Jason Busch’s Rant part of another interesting week in the world of procurement

Posted on March 25, 2010

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With an undertone of  an “you are ugly and your mother dresses you funny” admonishment, I once again found myself on the receiving end of a Jason Busch rant.

For those of you who may not remember, Jason took umbrage when I had made the suggestion in a May 21st, 2009 article regarding the Emptoris acquisition of Click Commerce that in a “forum of real-world understanding and insight, questions regarding service partner cultivation and tangential marketing strategies while valid, fall largely on deaf ears as it has no practical value from an execution standpoint.”

While I did not associate Jason with this statement, he nonetheless felt compelled to submit the following comment in the Procurement Insights blog:

Jon,

I had a lot more respect for you before this post. Seriously, you seem to dismiss the market dynamics of acquisitions as not consequential, referencing indirectly what I wrote. But in doing so, you’re actually showing a complete lack of knowledge of what happens after software acquisitions and their impact on customers! Let me ask you: have you ever been through one (or more than one), have you purchased software on behalf of a company considering working with an acquired company (or the company doing the acquisition), and/or have you witnessed the amount of work required to integrate organizational efforts?

The fact is that acquisitions that represent a departure from the core for companies (vs. an extension) are fraught with challenges, not only for shareholders, but also for existing customers. I have lived and breathed this very situation in multiple lives and from multiple perspectives.

This matters here because Emptoris was a company that has largely managed to differentiate through innovation. But in moving into new territory like this, if history is any guide, it is highly likely that this will be a distraction from the core in the areas that got them to where they are today. This is important – and not something that you should dismiss hiding behind smart sounding rhetoric (which ironically will lead to anything but smart decisions in the field).

We can both agree that services procurement platforms like Click CMS are needed, necessary and a smart direction for companies and governments to consider. But you cannot evaluate an offering or a move like this in a philosophical box, however polished and well-argued you can make the argument.

I thought more highly of you before this. Please don’t go down the path of becoming the Fenimore Cooper of procurement blogs.

Cheers, Jason

Now while I must admit that I actually had to look up Fenimore Cooper, I responded to Jason’s intimations that I may be talking through my hat versus having actual real-world experience with the following;

Thank you for sharing your comments Jason.

This is what I love about our business . . . the ability to respectfully agree to disagree.

Pertaining to your questions regarding actual experience in the areas you had highlighted, the answer would be a resounding yes.

When I had led the research to develop a platform leveraging the utilization of advanced algorithms under an agent-based model the end result was a solution which led to my company being acquired for $12 million.

The organization that acquired my firm was a publicly traded company whose core competency was in the area of IT component distribution.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000, their stock was significantly buoyed by the dot com “craze” providing them with more capitalization than actual, real-world smarts. In an effort to maintain the stock’s performance, this company went on a buying spree largely spurred on by the promise of a financially strategic relationship with one of the large telecoms.

Besides my company, which at the peak generated close to $2.3 million profit on $6.9 million in sales revenue, they acquired a web development firm, a secure payment firm as well as other ancillary acquisitions. Talk about a “departure from core competencies!”

Unfortunately the senior executives for the acquiring company’s focus on stock valuations caused them to go off course creating a blurred mandate. In essence, in trying to be everything to everyone they failed to focus on their strengths. In the end, this 15 year company ultimately collapsed under the weight of it’s incomplete visions of grandeur.

Having lived and breathed it on a very real basis, first as a senior executive of a company that was being acquired, and then as the president of a publicly traded company that had acquired other entities, I can say with full certainty that I do not see a parallel with Emptoris.

Understanding their organization from a technological perspective, as well as a practical business standpoint there is no such division of attention. In fact, based on my R&D days, which is why I referenced the three-part Dr. Raskina posts, I would be surprised if Emptoris had not made the move into this space.

Thank you once again for your thoughtful contribution.

What was interesting is that I had somehow ruffled the feathers of an industry icon by the mere suggestion that one of his prose – which I did not attribute to him – was somehow missing the mark.  In short, my focus was on the statement and not the man.  Jason however decided to question my creditability suggesting that I may not have the experience of the real-world to back-up my comments.

I guess this is why I should not have been surprised by his latest rant when I took time to respond to Torbjorn Thorsen’s post on his  Purchasing Transformation Blog, in which he gently made reference to the fact that Spend Matters’ Jason Busch was “correct in his analysis” regarding a recent post comparing Coupa to Ariba, but went on to say that “there are a few areas where the correct analysis unfortunately gets in the way of pragmatically successful purchasing.”

Specifically, and making reference to Jason’s past assertion in a Spend Matters post that “Aberdeen’s use and definition of the phrase, “spend intelligence,” which at this point feels dangerous to me, just as overly political language feels dangerous to Orwell,” was simply “an attempt to shoot some Botox into a segment of the Spend Management market,” I had suggested that he was perhaps out of touch with emerging industry trends.

I am of course not alone in the belief that spend intelligence is more than Madison Avenue speak or a shot of Botox, as demonstrated in the excerpt from an expert guest panel discussion on the PI Window on Business Show.

