Morning Coffee with Steve Brooke, New CTO at CombineNet (Part 1)

While we were both at Procuri, Steve and I were often in the office around 6 in the morning, taking turns brewing the first batch of java. That was a few years ago. After Procuri was acquired by Ariba, Steve took a few years away from supply chain technology solutions, but he hasn't stayed away from the game. Over the past two years, he has spent a good deal of time honing his skills on cloud technology -- in particular, Amazon web services -- as well as taking his golf handicap down to the single digits! Earlier this year, CombineNet engaged him to provide product and architecture consulting, and the mutual fit for both sides led him to joining the company to head the technology side. I recently had the chance to catch up with Steve about e-sourcing and some of his plans at CombineNet.

Thomas Kase: Steve, how do you define advanced sourcing these days?

Steve Brooke: Optimization as such isn't the only aspect of advanced sourcing. It also includes capturing additional variables through use of multi-dimensional item attributes, bid formulas, expressive bidding, and dynamic price factors. Back at Procuri we had many of these features, but they really needed optimization to come into full play -- and most clients didn't choose that module.

TK: What's next for optimization in a 1-2 year horizon -- solution enhancements, extensions that might be relevant and coming soon?

SB: Historically, the model at CombineNet was to deliver customers a solution on a per-event basis, but over a year ago, we changed to a product-led business strategy and we have now switched from building specialized solutions for clients and adopted a clean SaaS approach where there is a single code set and features are vetted, prioritized and rolled out to all. Quite similar to the approach we took at Procuri.

At the top of the list for CombineNet's ASAP future is the continued abstraction and normalization process of the solution -- we have a significant repository of business knowledge and category expertise -- some of it is proprietary to certain clients, but where this is not the case you will see this reflected in our feature set, best practice templates and other resources available in our solution. In fact, some of this is already in operational use. Our Best Practices Center is a value-added optional service that gives client access to exclusive templates and content -- along with other benefits, like coaching, product release walk-throughs, rapid start-up services.

TK: About change management -- in the past, many buyers have been content to merely distribute spreadsheets through esourcing platforms. What do you see as successful ways to break this habit?

SB:We attack this head on. We take the best aspects of Excel and incorporate this into the solution in the form of import/export templates to make it easy for users to push and pull data in and out of the solution. This process draws users and their data into the tool -- making them comfortable with relying on the tool. To be successful as a technology provider, you have to show early ROI, and success converts more users than anything else. Our quick on-ramping process can have clients up and running in days!

To be successful as a company (and this goes for any technology solution) corporations still have to understand their business, know their supply base, and have sufficient visibility into their spend data.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, continuing our interview with Steve Brooke.

- Thomas Kase

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