Debbie Wilson

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Deborah R Wilson
Research Vice President
4 years at Gartner
12 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a Gartner research vice president, covers procurement strategies and applications. Her areas of interest include procurement transaction automation, e-marketplaces, e-sourcing, spend analysis, accounts payable automation… Read Full Bio

Welcome Magnus!

by Debbie Wilson  |  September 5, 2012  |  Comments Off

I’m pleased to announce an edition to the Gartner team covering procurement technologies: Magnus Bergfors.  Magnus resides in Sweden, and brings many years of experience in procurement on both the buy and sell side through stints at EFFSO Systems AB, Scandinavia airlines Group, Astra Zeneca, Saab Aerospace and IBX.   Please join me in welcoming Magnus!

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Please Sponsor My Ride For Cancer Research!

by Debbie Wilson  |  July 9, 2012  |  Comments Off

On August 5, I will ride 80 miles to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Please donate to help me reach my goal of $3500 to sponsor cancer research – to give the gift of time.

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Ariba Sues Coupa for Patent Infringement

by Debbie Wilson  |  May 11, 2012  |  Comments Off

I heard from an end-user client today that Ariba has sued Coupa for patent infringement for patents it holds for its e-procurement solution. You can purchase access to the court filing fairly inexpensively at http://www.rfcexpress.com/lawsuits/patent-lawsuits/california-northern-district-court/93023/ariba-inc-v-coupa-software-inc/summary/. Never a dull moment in this industry, still.

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Gartner Job Opening

by Debbie Wilson  |  April 20, 2012  |  Comments Off

We are looking to expand our e-procurement / e-sourcing team here at Gartner!  Our ideal candidate is EMEA based.  He or she will possess enough market knowledge to hit the ground running.   See our job opening on LinkedIn at IRC17691 LinkedIn.

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Electronic Communication – The Long View

by Debbie Wilson  |  January 3, 2012  |  Comments Off

It was great to spend some downtime visiting my family last week during the holidays.  My mother must have been doing some spring cleaning before my visit because she handed me a thick manila envelope of school papers to look through – some of my elementary and middle school papers!  We laughed and reminisced as we paged together through poems, crayon-shaded pictures of flowers and a bound journal of summer vacation reports from my entire 4th grade class.  I marveled most when I found an imaginary magazine I compiled for my 8th grade American History class.  One of the featured articles, clipped from a newspaper, described the US Postal Service’s worry that competition from electronic communication systems would render it obsolete.  J.T. Ellington Jr., Senior Assistant Postmaster General, cited the imminent shift of 18 million federal employee paychecks from mailed paper documents  to electronic deposit as the source of concern.  I have no recollection of that piece but clearly our evolution to electronic communication has been a long and gradual one! 

Just a few days later, a dear friend shared with me her young son’s frustration that he is required to work on his handwriting skills in his elementary school class.  He interrupted our conversation to assert that ALL of his friends now own a smart phone of some type, and EVERYONE types out their messages online.   He dramatically concluded that handwriting is clearly obsolete and certainly a waste of HIS time.  

The funny thing is, I think my friend’s young son is right.  We need handwriting skills now – to address envelopes, fill out paper forms, and write letters to our non-computer-literate older generation.  In fact, it was priceless trying to explain to my mother last week how the book I had on my new Kindle got there.  She thought surely there must be some photocopying going on to render the pages on my device.  But every day, a little more data flows through the cloud instead of through an ink cartridge.   Perhaps thirty or forty years from now —- taking the long view —-  electronic devices will have completely altered the way we communicate.   What an amazing time we live in! 

Happy New Year!

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Want Compliance? Share Performance Metrics!

by Debbie Wilson  |  November 29, 2011  |  Comments Off

Zycus recently published a really interesting study on what works best to drive high-performance results in procurement transformation – aka savings of 30%+ attributable to effective spend management practices.  The number one enabler for high performance, in achieving contract and process compliance identified in the report was “monitor and report!”  In other words, buyers that track compliance and share the results with affected parties are the ones most likely to achieve significant savings.

I have to admit, this finding makes a ton of sense.   People are sensitive to numbers, and exposing trends, whether good or not, to the people that have the power to make changes, can really work.  We use this tactic to manage deliverables all the time at Gartner, because most analysts work from home and a hovering management style isn’t possible.

For this lovely and useful Zycus report, “Driving High Performance Procurement Initiatives,”  see:  http://www.zycus.com/resource-centre/Research-Report2011-lp.html.   Happy Holidays!

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To Be or Not to Be: The Ideology of E-Commerce Standards

by Debbie Wilson  |  November 18, 2011  |  Comments Off

I have had the pleasure today of participating in the Digital Momentum e-procurement conference held in Reyjkavik, Iceland.   The agenda for the conference, which was sponsored in part by Evenex, has been about e-procurement and e-invoicing.  Speakers included the Iceland Minister of Economic Affairs, an executive director of Reykjavik University, and a director from PEPPOL.  Two Danish case studies were presented.   

