Just over a week after SAP published its intention to buy Success Factors, IBM announced yesterday that it will acquire Emptoris, one of the leading ePurchasing suite vendors. My colleague Andrew Bartels has described in his blog some of the implications for other vendors in the ePurchasing market:

http://blogs.forrester.com/andrew_bartels/11-12-15-ibms_acquisition_of_emptoris_moves_it_squarely_into_the_epurchasing_software_market_watch_out_for_f

My interest is in what the acquisition means for sourcing professionals, not just the CPOs who might be Emptoris customers, but the IT sourcing professionals setting strategies for dealing with major suppliers such as IBM and SAP.

· Emptoris customers should give IBM the benefit of the doubt, for now. Craig Hayman, General Manager of IBM’s Industry Solutions division, assured me that he would take great care not to damage Emptoris’s strengths, the ones that attracted him to the company, as they did you, its customers. Emptoris consistently does well in Forrester Wave™ evaluations, not only for its functionality but also its focus on sourcing and procurement, its emphasis on ensuring customer success, and its consistent record of innovation. The good news is that Hayman doesn’t underestimate the challenges of integrating Emptoris into IBM, but is confident he can overcome them. It will take a couple of years before we can judge his success.

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Having attended Oracle’s customer event a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it to Emptoris’s Empower event this year, but I'm glad I was able to attend. The quality of the external speakers, the access to Emptoris execs, the content mix (high-level procurement trends and implementation best practices), the plentiful opportunities to chat with customers, partners, and employees — all these made it an extremely valuable couple of days.

A key event theme was the urgent need for procurement leaders to improve their risk monitoring and mitigation processes. For instance, according to Deloitte Consulting’s 2011 CPO survey, nearly 60% of respondents believe their risk exposure is higher than a year ago. Emptoris’s President & CEO Patrick Quirk explained his company’s response, with an ambitious roadmap to convert the acquired Xcitec product (now called Emptoris Supplier Lifecycle Management) into a comprehensive supplier risk and performance management suite (SRPM), in line with our description of this category: FAQs About Supplier Risk And Performance Management Software.

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I handle many inquiry calls from clients asking for help negotiating with large suppliers, and often they claim the supplier is a strategic partner. I’ve noticed that many clients use that term, but when I ask them what it actually means in practice, I get varying responses. So Forrester recently surveyed over 150 sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals to ask them what they expect to get from strategic partners, and what they offer in return. I was bit disappointed with the results. For instance, while 68% said they would always expect partners to give them the best possible discount, only 6% said they would always make the partner their sole source for specific technology categories.

What’s wrong with this picture? Well, to quote Godfather 2, when explaining Hyman Roth’s longevity, Johnnie Ola says, “He always made money for his partners.” That concept doesn’t seem to apply in the technology world. On the one hand, buyers complain about vendors’ unfair policies (see my recent report Buyers Should Reject Unfair Licensing Rules) and transactional sales approach. Yet OTOH they want to squeeze their partners’ margins while still expecting them to sell their wares site-by-site and product-by-product around their enterprise. As one senior software executive told me the other day, “Sure, I’ll waive my usual policies for partners, but only if they let me off the huge cost of supporting individual, small product buying decisions.”

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I’ve just returned home from San Francisco where I was attending the Oracle Openworld 2011 (#OOW11) event. Overall it's a good event, although, as usual, a bit frustrating. Instead of examples of how customers are using its products to transform their businesses, the Oracle keynotes always descend into technical detail, with too little vision and too many unimpressive product demonstrations and ‘paid programming’ infomercials (if I had wanted to listen to Cisco, Dell, and EMC plugging their products, I’d have gone to their events).

When, a month ago, I accepted Oracle’s invitation to attend #OOW11, I thought I’d be able to escape the oncoming British autumn for some California sunshine and watch some Redsox playoffs games on TV. Well not only did the Sox’s form plummet in September like a stock market index, but Northern California turned out to be 20° colder than London. But despite that, and the all-day Sunday trip to get to the event, one can’t help being impressed by the attendee buzz and by the logistical achievement, with over 45,000 attendees accommodated around the Bay Area and bussed in and out every day to the conference location. Luckily, Oracle looks after its analyst guests very well, so we were within walking distance at the excellent Intercontinental Hotel.

