One of the most fun aspects of vendor conferences is finding attendees who are not yet customers but are evaluating solutions from vendors -- including the one throwing the shindig they're attending -- and picking their brains for candid opinions. One such prospect I spoke with had dabbled in sourcing with a competitive provider. Another attendee used an exchange for various services and was considering Ariba. What struck me in both cases was how both were somewhat underwhelmed by Ariba's overall positioning in the market -- there was not an attitude of "we won't get fired for buying Ariba" as is common with market leaders in some categories -- but individually liked what they saw on the product and services side at the event. Ironically, given Ariba's past reputation for charging a price premium, one even remarked how they liked Ariba's pricing relative to the competition. In other words, Ariba was the low cost provider. Now that's something I would not have expected, although it's a signal that Ariba is clearly interested in buying marketshare -- or they've gotten their solution delivery cost down -- in some segments of the Spend Management market.
- Jason Busch