What do Open Sources Apps and MGs have in Common?

I've not had the chance to speak with Dave Stephens since he launched Coupa officially this week, but I'm looking forward to digging deep into the Open Source eProcurement application in the coming weeks, and reporting my findings on Spend Matters. Michel Lamoureux has posted a great write-up already on Sourcing Innovation which I strongly recommend you check out. In general, I must say that I have some hesitations with Open Source applications, not because of the concept, but because of the willingness of companies to devote themselves to the cause, especially when traditional On Demand solutions are coming down in price, and SAP and Oracle are getting religion about reducing traditional implementation costs and headaches (now all you need is Imitrex to stop the pain rather than a full frontal lobotomy).

Now, don't get me wrong. Certainly, like MG enthusiasts who love going to gatherings with fellow rag top geeks, there's a market for Open Source business applications. But most organizations would still prefer a boring but reliable Honda (or maybe a Jaguar is a better metaphor given the actual total costs of maintaining the application over its lifecycle). And moreover, since so much of the cost of application deployment is tied up in customization, configuration, and business process modeling -- not to mention the costs of technology integration and supplier on-boarding -- the "free" side of Open Source becomes even less of an attraction when you consider the relative low cost of the application, database, and the rest of the middleware stack in the overall equation, at least today. If I were SAP, Oracle, and Ariba, I'd be very afraid over a 10 year time frame. But for now, Open Source applications are a novelty -- not a serious threat, merely eye candy. Still, one reason I'd bet on Coupa over Open Source CRM, HR, and other app areas is that Dave and company are targeting the cheapest and most impossible people to sell expensive applications to on earth: procurement professionals. It's a ready made audience if they can get it right.

Jason Busch

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