Business & Technology Nexus

Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

Archive for July 2006

Blueberry Pie and Blogging

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We had some friends over for dinner Saturday, and it was the first time I was embarrassed to have my blog entries quoted back to me. It’s definitely a weird experience to throw your opinions out here on these pages & then have your network of friends and acquaintances so “dialed in” to your latest thoughts.

Besides enjoying some out-of-this-world blueberry pie, I was also given a push to go back and dig deeper into the Oracle v. SAP license revenue battle. The idea was to gather Siebel and Peoplesoft revenue pre-acquisition & perhaps over a 2-3 year time horizon, and then essentially chart Orace+Peoplesoft+Siebel v. SAP. The theory is that this chart will give a better read on how the battle is shaping up.

So I’ll go off and dig up the numbers… Stay tuned.

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Written by Dave Stephens

07/30/06 8:18 PM at 8:18 pm

Posted in Opinion

OSCON 2006

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The 8th annual open source convention wraps up today in Portland. I hope to make it there next year. On the open source startup advice front, Matt Asay had an interesting blog post summarizing his presentation. Good stuff Matt and thanks for sharing!

Written by Dave Stephens

07/28/06 2:49 PM at 2:49 pm

Posted in Open Source

Tag! You’re It

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If you go looking for a traditional requisition line category in the Coupa eProcurement Preview Release you will come up empty-handed. It’s not there. Of course, it’s MIA on purpose.

While I was at Oracle I kept trying to figure out how to solve the categorization riddle. On the one hand, classifying spend is a reporting/accounting problem. But on the other, it’s how employees find things. And customers struggle with best practices on how to balance between the two.

So when Oracle introduced it’s eProcurement solution back in the late 90’s, classification was split into 2. You had your findability taxonomy and your reporting/accounting taxonomy. This solved a ton of problems, most notably an upgrade challenge for long-time Purchasing customers. But the maintenance of these two schemes was too much for brand new customers to bear. For R12 (an imminent new release of Oracle Applications), if I’m remembering right, our design was to collapse them back down. But that wasn’t what I really wanted or thought customers needed.

I wanted customers to be able to classify and categorize an item as many times and with as many different “systems” as they felt necessary. But I couldn’t articulate the idea into a comprehensible design. I just kept thinking about changing the data model to say “Reporting Category 1”, “Reporting Category 2”, etc, which was silly.

Now, Noah Eisner deserves the credit for adapting the consumer-centric tags concept to eProcurement – but as we began to dig into how they would work as a replacement for “purchasing category”, I realized I had the functionality I wanted.. And in a Preview release! Who would have thought. The big advance, technically speaking, is dis-associating the category from content & creating an intermediary table to support a many-to-many relationship.

So by all means, think of taggings as classifications of a catalog item (or more generally, content). They can be authored by the Procurement department or by employees in a true decentralized fashion. Or both. The concept is very, very flexible.

Now you’ve probably used tags on YouTube or Flickr. One beef I had was the limit to a single word. I don’t know if people will like our implementation, but it does support use of “double quotes” to encapsulate a phrase.

Tags turn the classification problem over to the user. But leave it in the hands of the Procurement department. And the truth is, it belongs both places.

Now tags don’t just apply to content. So there’s more to cover on this thread another time…

Written by Dave Stephens

07/28/06 7:45 AM at 7:45 am

Posted in Coupa, Open Source, Opinion

Coupa Preview Release Now Available

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I’m pleased to announce we’ve issued our preview release of Coupa eProcurement. Our corporate website is refreshed, and we are live on Sourceforge. There are still a bunch of things to do to dress up our presence at both places, but it’s a good start.

I want to strongly express my gratitude to Noah Eisner, David Williams, and Seggy Umboh for their impressive dedication, work ethic, and achievement over the last few months. You guys rock. Big time.

Thanks also to Kevin Miller for his early and continuing guidance on the Coupa project. I learned the Procurement space under Kevin’s leadership for many moons at Oracle. He was always a great boss and proved a tough act to follow.

I also want to thank Ron Wohl for his time, his advice, and his continuing encouragement.

Before I go and set the bar too high, please remember Coupa’s preview release is an initial body of work. There are many additional capabilities we plan to add. I’m also looking forward to more detailed feedback from contributors, ISV’s, SI’s, and prospects so we can fine tune and enhance what we’ve done. Still, I think we’ve got some pretty great stuff in there too.

Coupa has now planted its flagpole in the dirt. We’re the Open Source Procurement company.

Written by Dave Stephens

07/26/06 11:26 PM at 11:26 pm

Posted in Coupa, Open Source

HP & Mercury Interactive Hook up – and Ariba Continues Their Revenue Diet Program

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Wow. Mercury Interactive, a leading provider of testing software (including WinRunner and LoadRunner) is becoming part of HP. You can start to see even more alignment of HP’s businesses towards a “we’re just like IBM” model. What’s next? Selling off the consumer PC business? In any event, HP seems to be doing quite well thank you very much.

