Strengthening The Link Between Software Sourcing And Supplier Management

I’m part of a team called “sourcing and vendor management” (SVM). Forrester organizes its research teams by individual client roles, so my teammates and I all focus on helping clients who are sourcing and vendor management professionals. Wait a moment. Should that read “helping clients who are sourcing or vendor management professionals”? Aren’t they separate functions within a client’s organization? This is a frequent question from our clients, and one that causes a lot of internal debate within our team.

My view, formed from witnessing the experience of hundreds of enterprises, is that, at least in the software category, sourcing and supplier management should be very closely linked, but not via org structure and reporting lines. This is because:

·         It is impossible to manage software suppliers effectively unless you can influence sourcing. The major players are so big and powerful that they usually have the upper hand in discussions about maintenance renewals and service levels. Even small software providers can build immovable, entrenched positions in their chosen niches. To have sufficient negotiation leverage to do a good job, the supplier manager must be able to credibly threaten to negatively impact the supplier’s ability to win future business.

·         Sourcing is infrequent but intensive, whereas supplier management is continual. The former consumes huge amounts of time and effort for a relatively small period, which risks dropping the ball on monitoring while you’re immersed in a big negotiation, or missing opportunities on the sourcing side due to distractions from the ‘day job’. You therefore need different people handling each side, but collaborating closely with each other.

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Oracle’s FY2014 Financial Results Point to New Opportunities for Sourcing Professionals

Sourcing professionals already understand the importance of monitoring financial performance to assess risk in their key suppliers’ ability to deliver commitments. Sometimes sourcing professionals can also find valuable negotiation leverage in the financial results of their key suppliers, as is the case with Oracle’s Q4 2013 numbers . In my opinion, the revealing aspects that you can use to increase your bargaining power over the next couple of quarters, include:

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Sourcing Professionals Need A New Approach For Dealing With The Software Giants

Many clients ask me for help in dealing with very large software companies who, in their opinion, always seem to have the upper hand in negotiations. "How can I make myself less dependent on X?" they ask, or "how can I cut the amount I have to pay Y each year?" They're CIOs or sourcing professionals who are used to being able to push suppliers around, threatening to kick them out if they misbehave, and they struggle to accept the reality that their normal tactics won't work with the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP. My advice is, get used to it. These companies have grown so big and profitable that they will dominate the business technology market for years to come. Yes, they will face competition from younger companies, but they generate so much cash and have such strong embedded positions in so many enterprises that they can always acquire the upstart, or develop a product that beats it in most deals. 

However, the software giants' huge power isn't necessarily a bad thing. Their scale enables them to spend far more money on development than their smaller rivals, and this usally results in excellent  innovative products. Yes, they can also be inflexible, siloed, frustrating, bureaucratic - but when it comes to software development, size matters. So there really isn't much point in questioning whether the world would be a better place if these companies were much smaller than they currently are. Instead, we should accept reality and learn how to survive and thrive under their rule.

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Software Companies Can Gain Competitive Advantage By Making Their Pricing Value-Based

I help hundreds of technology buyers each year to understand the impact of technology changes on their software contracts, but I also get questions from software providers about how best to price their products. Some are bringing new products to market and want to know how to maximize revenue, while others are struggling with obsolete metrics such as per processor and want to update their pricing for the modern mobile, cloudy world. The answer is usually to find licensing metrics that make their pricing value-based while balancing simplicity and fairness. The more value a customer gets from your product, the more they should be willing to pay for it. If you make your pricing too simple then you won't match value sufficiently closely, which will cause you to price yourself out of some deals and leave money on the table in others. If, OTOH, you try to match value too precisely you risk making your pricing so complicated that buyers will reject it, and you, completely.

For example, suppose you have a product that will help people do their jobs better, so you decide that charging for each user will be a good approximation for value. The potential problem is that not everyone will use your product the same, in terms of depth of functionality and/ or frequency of access. Your single per user price will be unfair to companies with long tails of light, infrequent users, for whom you'll therefore be too expensive. Conversely your pricing will be unfair to you when the customer is mostly power users. To make your pricing fairer you could have different prices for different categories of user, but then you risk being criticized for being too complex.

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SAP’s Maintenance Price Hike Should Concern Sourcing Professionals And Their CIOs

On Monday, SAP communicated that it will increase the price of standard support on new contracts by 5% from July 15, 2013, from 18% to 19%. SAP’s announcement claims that the increase is necessary: “In order to ensure the same high level of quality support in the future.” That justification is disingenuous, in my opinion. SAP already makes a very healthy profit on maintenance. (SAP does not report its margin on maintenance revenue. For 2012, it reported 81% gross profit on software licenses and maintenance combined.) Moreover, third-party support providers (3SP’s) like RiminiStreet can provide better support at half the price or less.

SAP’s other justification is equally unconvincing. It states that within the standard support package “there is ongoing expansion of value, for example a continuous flow of innovation through Enhancement Packs.” SAP reinvests 14% of its revenue in R&D, but I estimate that 90% of that goes on developing new products such as Hana that you have to pay again for if you want them. (SAP disputes this estimate but did not provide an alternative figure.) That would mean that Enhancement Pack development represents around 1% of revenue, insufficient to justify charging double what 3SP’s charge, let alone a 5% price increase.

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New Year’s Resolutions For Sourcing Professionals: Eat Less, Exercise More, And Implement Strategic Software Sourcing

Avoid the 2013 holiday rush – start your year-end software negotiations now! Have you just about recovered from several adversarial, transactional software procurement negotiations last month? Have you resolved to avoid a similar situation next year? Then Forrester’s Strategic Software Sourcing Playbook can help you.

