SciQuest NextLevel: Dispatch 3 (AECSoft Integration Planning and Product Roadmap — Part 1)

Late last year, SciQuest announced it was acquiring AECsoft, a vendor focused primarily on the supplier management and diversity markets, with a secondary capability in the e-sourcing area. At SciQuest's NextLevel event this year, I had the chance to sit down with SciQuest's Gamble Heffernan, who runs marketing and strategy and is leading the AECsoft integration planning and joint product roadmap effort. I had a number of questions for Gamble, all aimed at better learning how SciQuest would begin to leverage the AECsoft asset, and most important, what it would mean for customers of both providers.

My first question centered on understanding SciQuest's plans for AECsoft's content business, considering it falls a bit outside the spectrum of where SciQuest plays today (though I suppose you could consider catalog content/master data management as more closely linked with supplier management than some other areas). Gamble noted first that their specific plan of attack was to "understand it better" before making any moves. She noted potential synergies between the multiple business lines SciQuest supports today and saw an opportunity for new template-based best practices for supplier management / supplier management content (e.g., for OSHA compliance) that could be of material interest for customers of both organizations. Gamble further suggested that especially within the higher education and public sector verticals, that there is great demand for the type of supplier enrichment content that AECsoft provides (e.g., diversity data).

Our next question turned to the AECsoft codebase. Specifically, I was curious given that AECsoft is built on .Net and SciQuest is Java, what the plans were going forward for a Java release. On a similar topic, I also wanted to learn whether there would be additional upgrades or maintenance of the legacy AECsoft suite before any future codebase convergence. Gamble suggested that there is no immediate need to move off the AECsoft codebase, and they are evaluating what a planned global supplier portal, leveraging underlying functional IP and capability from both product and development organizations, would be developed in. Going forward, specifically, Gamble notes they have multiple options starting with API-layer integration.

From a product integration perspective, Gamble shared that they are planning a single sign-on for their Sourcing Director product and some "re-skinning" of the project workflow on the administrative side of their marketplace offering in the near term to further link the two solutions. This will enable users of both products, for example, to create a PO requisition that can become a bid in the AECsoft product and then become an order. In SciQuest's forthcoming 11.2 release, the integration between the two products will be even tighter. But it's important to note that this only matters for the small audience today (and in the near future) that will have both SciQuest and AECsoft products.

Stay tuned as this discussion between Spend Matters/SciQuest is continued tomorrow. But on a final humorous note for today, I did see Tom Ren (AECsoft's founder) at the event. He was his usually frenetic self, rushing between customers and prospects, all making them feel at home (and clearly trying to get deals done) in his completely unique "Energizer Bunny", no off-switch way, as one of his colleague describes him. Some network should do a sitcom about Tom.

When we caught up, however briefly, he immediately inquired about the work we were up to in the supplier management area -- Tom always has his commercial hat on -- and I mentioned one selection we were informally advising on at the moment and a more formal selection engagement getting started where he'd be invited to the table. He immediately wanted to know why they were not included in the former because they were "Gartner's top ranked vendor" (In this case, I think the company had eliminated them before my involvement, I told him).

Regardless, I felt like telling Tom that showing a Gartner report to folks like us is a bit like showing a Consumer Reports ranking of a car to the guys at Top Gear (the UK version, thank you very much). But I thought the analogy might be lost, so I smiled as I slowly went in one direction, and Tom dashed off in the other, immediately onto his next deal, no doubt brandishing the Gartner credential at the tip of his tongue and the pride of ownership of what was still very much his own thing. I love American entrepreneurial success stories, and AECsoft is a quintessential example.

- Jason Busch

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