Debbie Wilson

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Deborah R Wilson
Research Vice President
8 years at Gartner
15 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a Gartner research vice president, covers procurement strategies and applications. Her areas of interest include procure-to-pay, e-marketplaces, e-sourcing, spend analysis, services procurement and supply risk assessment. Read Full Bio

An American Public Sector Source-to-Settle Powerhouse in the Making

by Debbie Wilson  |  December 12, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

There is big news for American state and local government on the wire:  Periscope Holding’s acquisition of BidSync.  Periscope Holdings is an established leader in procurement platforms and e-procurement solutions with a number of large clients including the State of Arizona, the City of New Orleans and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.   BidSync, a leading provider of e-sourcing and e-notification software, works with hundreds of cities, local agencies and the State of California.

This deal is significant because despite Gartner’s longstanding advice, American cities and states have aggressively sought vendors that can provide a full source-to-settle suite for the majority of procurement processes.   While getting a single platform is an admirable and understandable goal, it has been simply too much to ask a single vendor in an immature market to deliver robust capabilities across the breadth of tasks that procurement handles. It’s like the ERP problem, all over again, but at another abstraction level.   One throat to choke and a single data model simply can’t compensate for uneven suite applications and missing components.  The marriage of Periscope and BidSync is important because it has the potential to provide these prospects something much closer to the coveted full suite, if Periscope embraces and integrates the proven capabilities that BidSync brings to the table.   Since both vendors have significant market share in their respective segments, the combination clearly results in an industry powerhouse.

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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 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:   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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