For security reasons Market Dojo have retired support for browsers earlier than Internet Explorer 11. We recommend an up to date browser.

Our development team have been busy…

It’s been a while since we wrote about the new features we are adding to Market Dojo.  However, that doesn’t mean the development team have been taking it easy.  Even though we have been hard at work on some big enhancements (more about those very soon), we still found time for our ongoing improvements programme.
Here are some of the highlights…

Performance
Our customers are running bigger and bigger events, with more Participants and more Lots.  When running these big events, we noticed some areas that might act as bottlenecks.   We have been looking at where things were not as fast as they should be, and improved them.  You should see a marked improvement in response times if you are running an Auction with more than 30 lots or participants where a lot of bids are received in a short period of time.

We know that speed matters, and we have lots more planned for this area, but we believe this is a good start.

Bid upload
As part of the drive to support big events, we have added the ability to upload RFQ and Qualification Bids using a spreadsheet. This means that Participants can submit bids copied in from a spreadsheet, rather than having to re-enter them to the application.  This can save a lot of time if you are providing information on 100+ lots.  To learn more about this feature, please see the demo video.

Category Dojo
We launched Category Dojo at the end of last year. Since then we have been working with customers and looking for ways to improve. The changes include…

Support
We have created a support portal. This links our live chat, CRM and bug tracking systems, so if you do have a problem, we will be able to help you even more quickly.

General
We have also included more than 100 smaller tweaks and bug fixes to make using our products more enjoyable, even if you are still using older versions of Internet Explorer.
A lot of these changes came as a result of customer suggestions.  We think they will improve the product for all our customers. We would love to hear what you think.

Market Dojo is 3 years old!

Last Friday we proudly turned 3.  If we were talking about a human rather than a company, we might look a little like this guy:

However, we are a business and to reach this milestone is a great accomplishment.  According to the Entrepreneur Weekly, 44% of businesses fail by Year 3.  Yet here we are, still self-capitalised having turned down investment offers along the way, and still growing at over 100% year-on-year with even steeper growth projections in our pipeline as some of our newest innovations hit the market.

We asked each of the three co-founders of Market Dojo for their highlights of the last 12 months:

Nic Martin:
In September we released ‘Samurai’.  Building Samurai was a much bigger project than our previous enhancements, and we learnt a lot of lessons along the way.  Working with new people and making so many improvements to MD was a great experience, particularly when it was all over.  It’s also given us the ability to tick many more boxes for our customers and allowed us to work with a much bigger range of organisations.

Alun Rafique: 
We have fantastic clients, who are all working on great things with our software from simple RFQ’s to complex weighted auctions. Many of our developments are client led and so we ensure our direction is in line with your needs. The latest client and reseller is ABM Global solutions in the Philippines who we extend a warm welcome to.  We could not do this without you all so please accept our greatest appreciation.  You can see some case studies on our website. A massive thanks to all!

Nick Drewe:  there have been quite a few to consider, such as achieving a 100% renewal rate on our annually paid licences to signing up very recognisable high street brands as customers, or even being nominated for a supply chain award by one of our customers, Arqiva.   It’s all pointing towards the fact that our clients like what we do for them.  However, for me there is one highlight that does stand out and that is the award of our second grant from the Technology Strategy Board.  The first grant enabled us to build and release Samurai, which was immense.  However, with this second grant we’ve created a whole new module within eProcurement, one that does not exist at the moment.  Fitting in somewhere between Spend Analysis and eSourcing, we hope to announce Category Dojo later this year.  Sadly I can’t elaborate too much at the moment, but drop us a visit at eWorld next month where we might be able to let you in on it!

Want your own eSourcing portal?

Earlier this year we proudly announced the release of our white labelling enhancements (http://bit.ly/13m6uMB) where you could customise your own unique web address on marketdojo.com, for example http://my-mega-company.marketdojo.com (this is not a working example in case anyone tries that link!).

Well, now we’ve gone a whole load further.   In our latest release last night we’ve given our users the ability to create their own web address, branded in their colours yet powered by the Market Dojo eSourcing tool.