I want to stress once again that I like and respect Jason, but he has simply missed the mark in these instances.

That said his response was interesting to say the least . . .

The next time Jon Hansen hides behind rhetoric and language (e.g., “agent-based, metaprise visibility”) vs. logic, shoot me, please. It’s not just that he fails to logically attack my argument, instead hiding behind supposed academic rigor and obfuscation in a recent post (e.g., “In short, adaptability to real-world market conditions as outlined in many of the 700 plus articles and white papers I have written, and maintaining and achieving centralized or collective objectives are not an either or proposition”). It’s the patronizing tone within statements like “Jason is out of touch” because he’s willing to go against vendor doctrinaire and “my own research”. Collectively, these are clearly the type of “he’s wrong and I’m right” bullying arguments that Jon attempts to make rather than elucidating debate around the subject.

While I’ll leave it to you to decide which author makes the better argument on a pragmatic basis when it comes to technologies (e.g., Jon: “In short, the technology behind dashboard accessibility to a broader supply base in which advanced and multi-parameter algorithms are automatically incorporated into each front-line decision in real-time, provides the buyer with the necessary autonomy…”), I can’t help but raise the point that rhetorical devices such as quoting Colin Powell saying that “today’s experts may have reached (and passed) their peak” does nothing but hit below the belt. With phrases like this, I sense an insecurity in Jon’s writing that may be nothing more than a desire to legitimize his activities through personal attacks on the establishment. It also may be something more insidious, given that the only folks he ever seems to stand up for are those who fund and provide support for his activities. Even though (as he points out) the amounts may be small, it should be the job of the blogger or online journalist to seek out and cover other providers besides those simply writing a check every year.

When trees fall in the forest, perhaps I shouldn’t care. But verbal assaults and intimations such as Jon’s serve to demean the whole profession of those seeking to make a living through coverage of the sector. And there’s nothing “intelligent”–spend or otherwise–around motivations like that. At the end of the day, if Jon would get off his verbose pulpit and let go of the need to put others down (vs. just their arguments), and offer to start a debate around the topic at hand without simply serving as a blogging tool for those that write checks and give him fodder to work with, I think he’d find that we actually agree more on the subject than disagree. Perhaps we’d nitpick at execution, but both of us–and our readers–would be the better for it.

For further consideration: Spend Matters, Sourcing Innovation, and Supply Chain Matters all make concerted efforts to cover sponsors and non-sponsors alike with complete objectivity (aside from personal biases and opinions having nothing to do with commercial relationships — after all, we’re human). A cursory analysis of Jon Hansen’s blog suggests that at least 80% of his technology vendor coverage is focused on only his sponsors (I think it could be materially higher than this — I’ve not done anything more than a cursory study, but perhaps someone else will). I suppose we should not be too upset, however. At least he discloses his sponsor affiliations on the right. So we can’t exactly call him a “paid blogger” … but as always, dear readers, caveat emptor, even when the product/analysis/research is free.

Once again it would appear that even the slightest suggestion of imperfection on Jason’s part inspires an over the top response that has little to do with the subject matter in question, and more about personality traits and one’s business model.  I guess a blustery offense makes a good defence?

However, I then received an e-mail from Bravo Solutions’ Paul Martyn who indicated that he had read Jason’s call out of me in his Friday rant and was interested in scheduling a time to talk with me.  Hmmm.

After a few e-mail exchanges, I sent the following response to Paul who indicated that his reason for contacting me was not the Rant post itself, but the fact that it had made him “aware of my work:”

Taking into account that you are “an old friend and colleague” of Jason’s, are a Lead Sponsor of his blog and that his latest rant led to your contacting me in the first place, one would be hard pressed to consider the intentions honorable.  Forgive me if I am wrong.

That said why don’t I save us both a little time . . . here are links to just a few of the many articles I have written regarding the use of advanced algorithms under an agent-based model.  Read them at your leisure, make notes or otherwise share them as you see fit.

If you would like to critique them, please feel free to do so and in the process hopefully provide actual reference material supporting your position – something that Jason has failed to do in both of the rants he has directed towards me.

Measuring Buyer and Supplier Performance (A PI Q&A)

Dangerous Supply Chain Myths

Is Ford’s auto-xchange the “Real Deal?”

Similarity Heuristics, Iterative Methodologies and the Emergence of the Modern Supply Chain

The research referenced in this material is what led to the development of what became an actual solution that was utilized to service a large government contract, so we are not talking theory but use in an actual production environment over an extended period of time.

If after reading these articles you would like to talk further please feel free to contact me next week to schedule a time.

I share the above with you because I am an open book, and what I write I believe.  What I believe is based upon extensive research, and I therefore stand by it.

Rather than stand by what he has written and provide reference material to support his comment that spend intelligence is merely “an attempt to shoot some Botox into a segment of the Spend Management market,” or why “tangential marketing strategies while valid, has no practical value from an execution standpoint,” Jason instead chooses to attack the person.

Once again, I may be ugly and dress funny, but what I always strive to do is thoroughly research and factually write about the subject I am covering.  Most important of all, I stand by it.

Posted in: Commentary