My whirlwind spring conference travel schedule finally ends after my trip to Ariba LIVE next week. I've always enjoyed LIVE because the show is not too big and not too small. Sure, some of it is a commercial, but much of the customer stuff is usually quite useful. LIVE is in Vegas this year -- which I can't stand because I believe gambling is anathema to Spend Management thinking -- but at least the location will give me more an excuse not to cut out of the breakouts to hit the beach like last year (even bloggers need a break sometimes to catch some rays). But seriously, what's on my mind relative to covering Ariba this year? First, I want to come away from the event with a call on whether or not Oracle will finally seal the deal with Ariba in the next 12 months. Many of you have heard countless rumors in the past three years about Ariba and Oracle getting together. I hope to make the definitive call after the event based on Ariba's direction and trading thoughts with a few of the financial analysts who are coming. Personally, I'm guessing Ariba will continue to remain independent, but I'll leave my analysis on this for later. I'm also curious to poll internally and externally whether Bob will be staying with the organization for the foreseeable future (another rumor that's been circulating in the past year).
But much more important from a customer perspective today is Ariba's overall product and solution direction. Personally, I think Ariba has been too quiet on the innovation front for far too long. Now, I'm all for Benjamin Franklin's adage that "talkers are no great doers", but in the software/tech world, you either innovate or become a Computer Associates (and the later choice is one that in a rapidly growing market, no vendor can afford to make). Even at Sapphire, SAP proved their attempt to think out of the box in the SRM space -- whether they can execute is another question. But that's not the point. Ariba, as the largest pure-play in the space, needs to step up to the plate and tell its customers and other attendees what they should be doing tomorrow – not just how to improve the status quo today. And their product and solution roadmap needs to reflect this vision.
If Spend Matters readers would like me to drill down on any particular product areas next week, let me know (post a comment or drop a line). From a solution perspective, I'm planning on doing a somewhat deep dive on Ariba's latest offerings in EIPP, services procurement, spend visibility, contract management and supplier performance, among other areas, not to mention the supplier network, which is always a topic that interests me.
Disclosure: I do not directly hold stock in Ariba or any of its competitors though may own mutual funds which trade in technology stocks. Ariba is, however, a client of my consulting firm, Azul Partners, and a sponsor of this blog, but we also work with over a dozen of Ariba's competitors in a commercial capacity as well. SAP, also mentioned in this post, is a current client of my advisory firm, Azul Partners, though I have not worked with them directly for over two years.
- Jason Busch