Some of you may already have such a feature with other providers, but the difference here is that we haven’t done this by simply setting up a new server and popping a cloned version of our software on it – no, we are still 100% single-instance, multi-tenanted.   This gives every one of our customers the added benefit of no upgrade issues nor delays, instant access to new features (such as this one!), no implementation fees and more affordable licences fees, since we have much lower maintenance and support costs.

It’s a really simple process for you to set this up.  Simply buy your web domain from someone like LCN or Go Daddy and point it at www.marketdojo.com, then buy an SSL certificate for it so your data remains encrypted over the web.  Send us this info so we can pop the certificate on our server and assign your account with the bespoke web address and you’re good to go!

All the other great customisation features still apply, such as:

You might also like to place web links or even your own Log In / Sign Up buttons on your website that take the user to your branded sourcing portal.  But we leave all this in your own hands or those of your webmaster.

So, if you’d like to take advantage of all this, give us a call today!

Which reverse auction type should I use?


bassetts liquorice allsorts by jonoTakesPictures
Attribution-Non Commercial License

Great! You have decided that you are going to save time and money by running a reverse auction to negotiate. One of the decisions you will need to make is which format of reverse auction will work best for you.

There are several different types to choose from, each one has strengths and weaknesses which you should consider.  I am going to focus on the three types which Market Dojo supports – Ranked, Open and Japanese. Both Ranked and Open auctions can also be referred to as ‘Reverse English Auctions’.

Ranked Auction
In a Ranked Auction participants see their position for each Lot relative to the other participants.  Generally it is the most popular auction type as it works for the majority of situations.  This is the default option in Market Dojo.


What a participant sees in a Market Dojo Ranked Auction

A Ranked Auction promotes a very close auction when you have a number of participants on a similar price level.

Pros

Cons

Open Auction
In an Open Auction participants see the Lead Bid per Lot and can only submit a bid that beats it.


What a participant sees in a Market Dojo Open auction

Pros

Cons

Japanese Auction
For each Lot, a Bid Level, which begins at a level you choose, is shown to all the participants. Each participant must either Accept or Decline the Bid Level within a set time period, e.g. two minutes. Once accepted and the time expires, the price drops by a specified amount and the participants must repeat the process. It continues in this fashion until the participant declines the Bid Level or is timed out.


What a Participant sees in a Market Dojo Japanese Auction

Pros

Cons

I hope this overview of different reverse auction types is informative, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Many hands make light work

We are delighted to announce our second major upgrade of the year.  Log into marketdojo.com today and use our new User Hierarchy feature.  It has been released to help our more enterprise customers collaborate on their sourcing activities.

Some of the key features include:

Here are a couple of scenarios where you might find this feature very useful.

Showcasing your work

You’ve put in weeks of hard work preparing your tender documents, managing the suppliers, chasing in timely proposals and validating the responses to ensure all is on track.  However, you’ve largely done this in isolation via your Market Dojo e-Sourcing event.  Next step you want to conduct negotiation via e-Auction and you want others to witness your accomplishment, especially those overseas stakeholders.   Well, this is now very easy: simply add them as a user and give them view rights over the auction event.  Our software will send them a viewing invitation, guiding your colleagues through the process.  Let them sit back in amazement at your success!

Being assisted by consultants
Many of us wish to have a helping hand with our work.  With User Hierarchy you can either run the sourcing events yourself yet give a third party edit rights over your events to keep things on track, or you put the consultant in the driving seat who can then give you access to their sourcing events – it’s your choice!

Managing a team
Finally, with User Hierarchy you can build your own online sourcing team.  Define which team members can have edit rights over things like the Supplier Database or the Document Library.  Pick a team leader who can be given a team-wide view of the sourcing events.  Have multiple team leaders if you wish and give yourself complete visibility over everything that is going on.  It is completely up to you on how you wish to structure your team.
We really hope you find this useful.  Best of all there is no cost at all to add a user to view sourcing events – licences are only required for users who wish to create or edit events.

Our first upgrade of 2013, with so much more to come!

Over the weekend we completed our first 2013 upgrade, following on from the second upgrade to Samurai back in December of last year.  Such is the elegance of the Software as-a-Service model, each and every one of you can benefit from the upgrade when you next log in.

