Morning Coffee with Steve Brooke, New CTO at CombineNet (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1 of this interview with Steve Brooke of CombineNet.

Thomas Kase: How should companies go about building internal skills to put advanced sourcing solutions to full use? Is there any other groundwork that they should address first -- e.g. other technology, data cleanses, master data management approaches, policy changes, non-solution specific end-user training?

Steve Brooke: You point out several areas that are applicable -- sourcing comes after many other steps in the process; regardless of whether this process covers 7, 13 or any other number of steps. Blindly following a prescribed process, irrespective of which consulting firm crafted it, is not always the best approach, more flexibility is often needed. Companies need to define their own processes, and follow them. Many tools mandate that the user is confined to a specific process and workflow, but the better approach is to provide a tool that can be modeled around customer's own process. In our case, the solution is flexible enough to be adapted to fit any given process through configuration.

As I said earlier, understanding your business and supply base is a prerequisite. We will be bringing advanced sourcing best practices into the solution to further support our customer's specific sourcing processes. Spend analysis is of course critical to sourcing, and we have partnerships with leading vendors in that area.

TK: What is your vision for how CombineNet can leverage your knowledge of solutions that require little or no training even when the underlying complexity is significant?

SB: Already, we have fully configurable templates in the standard ASAP platform; we don't customize, we configure. We have a Best Practices Center offering available today with our product that adds event templates and other category-specific content aimed squarely at addressing complex issues -- examples include best practices on the use of product features (such as advanced use of expressive bidding or scenario builder capabilities) along with category templates. We will continue to build and enhance that offering along with the configurability of the core product.

TK: How has SaaS changed, and how has the corporate appetite for SaaS changed over the past five years? How do you view the difference between 'cloud' and 'SaaS' in terms of solution architecture, delivery, and end-user experience?

SB: Much of my career has been focused on developing and delivering SaaS solutions, so I am pleased to see that SaaS has won broad acceptance and is clearly a popular delivery format at most organizations these days. Cloud computing goes further by enabling substantial savings on infrastructure. I estimate that I could have saved around $5 million at Procuri, and considerable development time, if we had combined the cloud model with our SaaS business model. With the pure SaaS product model, multi-tenancy is a key element of efficiency. That means reducing operating cost via shared hardware and software -- the need for this is reduced with cloud implementations. Significant effort is needed to achieve scalability and reliability in SaaS architectures, whereas the combination of SaaS and cloud computing architectures take advantage of the benefits of stateless computing at all levels. This, combined with the geographic breadth of the cloud computing providers enables global distribution models that are not economical with SaaS architectures alone. With this approach the user experience is not impacted even if a server -- any server -- should go down.

An interesting side benefit is that cloud computing is environmentally superior when compared to SaaS, since less hardware needs to be deployed for the same overall performance, which in turn reduces the need for electricity, cooling and hardware recycling.

Stay tuned for the last part in this series, coming early next week.

- Thomas Kase

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