CombineNet Continues its Leadership Transformation (Part 1)

CombineNet recently hired a new CTO, Steve Brooke, who has a track record in the industry. A few years back, he served as Procuri's CTO. Spend Matters was offered a chance to interview Steve and we did so on the grounds that we could ask him the questions we wanted answered. So hopefully, you won't find just marketing fluff in his responses. We hope you find his insights and parallels as valuable as we did. Yes, there's some spin. But dig into his answers and we promise you'll learn a thing or two.

Spend Matters: Procuri's secret sauce combined ease-of-use and customer intimacy -- e-sourcing and contract management (with CMSI) for the masses with a great sales face. Your current employer is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of solution depth and focus in a market that is still a niche (albeit a growing one) versus an established one where competing on price, ease-of-use, etc. was a common strategy. Are there any lessons learned worth applying in this case or is the market entirely different?

Steve: When I look back and objectively assess what made Procuri a success, I see many of the same attributes in place here at CombineNet. While it's true that CombineNet doesn't have the breadth of offerings that Procuri did (at the end), we have a commitment to expand our product platform, scope, and functionality. That was a key attraction for me. And the advantage I see at CombineNet is that because we are expert at providing our customers with successful outcomes to their most complex sourcing requirements through our technology, that puts CombineNet in an excellent position to expand our coverage into a wider range of spend categories. Customers look for solutions to problems that their existing tools and practices do not solve. This is where CombineNet shines.

I was familiar with CombineNet while at Procuri and even leveraged the CombineNet optimization engine in the early days of the Procuri solution. In those days, I certainly did categorize the solution as 'niche,' however, after re-engaging with CombineNet in recent months and seeing the rapid progress they have made with their solution, specifically in the area of enabling self-service adoption and rapid customer value, I am very impressed.

Spend Matters: Given the value we know is possible from advanced sourcing and optimization capabilities, do you believe the more advanced capabilities that CombineNet and its rivals can offer will ever cross the chasm to widespread adoption in typical procurement organizations? If "yes," what will such an effort require and what additional solution elements will be necessary?

Steve: I believe that CombineNet has already proven we are capable of "crossing the chasm." Our current customers are demonstrating this by sourcing everything from bar soaps and sugar to housekeeping and landscaping services. While CombineNet's roots are in large, highly complex events such as transportation sourcing, our customers are moving the application into all spend areas and spend sizes. We believe that adoption velocity can further be enhanced by extending our value proposition to a larger procurement suite either via integration or solution expansion.

Spend Matters: Can advanced sourcing technology be sufficiently "dumbed-down" enough to drive widespread adoption of this negotiation/analysis technique (i.e., what Procuri did for basic e-sourcing, auctions, RFX, etc.)? Is this even a reasonable strategy?

Steve: I would not say that we will "dumb-down" the solution. That could be interpreted as removing functionality. I would say that our full-featured optimization technology is being exposed as an easy-to-use decision support tool to our users. Accessibility and usability, in addition to the many other spend management features provided within our ASAP solution, provide the basis of our strategy to drive adoption. As with Procuri, the management and structured communications capabilities directed at the sourcing process provides CombineNet's customers with a value proposition that is inclusive of a large cross-section of spend. For example, we have a customer today with over 300 users on our product from their enterprise-wide sourcing teams. It's the same optimization behind the scenes, but to the users, it's all about driving value for their organizations through friendly technology.

Jason Busch

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