The Road Not Taken: How The Mendocino Project May Have Altered Procurement’s Digital Transformation

Posted on April 19, 2023


Editor’s Note: David Loseby‘s recent LinkedIn post about the “myth of the single source solution” took me back to the early 1980s and how procurement’s digital transformation might have taken a different (perhaps better) path had the Mendocino Project materialized. –

Kaypro. When you mention the single solution myth and a dynamic and non-linear world, Kaypro – one of the very first personal computers I ever used immediately comes to mind for two reasons:

1. Founded in 1981 by Non-Linear Systems (which was started in 1952), the Kaypro was a CP/M-based computer that was heralded as a technological breakthrough in modern computing – and it was.

2. Selling for $1,595, the Kaypro included a “software bundle (that) had a retail value over $1,000.”

So, why does this post remind me of Kaypro?

1. The software bundle included a word processor, spreadsheet, and database that was anything but a seamlessly integrated package. If memory serves me, it was called the Perfect Software bundle, with each module being designed by different developers. The only thing that was consistent with this “single source” application was the branding.

2. Built for a non-linear world, Kaypro became the largest computer manufacturer in the world, selling 10,000 units per month. By 1992, the company declared bankruptcy.

The takeaway is that the Perfect bundle was ultimately replaced by the Microsoft Office bundle. With 1.2 billion users worldwide, it is still considered to be the most user-friendly, accessible, interactive and adaptable “single-source” solution in the world. How many procurement professionals still use Excel? I think this is a factor in why the “one system or solution” myth persists.

The second takeaway is that the definition “for a well-developed roadmap that has the right balance of flexibility and agility to face a very dynamic and non-linear world” is – and will always be a moving target. Kaypro was considered to be a non-linear breakthrough, but only for a limited time. The shelf life for a dynamic, non-linear solution is relatively short.

In other words, we are perpetually “trapped” in a zone or space between the “loose coupling” of systems and solutions, e.g., the Kaypro and Perfect software bundle, and the promise of the coherent and seamless integration of Microsoft Office.

I can only wonder how things might have been different had the June 2004 Mendocino Project materialized. Would Microsoft’s reported/purported plans to buy SAP turned the myth of a single source solution into a reality:

Posted in: Commentary