What's your Upside?

A couple weeks back, I had the chance to catch up with Upside Software's Ashif Mawji. It had been a while since we had spoken, and it's a good thing we chatted because I was not aware of Upside's recent successes -- not to mention some of the more innovative uses of contract management technology their customers have deployed.

Ashif is a bit of a character if you go by the bio on his website. It begins, "Ashif has been an entrepreneur since he was 12 years old, when he sold watches at trade shows." But the man cuts straight to business when describing the growth of Upside Software in recent years (although one could argue that moving from hawking imitation Swiss watches to enterprise software is a big step down). According to Ashif, between 2001 and 2006, Upside has grown to over 140 employees and has increased revenues by 3000% and profit by 400% over the same period. And like Emptoris -- and unlike many of the other software providers in the procurement and supply chain world -- they've also had success selling through the SIs and other VARs, such as CGE&Y, Bearing Point, and niche resellers in specific geographies and industries.

Obviously, a rising contract management tide lifts all vendor boats. But Upside appears to be benefiting disproportionately from the growing market. Ashif shared that they're currently seeing triple the number of RFPs relative to the year before and a number of prospects and customers are beginning to look at combining and integrated sourcing and procurement into their contract management efforts (using one or multiple vendors). Some are using UpsideForms, essentially a spreadsheet on steroids, to further round out their contract and sourcing analysis efforts. Others are closing the loop on the billing side as well.

We all know the basic value proposition for contract management, so I won't rehash that here. But some of Upside's customers are getting quite innovative with how they use the technology. One is using Upside to manage services-related contracts and is tying Upside into their Remedy service management system to track vendor service levels. This user is also using a scorecard system as a survey mechanism to gather both factual and anecdotal data to not only negotiate better pricing with suppliers, but to come to terms with tying contracted price to specific service levels. In other words, Upside is enabling true lifecycle total cost management for service-related contract activities.

Another Upside customer, a Fortune 50 life sciences company running eight instances of SAP along with Siebel and Ariba Sourcing, is using Upside to manage workflow for the contracting process to ensure that users are buying off of a master contract (which was previously not enabled with other technology). The system is tied back into SAP to present pricing and catalog information, orchestrating an integrated contract management approach to ensure that the entire organization is taking advantage of the hard work that the sourcing and procurement teams have already done. This on-premise deployment -- Upside also offers On Demand capability as well -- took six months to implement with the customer's other enterprise applicaitons. This is not bad considering that the Upside workflow engine is the glue that cements the procurement lifecycle across a complex, heterogeneous systems environment.

So when it comes to contract management, ask yourself: what's your upside? If you don't have a great answer, I know of at least one vendor who would love the opportunity to offer their perspective.

Jason Busch

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