I always liked Mercury’s stuff – and I think this acquisition is an interesting one as it will help Mercury recover from their options scandal & immediately stop that stain from being a drag on their business.

In other news Ariba came in light on revenues… Again… But they say things are going really “well” transitioning the business to subscriptions. Of course, that was what they’ve been saying for the last 5 quarters also. I guess it depends on what the definition of “well” is. Sometimes it means on course, good, nicely, etc. But “well” can also mean ‘a deep pit you keep digging in the hope of finding water’… The stock is getting pounded after-hours, down 5.8%. On a more positive note, I really liked Ariba’s recent decision to ship a NetWeaver adapter for their supplier network service to tie into SAP.

As a vendor entering the Procurement space, it sure would be helpful if they starting executing a little better. So hurry up Ariba.

Written by Dave Stephens

07/25/06 2:16 PM at 2:16 pm

Posted in Opinion

Coupa Technology – It’s Ruby on Rails

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Late last year I began recovering from all the Oracle technology cool-aid I’d read, repeated, and internalized. And as I mentioned previously, I began to recoil from the complexity of Java. Imho some of the IDE’s around Java simply make it worse – a complex wrapper around a verbose language. And before the flame mails roll in from the Java faithful, I’ll pre-empt them by saying a lot of people are doing great things with the language, including the team I admire over at Alfresco. But moving on…

I was surprised how far Microsoft had come with their .Net infrastructure – it’s really good stuff. In fact, hats off to Microsoft on IIS too while I’m at it. (Now why can’t some of the .Net or IIS people work on crappy Internet Explorer – I mean, come on, no transparent png support until IE7?)

Beyond Redmond’s wares, I was surprised to see PHP was now more of a real/serious language too, with much better OO support. Python seemed excellent & gaining momentum also. Many long-time open source advocates predict it will eventually eclipse the other open source scripting languages.

Intuitively (read: I can’t prove it) I began to believe the web applications infrastructure race wasn’t between Microsoft .Net and Java (which admittedly is a horrible apple vs. oranges comparison), but instead between Microsoft .Net and the best open source framework for for developing web applications. And increasingly I believed an object-oriented script language would be a better choice within whichever open source framework won out.

Now, I’m not sure if Ruby is that language. Further, I’m not sure whether Rails will be an open source application framework to rival .Net. But Ruby on Rails has worked incredibly well for us. The productivity gains vs. what I had come to expect at Oracle were shocking and continue to be amazing.

It is clean. It enforces MVC. It’s fairly powerful. We like it a lot.

I first traded emails with David Heinemeier Hannson back in December asking for his advice on whether Ruby on Rails was ready for enterprise software. And I have to say so far it’s been absolutely great. Thank you David!

If you haven’t tried Ruby on Rails or the Ruby language, I’d definitely recommend you give it a shot. And to you Java developers, don’t worry – from what I’ve seen you can make an easy transition to Ruby on Rails. But beware, you may not want to switch back!

Written by Dave Stephens

07/25/06 12:08 PM at 12:08 pm

Posted in Coupa, IT, Opinion, Technology

Why eProcurement

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After developing Oracle’s eProcurement solution under the leadership of Kevin Miller back in 1997 and 1998 it may seem odd that Noah Eisner and I chose to build our first open source Procurement module in that venerable space. But it’s not. Year in and year out, our experiences led us to believe eProcurement was the place where the “rubber met the road” in terms of effectively managing Procurement across an organization.

And here are some numbers to consider. Worldwide, we estimate eProcurement penetration from Oracle, SAP, Ariba, Ketera, etc, at no more than 7,000 companies. We think that represents live support contracts and subscriptions. Yet many of these support contracts are for implementations that are now inactive – ones that were once started but now abandoned. Many others are “limping along,” never having achieved control over the majority of employee spend.

But even if you assume these 7,000 companies and public sector organizations were delighted with their <insert vendor name here> eProcurement solution, there is still a universe of around 50,000 we think could benefit from an open source solution.

Choosing to deploy an eProcurement solution to your organization is the Football equivalent of “running it up the middle.” It doesn’t get much more basic than promoting self-service buying. It’s useful, important work. And that makes it fun to work on & very rewarding. Noah and I have always enjoyed execution and transaction automation in Procurement over complex optimization and theoretical modeling.

So we thought: wouldn’t it be great to bring the power of effective Procurement to companies of all sizes? And wouldn’t it be great to bring some innovation to a space like eProcurement, which really hasn’t changed that much over the past decade?

As I’ve written previously, I believe Ariba ceded the eProcurement market to SAP and Oracle with their Freemarkets acquisition. It was a good move at the time. They were following the money. Nowadays they still give eProcurement good lip service, but since it is not a revenue driver it can’t get the same focus as their other business areas. Ketera is doing some good work. But the drop-off is dramatic. And so there’s been less innovation in eProcurement than perhaps in an area like Sourcing.

Well, we aim to change that. We hope to offer a true alternative to the Oracle / SAP duopoly rapidly developing in this space. Please join us!

Written by Dave Stephens

07/24/06 11:59 PM at 11:59 pm

Posted in Coupa, Opinion