Every procurement technology acquisition project I’ve been involved with has, to some degree or other, relied on a cross-functional supplier selection team. While everyone would like to think that everyone on the team has an equal voice, let’s face it…there is usually someone who has more influence than others.

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Sometimes, this influential person is the head of procurement. Sometimes, it’s the head of finance. Sometimes, it’s the head of IT.

And technology providers are usually pretty keen on figuring out who that influential person is. I believe that the smarter ones develop their sales and marketing strategy around that influential role.

Rewind back to a few years ago. Ariba used the term “Spend Management” while Procuri used the term “Supply Management.”

I don’t believe this was a casual decision made on preference between two synonyms. I believe that Ariba was seeking to appeal to CFO’s – who are intensely interested in managing spend – as decision-makers. I believe that Procuri was targeting procurement VP’s – who are intensely interested in managing supply.

Of course, Ariba bought out Procuri and retired the Procuri brand in the process. And new buzzwords came along.

Today, a lot of tech companies are putting a lot of marketing effort behind the “cloud computing” theme. Case in point, on their non-text-intensive home page, Ariba mentions the word “cloud” at least a half-dozen times, features clouds as the dominant imagery, and calls their solution the “Ariba Commerce Cloud.” On Coupa’s home page, they mention “cloud” almost as much, titled their newsletter “Cloud Cents,” and call their solution “Coupa Cloud Spend Management.”

Let’s see…whose nerve does cloud computing strike? It’s probably not the CFO or Procurement VP, many of whom struggle to understand how cloud computing is any different from SaaS and don’t really give a crap because they are more interested in results than the buzzword du jour.

No, cloud computing gets the IT folks all hot ‘n bothered. So, does this shift in marketing mean that these providers are seeing the CIO becoming that “most influential team member” when procurement technology is selected? Will the CIO be the driver of procurement technology investments in 2011? Does Ariba and Coupa’s shift to the cloud marketing theme give Emptoris any kind of advantage with its more straightforward marketing pitch? Is Coupa simply trying to woo Ariba into an M&A situation rather than trying to target a specific decision-making role on the client side?

Time will tell. That is unless you beat time to the punch and use the comment link below to share your observations!

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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