Should governments boycott Periscope-BidSync until the NIGP conflict is resolved? by Jon Hansen

Posted on April 22, 2015


Another major difference between grassroots boycotts and professional campaigns lies in their focus. While grassroots campaigns are usually aimed at convincing consumers to spend their money elsewhere, Steele says that smart campaigns direct their attention towards a brand’s reputation instead of directly at its bottom line. “Although seemingly intangible, the brand value alone of a consumer-facing company can be worth billions of dollars,” he explains. “The brand is what connects with consumers. Done strategically, putting a brand at risk can encourage a conversation.” – from theguardian January 6th, 2015 article Do boycotts really work?

With growing public sentiment unanimously against them, I have to wonder what is in store for the NIGP as well as Periscope Holdings (and for that matter Parthenon Capital Partners).

Even if one would be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that the conflict of interest that led to #CodeGate, was the unintended consequence of a series of very bad decisions spanning almost two decades, the fact is that their reputations – individually as well as collectively – are seriously tarnished.

My two separate and lengthy exchanges in the comment sections of this blog with NIGP Chief Executive Rick Grimm, certainly did not help his cause in terms of garnering either empathy or understanding.  (Note: Check out The Grimm Facts Part 1 and Part 2.) I can’t decide if his statements demonstrated his arrogance or his ignorance . . . or perhaps a combination of both, relative to his attempt at explaining the decisions that put his organization in this unfortunate position.

But here is the thing, there is much more at stake than just the reputations of those directly involved.

“The next period of time in the public sector could prove quite illuminating. Will the agencies using NIGP confirm the worst stereotype of public procurement by staying the course regardless of these troubling developments, or will they surprise us by rising up and saying ‘enough,’ either collectively or individually and gradually over time?” – Kelly Barner, Buyers Meeting Point

Missouri’s response to Periscope’s heavy handed approach to challenge their award of an eProcurement contract to Perfect Commerce was both swift and decisive.  But it is their reported willingness to stand behind their selection of Perfect Commerce – even if that vendor loses their licensing rights to support the NIGP Code – that clearly demonstrates a high degree of character and a commitment to a fair and open bid process.  In short, Perfect Commerce is for them the best choice with or without the NIGP Code and no one, not even the NIGP – Periscope alliance, is going to bully them into making a decision that they believe is not in their best interests – and the interests of their citizens.

But do other States – and in particular the remaining 32 who presently utilize the NIGP Code taxonomy, possess the same level of determination to just say no.

According to Buyers Meeting Point’s Barner, how these states as well as those within the public sector procurement world respond, will have an impact on their reputations as well.

If we, as Barner contends, “stay the course” and do nothing, then the industry’s (and even the general public’s) view of procurement will suffer.  This in turn may have a negative impact on our ability to attract young talent to the profession, and ultimately undermine our efforts to gain the respect that many feel has been lacking.  In short, are we all willing to remain silent, and take the fall for the actions of a few?

“I had: I let down my friends, I let down the country, I let down our system of government and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government but will think it is all too corrupt and the rest.” – Richard Nixon

There is as you can see a great deal at stake.

So while I mostly agree with Spend Matters’ Pierre Mitchell’s comment in my April 6th post that it is the “NIGP members who are really the only ones who have the power AND the inclination to change this obviously bad situation,” I do not believe that the fight to correct the situation and preserve our industry’s creditability ends there.

Even though it is fair to say that we did not know what was going on at the NIGP, and at what point collaboration turned into apparent self-serving collusion, now that we do know, the onus is on us to not only demand change, but to force the issue for change.

Let’s face it, the NIGP – Periscope situation is made worse by the fact that the NIGP is supposed to be an advocate and resource for the very public sector upon which it unleashed Periscope.  In my mind this is a major betrayal of trust.

As a result, perhaps there should be a boycott or moratorium that prevents Periscope Holdings – and any entity either directly or indirectly linked to the company – from bidding on government contracts, until such time that the relationship between their organization and the NIGP has been severed.

From the standpoint of the NIGP, and in particular relating to the management of the NIGP Code, perhaps its members should refrain from paying any fees or attending NIGP sanctioned courses until the not-for-profit association establishes a similar model to that of the UNSPSC Code’s stewardship under GS1.  This would send a powerful message to the NIGP leadership, while demonstrating to the world that it’s members do not approve of the questionable ethics associated with their Periscope dealings.

What about the consulting arm of the NIGP, which is presently “managed” by Periscope Holdings under a separate agreement?  Should this be repatriated back to the association’s control under new leadership?  If it is ultimately the intention to outsource this service capability to a third-party provider, then it should be done so through a true competitive bid process as opposed to what Grimm referred to as being a competitive, Competitive, COMPETITIVE RFI.

Of course the practicality of coordinating and mobilizing such action requires more than simply presenting them as ideas in a blog post.

As the father of 4 young children who loves to read to them every night, I am in this instance reminded of the words of the Once-ler . . .  ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’



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