Friday Rant: Nearly Six Years With a Healthy Dose of Controversy

It's been almost six years since we started Spend Matters and I can't remember a single year that's been without a major controversy, mostly in the area of enterprise software (but also professional services as well). In many cases, we end up breaking stories. And in others, we provide a level of context and insight that enable readers to shape their own opinions, from what we hope is at least a slightly more informed foundation. I remember in the early years that one person who I still respect tremendously on the communications and PR side of the vendor house -- I worked with her for many years at the same company -- told me when I was a bit down one day after a number of personal attacks on my credibility and "sensational" reporting that if you're doing a good job in the news business (i.e., providing real insight and scoop to readers versus the standard fluff that passes for reporting and op/ed), you're bound to tick some people off along the way and engender personal attacks as a result. She was right.

But on the whole, we've at least not been incorrect -- I hesitate to say we've been "right," as that's not the point -- in virtually every case where we've reported or offered opinion on something controversial (e.g., breaking news on the CombineMed story, providing the real story and early reporting on the SAP SRM 6.0 blow-up, calling it as we saw it and not what we were told with Versata after it bought PurchasingNet, etc.). I don't recall ever having to publish a single retraction, even though there have most certainly been nights where I've lost sleep over the news we report and the analysis we offer. But what makes up for it are the dozens of phones calls and e-mails we get from practitioners and advisers out there who take stories like this and use them to make better decisions for their own companies.

I've learned quickly that this business will not make you friends with everyone. It will also most certainly make you at least temporary enemies with some people (in this regard, I will say that what we do has a habit of outing at least some in the world who clearly cannot tolerate dissent because of their own insecurities or short-term interests). But I do believe this comes with the territory and it's a sacrifice I've personally had to make over the years to build this site and our other properties to where they are today.

As a final note in the rant, if I could offer one piece of advice to those running organizations -- or marketing groups -- with news to report that is less than stellar: the best offense is not a good defense, or to wait to see if a story gets out. It's transparency. Be transparent and proactive with press, analysts, influencers and pundits and they'll treat you with respect. We all know how hard it can be to be brutally honest with tough situations and it's something that is nearly always reciprocated not only with more sensitive coverage, but often help, friendly advice and counsel behind the scenes. BP botched this on a major scale with their spill, and I can name nearly a dozen companies I've dealt with on a much smaller scale over the years that have as well.

Jason Busch

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