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Do you have a plan for how your team will add value to your business’ objectives in 2012? I don’t mean serving user requirements or meeting their expectations. I mean helping them achieve their end goals. The chances are good that your business executives have some hot priorities for next year that include initiatives like grow faster than their key competitors, bring new products to market, acquire or divest a business unit, serve customers better, and be more profitable.

And whether they succeed or fail at those initiatives could depend on what sourcing and vendor management does. Pick the wrong suppliers, and the initiative doesn’t get implemented properly. Sign a bad deal, and the ROI your executives were counting on evaporates. Manage the supplier relationship ineffectively, and the initiative stalls.

That’s a lot of pressure for sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals. It also explains why all of the SVM pros I know are smart and tough – SVM is not the place for wimps.

As the leader of Forrester’s SVM Council, which will meet at Forrester’s Sourcing & Vendor Management Forum next month, I get to see first-hand how senior SVM pros take that responsibility seriously and how they work every day to bring more value to their organizations. We recently as a group spent time discussing 2012 strategic priorities. While there was a fair amount of detail, here are the top-level priorities for SVM executives in 2012:

· Delivering Cost Savings

· Reassessing Outsourcing Strategies

· Achieving Breakthrough Vendor Governance

· Rethinking Core Activities

· Addressing Emerging (And Not So Emerging) Technologies

· Managing Vendor Risk

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As soon as you think you understand software companies’ policies on virtualization, a new problem appears that makes you tear your hair out and scratch your now-bald head. This month’s conundrum is whether or not VMware’s ThinApp product breaches your Microsoft Windows license agreement:

  • VMware promotes this product with the headline “Extend the Life of Legacy Applications, Including IE 6 Applications, with Windows 7 Support.” http://www.vmware.com/products/thinapp/overview.html
  • However, Microsoft, via its knowledge base, claims that “Running multiple versions of Windows Internet Explorer, or portions of Windows Internet Explorer, on a single instance of Windows is an unlicensed and unsupported solution.” http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2020599/en-us#top
  • VMware doesn’t warn customers that ThinApp could cause them Microsoft licensing problems, but neither does it claim that it is legal. It merely advises customers to check with Microsoft.

So who is right, and what should you do if you want to upgrade to Windows 7 but have applications that only run in IE 6? It may be OK for Microsoft to discourage a virtualization solution such as ThinApp on technical grounds, but it hasn’t publicly justified its claim that it represents unlicensed usage. You can run up to 4 local virtual images on each device that you’ve covered with software assurance (SA), and I don’t see any reasonable grounds for differentiating commercially between a full OS instance and ThinApp’s embedded instance. I’m disappointed that Microsoft is blocking a VMware solution to a problem that will delay Windows 7 adoption.

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My tireless research of sourcing and vendor management technologies has brought me to Barcelona, for Emptoris’ EMEA customer conference. I’d like to assure my colleagues in Boston, still cold and still "0 and . . .", that I’m not writing this while sitting in the sunshine at an open air café, sipping a cold cervesa and watching the lightly clad señoritas walk by. I’d like to assure them that, but I can’t, because this is exactly what I am doing. Hopefully you’ll also be able to experience Barcelona if you attend our IT Forum here in June: http://www.forrester.com/events/eventdetail/0,9179,2510,00.html

I saw some very good presentations by customers about their implementations of Emptoris’ sourcing site. As a fearless analyst, I asked the question about the elephant that, while not actually in the room here in Barcelona, is certainly present in the customers' IT environment, namely SAP. All the speakers were procurement professionals in supposedly SAP-shops, so why had they chosen Emptoris over SAP’s sourcing and CLM products?

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Too often at Forrester, sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals tell us things like, “oh, we’d never implement a Bring-Your-Own-PC program. It would increase our risk and reduce our negotiating power with our PC vendor” — only to find out later that their colleagues in the infrastructure team have in fact already implemented such a program.

