Source One, a procurement consultancy, has released a free reverse auction application that anyone can use by logging onto www.whyabe.com. While not open source, the Why Abe application combines marketplace-like elements with basic eRFX and sourcing capabilities which are free to both suppliers and buyers alike. What's the catch, you ask? They're really two, as I see it. First, usage is not private and information is shared with Source One, the site's owner, unless a specific one-off usage deal is worked out. But given the free nature of the application, this only seems fair. Second, the functional capabilities appear to be rudimentary relative to what other traditional providers offer. Clearly, Why Abe is an event-driven sourcing tool that is not designed as a more strategic process management platform (at least not yet). While I have not yet gone through a full-demo yet, from what I can see, the application reminds me of the original ebay-esque self-service reverse auction applications from the mid to late nineties. Bay Builder, anyone?
What's my takeaway at this point? It's too early to say. I'm talking to Source One again later this week to learn more about the application and what types of customers are using it. But in general, I love the notion of free applications such as Why Abe shaking up the e-sourcing market, even if IP concerns prevent some users from trying it. In my view, applications like Why Abe will force pure-play e-sourcing providers to innovate to justify their place in the market -- especially the middle market -- over free alternatives.