OECM Punts Ariba, Taking a $20 Million Dollar Hit In The Process?

Posted on September 1, 2010


Editor’s Update: Unfortunately the PowerPoint presentation that is referenced in this article was taken down by it’s author.  While it would have served as a good reference point in terms of what ultimately derailed the program and perhaps helped others to understand what went wrong and why, its removals is nonetheless telling.

The great part of being in this industry for many, many years are the high level connections you make in what is undoubtedly the small world that is the purchasing and supply chain industry.

This of course affords one with the opportunity to hear breaking news from reliable sources, that despite a natural Dewey wins the presidency cautiousness (note the question mark at the end of this post’s headline), nonetheless warrant publication if for no other reason than to perhaps stimulate discussion and even debate.  Note to call Tim Minahan and/or Ahmed Rubaie at Ariba for a statement.

While not disclosing my actual source or sources . . . what’s the saying “when it rains, it pours,” I cannot help but think that the manifestation of this development is not totally out of the realm of expectation.

Let’s face it, you have a marketplace where just last week I spoke about the exodus of industry analysts from profile firms such as Gartner and AMR coupled with the high rate of initiative failures and what you have is a recipe for potential disaster.  Okay maybe disaster in the context of larger, real-world events is an overstatement but, let’s just say that blowing $20 million with nothing to show for it is not going to secure one’s long-term career aspirations.

Let’s take a look at the May 28th, 2008 PowerPoint that was released by the Ontario Education Collaborative Marketplace or “OECM” as a possible indicator of things to come:

As I reviewed the above PowerPoint and the reference to Virginia’s very successful eVA program, I was almost immediately reminded of the Vice-Presidential debate between Dan Quayle and Senator Lloyd Benson.

Surely you recall (spoken by a man who is more frequently than not the oldest person in the room), the elder Benson’s comment regarding Quayle’s response to the criticism of his youth and lack of experience?  I guess that 22 years may be a long time for some?

Basically, during the debate Quayle looked at the camera and explained that he is (was) the same age that John Kennedy was when he entered the Senate and, went on to say that he was now close to the age at which Kennedy had started his presidency.

Benson’s response was as cutting as it was succinct . . . “I knew John Kennedy, John Kennedy was a friend of mine, and you Senator, are no John Kennedy!”

For those of you who want a stroll down the memory lane of American politics, and for those who are perhaps going to want to see this for the first time, here is the video clip:

Anecdotal references aside, OECM you are no Virginia!

Having covered the Commonwealth’s program extensively, which has included innumerable articles, two radio broadcasts and even a white paper (a copy of which I will gladly share with you when you subscribe to this blog – it’s free and the paper is pretty good), I can say with a high degree of certainty that the origins for this failure, if it is indeed coming to pass, are not so much with Ariba as they are with the OECM’s approach.

As you read their PowerPoint you begin to see a trend that was presented on the front page of the April 27th, 2010 edition of the New York Times under the heading “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint.”  Between bronze levels and Gold levels and references to Shopping Cart institutions and Project charter development, I can see why the old saying that “when everything is said and done, there is more said than done” seems both reasonable and appropriate in this instance.

Ariba is to be certain not blameless in this sad situation, as their culpability can be found in their willingness to convince themselves (perhaps fool themselves would be a better word), that they were the key cog in the Virginia initiative’s success.  They weren’t, nor is any one software vendor that is more enamored with their technology than truly understanding the real life, every day challenges of the procurement professional.

This ironically sounds like a somewhat similar scenario to the one that I had mentioned in my earlier post from today in which I refer to Tim Cummins’ Commitment Matters Blog, and his statement that there is a “conspiracy that leads executives on both sides of the table to ‘lie’ to their trading partners and to create a combined version of ‘the truth’ that leads to mutual delusion over what they can achieve, by when and for how much.” WOW, talk about timing!

All this being said, I can only only promise you my faithful readers that I will continue to follow this story to its logical conclusion and in the process, keep you posted each step of the way.


Posted in: Commentary