Author: Pete Loughlin

Taulia has a world-class product that gives customers a high return on their cash balances while putting affordable working capital in the hands of suppliers. Dynamic discounting is a simple model and very effective but Taulia have always had one big problem – they only serve SAP customers. Because their dynamic discounting solution is native to SAP, there’s a huge market that they simply can’t access. But now there’s a team that can access the non-SAP market – they’re called Taulia.

A few years ago, I was walking down the street in Rugby, England when I heard a load voice shout "Pick that up!" The voice coming from a loud speaker high up on a lamp post. Some kids were hanging around and one of them had dropped litter. I didn't know until then that the CCTV camera footage was being monitored in real time. This is in the UK and I had thought, naively it seems, that CTV cameras in the street were there to help find missing kids and catch rapists. I abhor litter louts as much as anyone but a surveillance state seems like a bit of a heavy handed approach to keeping the streets clean. A few months later, I was in a cab in Oslo, Norway. There was a small camera pointed at me throughout the journey. I asked and the driver explained that all cabs have these cameras. The video footage is never looked at unless there's an incident - in which case, relevant footage will be examined. Seems like a great idea to me. Now you may ask, why am I bothered about a camera in the street but not a camera in the cab? Actually, it's for the same reason that I have a problem with Sarbanes Oxley and the growing cult of transparency.

Supplier relationship management is an art that takes years to master and very few actually achieve true mastery. I have a fairly low opinion of myself in this respect. I find it difficult to deal with suppliers I don't like on a personal level. And while I don't suffer fools gladly (who does?) I do aim to operate on genuinely friendly terms with suppliers. This, I know, can hinder your objectivity. It's difficult to be hard on an under-performing supplier when you are anxious that personal relationship will be  threatened - but I like to sleep at night. This dim view of myself was contradicted recently by a colleague. "You're very good at supplier relationship management" she said. "You're not always the good cop - and you know when it's the right time to throw a penguin."

Earlier in the week we wrote about the brave transition that Basware made from old school to new school thinking on software sales. To many if not most who take an interest in enterprise software, whether that’s from an end user or buyer point of view or from a software supplier point of view, the case for SaaS ranges from attractive to compelling. But there seems to be a significant community that remains wedded to the old school way of thinking. I sit on the end user/buyer side of the fence and, for the benefit of those old schoolers on the other side of the fence, I’d like to describe from personal experience, the contrast between the two models, not from a functional perspective but from from a commercial relationship perspective.

There’s a perennial discussion about supplier fees for electronic invoicing. Should there be no fees to suppliers because all of the business benefit is on the buyer’s side of the equation? Should there be at least a small fee to suppliers that reflects the benefits of eliminating postage costs? Or should the fees be akin to purchasing card fees and be proportionate to the value of the invoice? While some see it as an ethical debate, it isn’t. It’s a commercial discussion. Everyone’s in it to make money and the debate is no more than an industry squabble. The fact is, most suppliers see supplier fees as a cost of doing business – you don’t get anything for nothing – and as far as suggesting that suppliers will pass the costs back to the buyer, even a junior procurement professional knows how to mitigate that risk and insist on no increase in pricing. What’s really important is the benefits that are delivered in terms of efficiency. This is one way of looking at it but there is another way and that involves doing the math.

I recently made some comments about Basware that were somewhat critical. It was positive, constructive criticism. I wanted to point out that Basware was ideally placed to become a monster. With one of it’s largest competitors sidelined somewhat by their acquisition by SAP, Basware could fall into the trap of becoming complacent – indeed, I have , from personal experience seen hints of this on the horizon. But I overlooked something – something that to an observer from outside of their organization could go unnoticed. It is the astonishing turn-around that Basware has performed, the foresight they have shown making that change and the energy and determination they have exhibited in completing it.

You wait for ages without meeting any then two turn up at once. I had a rush of reacquaintances some time ago. I met Mike Zealley, a former colleague from KPMG with whom I had the pleasure of working very closely about 15 years ago. After a stint elsewhere he’s now a partner at KPMG doing great things leading a Public Sector practice. Not long after, I met Roberto Moretti, CEO Europe of Oxygen Finance, for the first time. His first words to me were “Mike Zealley sends his regards.” Roberto had just come from a meeting with Mike and he’d mentioned he was seeing me. But before Roberto and I got down to business, I spotted another familiar face in the Oxygen Finance offices - Mark Hoffman, formerly of lots of businesses but most notably Sybase and CommerceOne. I last met him in 2000 at a CommerceOne event in Berlin. It felt like it was a trend. Things were coming round in full circle. Bumping into old colleagues and business acquaintances was almost to be expected but then nothing. For ages I didn’t bump into any one – until last Friday when I bumped in to two at the same time.