The reality of today’s environment is that your end users have wildly different expectations of technology, and of the people who procure it for them. These users are mobile, empowered to make their own technology decisions, impatient to get what they want, and have multiple new technology options like BYOPC and cloud that make consumer-like enterprise purchases possible. Yet too often, SVM professionals hide behind their corporate sourcing policies rather than try to get ahead of user needs.

You know the risks of denying a trend – users going around SVM with loopholes in the corporate policy to buy what they want, while selecting new vendors that don’t meet your risk criteria. And I know many of you are trying to avoid this fate. You’re already expanding your efforts beyond IT to work more with your marketing teams and spending more time giving guidance to individuals sourcing SaaS contracts rather than trying to take over responsibility for those contracts yourselves.

But even as these issues have been gaining steam for a while, 2011 is the year that the trends accelerate and converge. Why? The recession is mostly behind us and the effort to grow quickly brings out the natural tendencies of end users to focus on speed over risk or total cost.

2011 is the year you need to stop slow-pedaling new models of sourcing emerging technologies and instead put your foot on the gas. Get out there and be more proactive with your stakeholders about social technologies, mobile devices and applications, and:

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It’s a beautiful sunny day here in England, the first snowdrops have appeared in my garden and at least one of my pet hens has restarted laying – yes, Spring is on the way. Meanwhile, in the US the main harbinger of the changing season is the migration of baseball teams to Florida and Arizona for their annual pre-season ritual known as ‘Spring Training’. In the software sourcing world, the rites of Spring often include major negotiations with Oracle and Microsoft ahead of their fiscal year ends of May and June respectively. That’s why this is a perfect time of year to get some spring training of your own, at one of our ever-popular Microsoft Negotiation workshops.1 Anyone considering a major purchase or renewal with the Redmond Sluggers between now and the World Series should come along to Amsterdam on February 16 or Dallas on March 2 to hear why they may have extra leverage this year, and how to use it to get the best possible deal.

Microsoft had very high sales revenue for its December quarter, particularly the business division, but that didn’t come from the multi-year Enterprise Agreement (EA) and Software Assurance (SA) deals that the direct sales teams need. Microsoft’s revenue boost came from one-off purchases of its just-released Office 2010 product through its retail and small business programs. EA/ SA deals would initially appear in the accounts as unearned revenue in the balance sheet, and that was at the same level as two years earlier.2 So these results are consistent with our research that predicts that Microsoft’s direct sales teams will struggle to meet their tough EA bookings targets this year, and that will strengthen prospective buyers’ negotiating position.

We can’t promise warm weather or adoring fans, but our spring training session will help you with:

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No, I’m not wasting Forrester’s blog space for yet more coverage of the royal engagement. I think Ariba’s proposed acquisition of Quadrem, that it announced today, is much more interesting. http://ht.ly/3bPei

Forrester has been predicting, and advocating, consolidation in the procure-to-pay market for a while:

“Once consolidation starts, the natural imperative of scale in the technology business will transform the market into one in which a few large, successful, interoperating networks enable buyers to reach all their suppliers, however small or physically remote.” Enterprises Should Push Supplier Networks To Deliver Interoperability, July 2009.

While I’m unqualified to comment on whose investors do better from the $150m purchase price for a company with about $50m revenue, I do believe the merger is good news for both sets of customers and suppliers. Firstly, Ariba reinforces its place as one of the four or five large supplier networks that will eventually dominate the market. Its customers now get access to a wider stable of suppliers. Quadrem originated as a marketplace for mining companies, so it is particularly strong in MRO categories and in natural-resource-rich regions such as Africa and Latin America where Ariba is under-represented.

Secondly, Quadrem customers will, in time, be able to upgrade to a superior platform (Quadrem is currently based on an old version of SAP's SRM module) without having to worry about switching their suppliers to a different service. They’ll get a much large stable, and a better product roadmap. Plus they’ll get out from under the Sword of Damocles that now hangs solely over Hubwoo customers, namely SAP deciding to fill the supplier network gap in its SRM portfolio.

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