IBM Buys Spend Management Plumbing

Many of you probably read the news earlier in the week that IBM acquired Viacore. IBM's spin on the deal is that Viacore will complement its supply chain outsourcing and transformation practices by enabling "supply chain partners to easily exchange information on capacity, inventory, production, sourcing, delivery, forecasting, and planning in real-time. This [will enable] communities of supply chain partners to reduce costs, improve responsiveness to customers and forge more tightly integrated relationships." In my view, the deal is an indicator that supplier integration and management continues to heat up in the market. It also shows that IBM is teetering on the edge of the Spend Management and supply chain applications sector. So far, IBM’s strategy has been to partner with application vendors like Emptoris in their outsourcing and transformation deals, while owning and maintaining much of the plumbing themselves. I wonder if this strategy will continue, or whether the Viacore deal is a signal that Big Blue is pushing closer to owning Spend Management application technology itself. One last thought for the day ... perhaps it is the opposite of the above statement and represents a "surround" strategy where IBM tries to commoditize the application layer by owning everything else, from middleware through to process and regional (i.e., Asia) expertise.

Jason Busch

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