Quite simply, there are too many improvements to list (70 to be precise), so here are some of the important highlights:

On top of this, we have made a number of upgrades to our infrastructure to keep ahead of the increasing demands of our customers.   We are now sending several thousand e-mails a day, practically becoming a MailChimp in our own right, and so we have upgraded our e-mail account to ensure uninterrupted communications between our Hosts and their respective participants.
We have also upgraded our servers (again) to ensure we maintain our 99.9% uptime record.  Some events have even had over 500 participants involved, and so we’ve learned a great deal about where potential bottlenecks may lie and catered for them accordingly.

What’s next?
We have a number of exciting new features we are working on that will be released imminently.  For example, in collaboration with our customer Arqiva, we are in the final steps of testing and improving our User Hierarchy feature.  This will allow our users to invite friends, colleagues and countrymen to view their sourcing activities, or even to have edit rights should they have a licence.  You can manage all your internal users from a central place, see all the events across your organisation from your own Dashboard, and even invite external users such as consultants to have their input on your activities.

We are also nearing completing of an enhanced white labelling feature with another collaborative partner in the US as we help them with an exciting new venture.  Our users will be able to define their own URL for the sourcing events, such as www.esourcing.marketdojo.com, which will have your logo and menu colours with your own log in, sign up and password reset facilities.  In short, it will be your own portal: even the e-mails will come from you.

Here’s to a fantastic February ahead!

PS:  If there is anything you’d like us to work on, get in touch and we’d be happy to talk.
Market Dojo – e-sourcing made simple

Guest post – Successfully Implementing e-Auctions for Legal Services

Back in 2012, we received a great deal of interest from customers and prospects considering the use of Market Dojo for sourcing of legal services. Today we are pleased to welcome a guest post from Jason Winmill, Partner at Argopoint Consulting LLC, a management consulting firm dedicated to helping corporate legal departments address their most significant management and strategy issues.  Read this article to learn more about legal sourcing.

Sophisticated supply management professionals are introducing electronic sourcing solutions to their legal departments, and in doing so, delivering millions of dollars in savings. The media is gradually beginning to pick up on these successes: a recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted that several companies (including GlaxoSmithKline, Toyota, Sun Microsystems, and eBay) are using competitive bidding and e-auctions to purchase legal services. As with other important services, effectively sourcing legal is a delicate process with major upside.

Strategic implementation of e-auctions for legal services represents a radical change for most legal departments. While competitive bidding is commonplace in many other sourcing categories, it has been received with skepticism by many in-house attorneys. Legal services are highly complex, sensitive, and high-risk; supply management professionals face the difficult challenge of building credibility in the legal department and moving along a steep learning curve without losing sight of short-term savings goals. In spite of these difficulties, savvy sourcing and procurement departments are earning the appreciation of their legal colleagues and earning public recognition through the use of e-sourcing technology.

Three Important Steps to Successfully Implementing e-Auctions in Legal:

A fantastic article about Market Dojo on Buyers Meeting Point

Buyers Meeting Point has written a great article about our new Samurai release. We were so pleased, here it is in full:

ENTER THE SAMURAI: ESOURCING MADE SIMPLE

In October 2010, Buyers Meeting Point received an email from Nick Drewe, the co-founder of a then new-to-market eAuction solution provider based in the U.K. He asked to have Market Dojo listed in our vendor directory, introducing their offering as “very easy to use, has all the professionalism that you would expect, and is offered at a transparent price level.” We have since gotten to know Nick and Market Dojo’s other co-founder Alun Rafique quite well. Their belief in the value proposition of their solution has caused them to invest in development that makes that value apparent to us as well.In the two years since they launched, much has changed – both for Market Dojo and in the spend management solution landscape. Market Dojo has steadily increased their presence through successful application of their technology and industry recognition of their thought leadership. They have been recognized by the U.K. public sector, receiving two Technology Strategy Board (TSB) grants to develop additional functionality. They recently announced the release of Samurai, an upgrade of their solution nine months in coming. This new release brings a revamped user interface and new functionality that increases the breadth and depth of the solution.

While they made their initial entry to the market with a focus on auctions, including less commonly found event types like Japanese auctions, Samurai adds best-of-breed RFx capabilities to the solution. With an eye to the strategic need for collaboration with suppliers, Market Dojo has also added an innovation portal for soliciting and accepting well-defined ideas for improvement from the market and a ‘sandpit’ where buyers can validate the presentation and setup of events by test-driving them before release to suppliers.

