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Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

Lessons from Transparent Punch-out Project

with 6 comments

One of the projects I learned the most from at Oracle was Transparent Punch-out. Of course, for as long as I can remember we had this vision of keeping content under the supplier's control & on their website but being able to ensure a consistent user experience for self-service requisitioners. For many years this just sat on the shelf, until one day Vijay Pawar and a few crack engineers on his team did an advanced prototype that actually worked and performed. We were able to do a distributed & parallel XML query to multiple content sources, get the responses, aggregate them & display them all within a second or two. We immediately submitted a patent on the idea, and scheduled it for the 1st available release.

Next, we invited a bunch of distributor suppliers to Redwood Shores to get their feedback. We told them "look, no more catalog syndication". We send you a query, you respond with the results. It's all real-time, with search governors in place to ensure speed. How do you think they reacted? "Boo!", "Hiss!", "NEVER!"

We had failed to position the "why" – and suppliers, hungry to differentiate to their customer base, just weren't buying. Sure, there were a couple ready to compete on price alone with good back-end systems who were ready to play ball. But 1 company estimated it would cost them $900,000 to adapt their systems. Pah! I'll adapt their systems for that and then hang out in the French Riviera for a few months to recoup. The bottom line was, if suppliers view a technology change as moving them closer to a commodity they will passively & actively resist.

Transparent Punchout may yet prove compelling – in fact, it has been pushed forward a lot further in the UK than in the US. Time will tell. 

But lesson learned – technology that bring capabilities to buyers at the expense of sellers will go nowhere fast. 


Written by Dave Stephens

04/25/06 8:24 AM at 8:24 am

Posted in IT, Opinion, Technology

6 Responses

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  1. Perhaps “Product Catalog Web Service” would have done the trick with the Vendor’s IT departments.


    04/28/06 9:21 PM at 9:21 pm

  2. What would have done it was a guarantee that the web service wouldn't be distributed – that it wouldn't search many vendors websites and display comparable items from a variety of sources with pricing information. Unfortunately, we called the feature "Distributed Search" at first which didn't help. We renamed it "Transparent Punchout" which was a lot better.

    btw, it wasn't the IT departments of the vendor firms that were the problem. It was the Sales leadership responsible for customer relations. IT, as I think makes sense, does whatever the business needs. So even though calling a web service would have upped the coolness factor, it wasn't an IT-driven decision on whether or not to support."

    Dave Stephens

    04/28/06 9:29 PM at 9:29 pm

  3. Hello Dave,

    I’m working a lot with static content and its costs a lot of time and energy.
    I’ve been reading around on the Transparent punchout and found it THE solution I was looking for (as a supplier).

    I’d be interested in knowing upto where have things gone to know and what’s your view on it ?



    06/11/09 8:34 AM at 8:34 am

  4. I remain a big fan. At Coupa, we came up with a radically different approach that we’ll be announcing on Monday. We’ll see whether folks like it!

    Dave Stephens

    06/11/09 8:55 AM at 8:55 am

  5. Hi Dave,

    I’m interested in hearing about your new approach for this requirement at Coupa and the adoption rate of Oracle’s Transparent Punchout with suppliers.

    Best regards,


    02/14/10 12:16 PM at 12:16 pm

    • David, I’ve moved on from Coupa & am back at Oracle working on integrating Sun Systems. Coupa really moved the needle in this area & continues to be very innovative. A good followup contact point is noah at coupa dot com.

      Dave Stephens

      02/25/10 5:22 PM at 5:22 pm

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