One very interesting sub-topic  has been to what degree standards (such as EDI) should be developed and enforced in a country to fuel and support business to business e-commerce.  Almost every speaker touched on this issue – and for some such as PEPPOL it was the main subject.  Some speakers positioned standards as a waste of time and an obstacle to development, while others advocated that standards are crucial and must be created.  Discussion on this topic continued hot and heavy over lunch and breaks.  

One thing is for sure – standards fuel interoperability between technology vendors, and interoperability makes multienterprise e-commerce more scalable for suppliers and it facilitates competition.  I was dragged (kicking and screaming – at least inside!) into this subject when I proposed my master’s degree thesis a little over a decade ago.  The subject of my study was indirect procurement automation.  I had wanted to look at what was then brand spanking new tools from Ariba (remember ORMS?), CommerceOne and Netscape –  and evaluate their prospects in the market.  As luck would have it, my advisor was an active member of the European EDIFACT (the equivalent of EDI in the US) standards board, and he approved my thesis on the condition that I reframe it as whether EDI/EDIFACT are suitable standards for indirect procurement.  My attitude towards EDI this way was not too positive – and that attitude was affirmed by the many field interviews  I did with businesses in the thick of implementing e-procurement tools.    Long story short – fast forward many years later – we actually HAVE ended up with some standards – namingly  the punch-out standards cXML and OCI.  These standards have data format portions, like EDI – but added in process steps/permissioning to allow users to shop catalogs.

The point is that trying to boil down to a single universal standard for commerce  – anywhere or for any type of spend – is probably fairly futile.  Witness the failed OBI initiative of the same vintage of my master’s thesis.  But without SOME common formats – whether standards-body developed or developed by a vendor – like cXML (Ariba) and OCI (SAP) are – multienterprise commerce DOES require some common elements to work.

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A Reminder That Things That Seem To Good To Be True Usually Are

by Debbie Wilson  |  November 2, 2011  |  Comments Off

My esteemed colleague and cloud security specialist Jay Heiser made an interesting post today on the apparently-failing Contract Lifecycle Management vendor Mumboe.   Mumboe earned much of its customer base by giving its SaaS-delivered solution away.  Well, according to an article this week in  Law Technology News, that business model didn’t generate enough cash to keep the business going, and so Mumboe is returning data to its clients. 

Heiser makes some great points on the importance of keeping a watchful eye on SaaS vendors, because the risk of data and capability loss due to failure is much higher than if you install on premise. And clearly there were signs, such as lack of updates on Mumboe’s website.  But perhaps the most important lesson of all is, if something looks too good to be true . . aka free in a market of products you pay for . . . . beware!

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Acquisition Reforms Bill

by Debbie Wilson  |  October 27, 2011  |  Comments Off

I was so pleased to read about the Acquisition Reforms Bill sponsored by fellow New Englanders Sens. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).  According to this Federal News Radio article, the main gist of the bill is to enable consolidated purchasing at the federal US level.  It carries the modest goal of $1 billion savings over four years.   As a US citizen and taxpayer, I like this direction becasue we KNOW that sourcing larger lots is almost always cheaper than buying small. 

Today, the 100+ US federal agencies often conduct their own bids.   There are good reasons for this – one is to preserve opportunities for small businesses.  If all agencies got together and chose a single supplier for furniture, PCs or you name it, it clearly would hurt a variety of businesses that currently enjoy the spread of awards.  According to the article – the bill has some provisions to avoid this situation. I hope this is true.   

Collaborative sourcing shouldn’t be all or nothing anyway.  Surely there is a happy medium in between one large, single source federal  contract and hundreds of smaller, agency-let agreements.

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Thirty Dollar Breakfasts and Free Conference Space

by Debbie Wilson  |  October 5, 2011  |  Comments Off

There’s been some debate in the press this week about Washington DC’s $16 muffins at a conference, which ended up actually being $14.29 for a continental breakfast and facilities rental at a DC Hilton.  A Bloomberg article (see http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/revisiting-the-16-muffin-09292011.html?chan=magazine+channel_news+-+politics+%26amp%3b+policy) goes onto to say that continental breakfasts can be even more expensive – more than thirty dollars – in New York City.  Ah time to bash the government again, right? 

Well I for one think we may be grossly oversimplifying with “analyses” like this.  It’s very well known in the hospitality industry that hoteliers play games with how they bucket pricing, and those buckets are configured to present as low as possible a price for the items that are listed in an RFP.  For example,  you take any standard travel booking engine, search for a hotel, and what comes up?  The basic room night.  I’ve lost count personally of how many fabulous $149 dollar rooms I’ve stayed in (cheap room rate for a large city!)  but found $15 bowls of oatmeal, $5 cups of coffee, $12 internet fees and $17 movies.  For fees like that, hotels can almost give away the room free.  But since the travel engines present hotel room prices, not the average per night bill travelers pay —- well you can’t blame them for pricing this way.   The point is that from a TOTAL COST point of view, was it reasonable? 

I don’t know if this is the case with the “Hilton headliner.”  But it does bring up the interesting point in procurement of how important it is to make well-formed bids.  So, in other words, if you are buying internet connections and facility space and coffee and muffins – don’t make a contract award based just on the price of muffins.  I’m not saying our federal government is best in class for buying, but I think before we bash them or anyone else we should at least get the facts right!

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