Apparently 38% of Americans made weight-related resolutions in 2012, and 67% of people with gym memberships never use them. So my advice is to shun anything you’ve seen in a TV infomercial (“we called it Lunacy because you’d have to be mad to buy it”) and instead make your New Year's resolution to be more strategic and proactive in your software buying in 2013. Our Playbook, launched today, explains how to do that.

Reactive, adversarial software buying is ineffective in the new business technology (BT) world of self-provisioning, cloud deployment, and mobile access. IT sourcing professionals' colleagues bypass them in the sourcing process, while powerful technology vendors expect more revenue from them than they can afford to provide. Software sourcing professionals rarely have alternative suppliers that they can use as negotiation leverage, so you need something more than your natural charm and belligerence if you are to be effective. Forrester's solution is a strategic approach that aligns the commercial model for each supplier with its place in the enterprise's software sourcing strategy.

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Upsell Versus Downbuy – Purchasing Meets Sales At IBM’s Smarter Commerce Event

Last week I was a guest at IBM’s Smarter Commerce event, mainly to see what it has been doing with Emptoris, which it acquired seven months ago. You may recall that I blogged certain misgivings when IBM announced the takeover (IBM's Acquisition Of Emptoris Further Reduces IT Sourcing Professionals' Options), and, though I still have concerns, I’m very encouraged by what I saw at the event:

·         Firstly, there was still a good focus on sourcing and procurement in the Empower event-within-an-event. IBM has preserved Empower’s best quality (and that of Ariba Live and Zycus Horizon, btw), which is that there is always lots of trends and best practices content, and not too much product plugging. Most of the event was aimed at marketing, selling, and servicing, but there was plenty for sourcing attendees too. For example, there were keynotes from the CPOs of AB InBev, Conoco Philips, and IBM itself about their priorities and how they are addressing them.

·         IBM leaders, including Craig Hayman, General Manager Industry Solutions, gave a clear and credible vision of Smarter Commerce. Hayman portrayed his Buy, Market, Sell, and Service quadrants as discrete offerings sharing common principles and technology, rather than an engineered stack that only works properly if you buy it all — best-of-breed complements to ERP, not a rival suite.

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SAP Seeks Director Of Pricing & Licensing - My Alternative Job Description

SAP is advertising for a new Director Of Pricing & Licensing. The job description states “The Strategic Pricing Director is a key member of SAP’s Revenue Strategy and Pricing Group. Pricing is a critical component of SAP’s overall strategy and go-to-market activities.” Duties include:

·         Develop and implement pricing strategies based on economic and competitive dynamics.

·         Price products and services appropriately based on the value customers receive.

·         Define and drive pricing strategy for new and/or existing solutions.

IMO, SAP does many things very well in the pricing and licensing domain. I cite it to other publishers as an exemplar of best practices in a couple of areas, such as its pricing by user category, use of business metrics for parts of the suite that deliver value independent of manual use, and tying maintenance volume discounts to conditions such as centers of excellence that filter out users’ basic support calls. However, SAP does have room for improvement, in terms of Forrester’s five qualities of good software pricing, namely that it should be value-based, simple, fair, future-proof, and published.

Considering those goals, and as an advocate for software buyers, here are some things that I’d like SAP to add to the job description:

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How To Navigate Microsoft's Licensing Of BYOD Scenarios

Microsoft is gradually improving the way it allows for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and other scenarios in which many employees use Microsoft on multiple devices. We’re getting growing numbers of questions from Forrester clients about this topic, and while Microsoft is making its approach fairer in some areas, it's also making it more complicated. One problem is that different Microsoft product teams continue to invent new ways to handle BYOD that are OK for their product but are inconsistent with how other product teams handle the same situation. Sourcing professionals need to understand all the different rules, so that they can work with IT colleagues to create a BYOD strategy that balances technical requirements and licensing cost, to take advantage of the available flexibility while avoiding the potential pitfalls. For example, Microsoft has announced cheaper, better BYOD support for the Windows client OS, but you might face significant extra costs for Microsoft Office if you enable it for BYOD unless you take care to avoid them.

Of course the fundamental problem is that per-device licensing is an obsolete model, so Microsoft should really enable BYOD by allowing per-user licensing, at least for Enterprise Agreements. However, since that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, sourcing professionals need to be able to navigate the per-device rules. Here’s as simple an overview as I can create:

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Oracle Had A Strong Third Quarter, But Well-Informed Buyers Can Still Get Great Deals In Its Q4

Oracle reported its results for the three months to February 29th yesterday, and it beat analysts’ expectations. Software license sales were up 15% from last quarter, and up 7% on last year’s Q3. The blogosphere’s “Oraclefreude” delight at its disappointing Q2 appears to have been premature. Enterprises’ insatiable demand for processing power and Oracle’s excellent products ensure a continuing demand for more "per core" license capacity of its flagship database products.

“Oracle is on track to deliver the highest operating margins in our history this year,” said Oracle President and CFO, Safra Catz, in the company’s press release. “Oracle can achieve these record margins as an integrated hardware and software company because we are focusing on high margin systems where hardware and software are engineered to work together.”

What does this mean for sourcing professionals considering Oracle deals in its important fourth quarter to May 31st?

Despite Oracle’s financial rebound, I’m still confident that sourcing professionals with leverage will be able to get better prices in the next three months than they’ve gotten before, provided they use that leverage wisely. Here are three reasons why:

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