc.

Your experience only means you have the capacity to understand what your customers need, not that you know everything or what is out there on the market (and how to effectively compete). That’s why recommendation #2 was to do your market research, focused on identifying more than just the top 10 companies on the Gartner or Forrester maps or the first few solutions that popped up in a Google Search (likely as the result of paid advertising).

However, as hinted at above and made clear in yesterday’s article, this is just the first of many mistakes. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as we work our way through at least 15 mistakes (of various levels of criticality) that the doctor has seen over and over and over again for almost two decades.