Beeline Analyst Panel: Exploring SAP and Fieldglass – Like Bug Spray and Sunblock?

Earlier this morning, I participated on an analyst panel during Beeline’s customer conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, along with Christopher Dwyer (Ardent Partners), Diana Gabriel (Staffing Industry Analysts), Christine Ross (an analyst extraordinaire and 15-year Forrester veteran who is now having fun on her own), and Ben Walker (Brightfield Strategies). It was a fascinating panel and I was lucky enough to have a pen on stage to scribble notes from the ideas that my peers shared (much more to come on this front).

Front and center in questions from Beeline and the audience was industry consolidation and the elephant in the room: SAP’s acquisition of Fieldglass. There was even a rumor circulating that SAP sales reps were in the hotel bar the previous night. I suspect it was just coincidence if the rumor was even true, but there’s no question that the role of services procurement within companies just got the spotlight shown on it big time with the acquisition of Fieldglass.

In fact, I debated a colleague on the panel who suggested that the acquisition was not necessarily the shot heard round the contingent workforce/services procurement world. To respond to his argument, I suggested that the notion of now having thousands of SAP reps having a VMS on the price sheet, and targeting CIOs with yet another shiny object, will raise the stature of the market like nothing we’ve seen before.

Christine had the best one liner though. She described the notion of the VMS and ERP together given the different business models as potentially contradictory (especially given the different revenue models and the MSP ecosystem). Christine summed it up the combination of the two areas like “bug spray” and “sunblock” – and that you can’t have the two in the same product because the goal of one is to minimize usage while the other you “want to live in all day” when at the beach.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s clever. And given the different goals, customers, fee models, and objectives of ERP, indirect procurement, and VMS solutions, it certainly raises the question of synergies within ERP and VMS beyond the logical upsell/cross-sell. That is, unless SAP succeeds in changing the broader services procurement and talent management game entirely by changing the focus from people and talent to systems. But one thing is for sure regardless of where you stand on the argument: you can bet the staffing and MSP world won’t want that transformation to happen!

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