Friday Rants — Lies, Damn Lies and Industry Influence

When I was teenager debating politics with my family around the dinner table, I remember that one time after a long debate filled with fire and brimstone, one of my parents turned to me and said: "Now Jason, what do you really think." And then I went off -- ignoring the rules of parliamentary procedure and gentlemanly debate. I recently recalled this conversation when I thought of the blog. It reminded me of how I've really censored things a bit over the years. I have generally said what's on my mind, but I've not gone the extra mile to really twist the knife in. This Friday marks the first of what will hopefully remain a continuous series about what I really want to say. Consider it Spend Matters unplugged.

I'll be blatant. Some might even say obnoxious. But I plan to place out on the stage some of my stronger opinions without couching them in rhetoric as I so often do. If you don't like this series, don't read it. The rest of the week, Spend Matters will remain its reliable self. But sometimes you need to turn the dial up to 11 ... So let's kick off this little Friday rant for the inaugural post in this series. Over the past couple of weeks, I've served the hybrid role of reporter/columnist covering the outcome of the Ariba and Emptoris patent case. In this coverage and the subsequent comments that ensued, I've learned a lot about a very small segment of the Spend Matters audience, those who attempt to take on my arguments not with logic or knowledge, but by tossing into question my objectivity (my credibility is something else entirely and I'll leave that up to individual readers to decide). These RSS attempts at character assassination got to me at first. Now I just chalk them up to what comes with the territory (and allowing everyone a voice in the discussion).

But they also introduce the need to set the record straight about influence and bias in the sector. For example, one person who commented implied that in backing Emptoris it was due to a "denial of a business relationship" with them. The implication here is that I desire one in the future and that my kind words would foster the effort. This might appear valid to someone who is truly on the outside, but let's dissect a couple of things here. First, the combination of my 5 years at FreeMarkets (stock, options, salary, bonus, etc.) and my commercial relationship with Ariba since then has generated in the low seven figures of remuneration -- most of which came from my time at FMKT. But you know what? That means nothing if I can't be honest with myself and this audience, hence my frustration with this patent madness. For those who've taken me on intelligently in this debate, kudos to you (e.g., Armchair Quarterback). But most of the comments point to the fact that either typical vendor marketing people have 80 IQs or there really is just a lot of idiocy in this world. Seriously, learn to string together an argument or wait on the bench while the real QB tosses up the ball.

But what about the comment about said 128 area vendor? For the genius that suggested "the denial of a business relationship" I should point out that Emptoris is also a client -- as are many of the other providers in the sector. But even though they are, I have no compunction stating -- as I have before in as many words -- that I abhor Emptoris’ disclosure of incorrect and/or misleading financial metrics over the years. They outright lied to AMR a few years back in a quantitative study that the analyst firm was forced to retract and change. I have no doubt that more recent studies that take into account "ability to execute" are in part based on financial metrics which again, were potentially overstated. Of course Emptoris could deny this by saying these numbers were never written down but were suggested in phone calls or by providing ranges -- both of which provide plausible deniability. But check out the numbers that circulated in relation to the court case and you'll see a very different story than what the market has absorbed based on what Emptoris has somehow suggested over the years.

What does all this mean for the blog? Above all, I view Spend Matters as a place to be honest with myself and the market -- practitioners, vendors, consultants and everyone else. If I don't have my objectivity, then I have nothing. In the Ariba/Emptoris patent case, I've gone beyond just reporting the rulings and offering my interpretation. I have reached out to actual customers I know and whose opinions I value. One or more of whom are highly influential in the sector as well. Discount the opinions as you wish, but if you must go after me personally, do some diligence before taking off the gloves.

To those small few who want to stoop and attack me, I will not dilute this free community forum by deleting your comments. I welcome them -- especially the intelligent ones. And for the record, my biases will always be with my gut -- not my wallet. As for me, if a client wants to walk because of my opinion, there are dozens of more prospects around the corner (and I don't have the large SG&A expense or infrastructure costs to support having to kiss up). And that's why independent bloggers will always be a more candid source for written, objective opinion than traditional publishers/analysts that need to be especially careful with what they write.

- Jason Busch

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