Self-Determination Over Technology: How The County of Santa Clara Has Laid The Foundation For eProcurement Success by Jon Hansen

Posted on June 23, 2015


“I have been following Virginia since 2000 – 15 years ago. To be connected with Virginia and to implement Ariba in SCC, we are going to have a huge imprint in the US. I used Jon Hansen’s articles to do my research to further justify the right eProcurement strategy for the County. And now I am going to be connected with him directly.” – Jenti Vandertuig, Director of Procurement, County of Santa Clara

One of the most exciting yet frustrating aspects of covering Virginia over the years – specifically their highly successful eVA program – has been the challenge of scalability.

I am not talking about scalability in the traditional sense relating to technology. What I am talking about is the ability for outsiders to look beyond the technology, to see the vision and core values behind eVA.

Far too often, organizations in both the public and private sectors have placed too much emphasis on the technological functionality of a vendor’s solution, in the hope that it would in and of itself lead to success. With more than 80 percent of all eProcurement initiatives failing to achieve the expected outcomes – sometimes at a cost of tens of millions of dollars – the ineffectiveness of this approach speaks for itself.

This is also one of the reasons why I have been somewhat critical of those covering the industry, be it analysts or journalists. At the end of the day the technology, as I would write in a 2005 paper, is “largely irrelevant” when given the seat of priority over all else.

For example, eVA would have been a success regardless of the vendor application. The reason being is that the Commonwealth took the implementation lead, as opposed to abdicating control to the vendor and/or consultant with whom they worked.

Unfortunately, the Virginia approach was the exception. Usually end user clients ceded responsibility for the roll-out to providers who, often times, had a questionable track record. In some cases, such as with Hewlett-Packard’s attempt to implement an SAP solution for their own supply chain needs, it was a do as I say, not as I do proposition.

In the following excerpt from our soon to be released book, both Kelly Barner and I noted the following with regard to the Hewlett-Packard failure:

As RedMonk analyst James Governor put it, “HP is trying to build an application management business to rival IBM’s. What better case study in proving your R/3 and Netweaver capability” . . . by showing “everyone how to merge two SAP systems.”

The analyst concluded by saying “Who would want to go to HP now for large scale SAP integration? The CEO just publicly said HP can’t effectively manage such a project.”

The fact remains that success- especially with the move to cloud-based SaaS solutions – is dependent on the client’s ability to take the implementation wheel and drive the project themselves.

This is what Virginia did with eVA, and it is also what the County of Santa Clara is doing with their initiative.

Over the coming months I will, with a great deal of interest, be following the Santa Clara initiative closely, so stay tuned. We may just be witnessing the dawn of a new beginning with regard to public sector procurement.