Of the changes included in Samurai, the one most likely to make an impact in procurement organizations is the addition of scoring capabilities that can be applied when weighting the information and prices collected in RFx’s and eAuctions. While scoring itself is hardly a new idea in eSourcing, Market Dojo’s approach is closely tied to their philosophy on procurement decision-making and the relationship between procurement and the rest of the organization. Much has been made of procurement’s (sometimes precarious) relationship with Finance. Beyond questioning savings calculations and realization, many Finance groups have trouble accepting the ‘transformational math’ used in scoring scenarios that allow too much subjectivity into what should be an objective evaluation process.

Market Dojo supports two approaches for scoring, both linear in nature:

In the first case, non-leading prices are scored purely against how they rank in the market, as represented by the participants. In a pro rata (or proportionate) scoring scenario, both the market and the buying organization’s expectations are reflected in the pricing score.

While the RFX or eAuction is under way buyers can clearly see the breakdown of the price and non-price scores in real time, adding transparency into the negotiation and decision-making process. This breakdown can be clearly communicated to the participants as well, mitigating the risk of participants challenging the award decision. Furthering the need for transparency, price and non-price scores are independent of one another, which is fair and consistent for the participants. If a participant earns a score of zero in the qualitative (questionnaire) portion of an event, they can stay in the process (if allowed to by the host) by offering a competitive price.

The additional capabilities added to Market Dojo with the release of Samurai allow them to compete for business with a broader base of prospective clients. They have expanded their reach in the sourcing process while their established place in the negotiation phase.And yet, with all the growth and change, Nick’s introductory statement holds true. Market Dojo is still easy to use, professional, and transparent. Two years after launch, Market Dojo saw £120 million auctioned through their solution in a single month. Buyers Meeting Point looks forward to seeing and hearing more from the Market Dojo team as more companies harness their solution to manage spend and innovate with their suppliers.

Once upon a time, a Frenchman went to Bristol

editor’s note:  this is the first of two blog entries by our intern extraordinnaire, Hadrien Geffroy from École Atlantique de Commerce in France.  We were fortunate to have Hadrien join us for 6 weeks this summer and to take us to markets we have never been before.

The 9th of July, on a wet summer’s day, I set my foot on British soil for the first time of my life. Obviously I would have preferred to spend my holidays in my native country, the beautiful and sunny France. But a special mission was waiting for me, here in Bristol, and more precisely two businessmen: Nick & Alun (or Alun & Nick, no jealousy there).

Indeed, as part of my studies, I had to complete a 6 week long internship abroad over the summer. “Why Market Dojo?” You might ask? In fact I had heard about Market Dojo by chance. Fond of the web and new technology I was looking for a trend company as a start-up which related to my business studies. It was only after a few researches that I found Market Dojo. When I applied for my internship, I didn’t imagine how much I was lucky to work for this company.

Today I’m working for Market Dojo as intern and thus for 6 weeks. Because my work is very boring and uninteresting (humour), I have time enough to talk to you about the fantastic professional and life experience I’m currently living in Bristol.

Monday the 9th of July 2012 at 09:00, I knocked at the door and two young (it’s all relative) smiling guys opened the door. I quickly understood they were very cool and relaxed, but also very professional so we didn’t lose time before we set to work, just the time to take a cup of tea (the first of many). But Market Dojo is a kind of modern company, most of the work is home-working and the atmosphere is relaxed, which makes my working conditions very comfortable.

Now let me talk to you about the advantages of working in a little company. Having the opportunity to work for Market Dojo allowed me to see this. Indeed, I wish to every student to work for a little company to live both a professional and a life experience. In little companies the border between working life and private life is very thin; which makes work less boring and gives me ample time to learn about the British culture.

Hadrien receiving his internship certificate

Concerning the work, I quickly realized my responsibilities would outnumber what I was expecting. In my case, my main goal is to make Market Dojo’s website and software accessible for any French native who wants to use Market Dojo’s service; which means translating approximately 15,000 words (so easy!!). But I also have to think about Marketing for French market, software testing, assist a conference, and make cups of tea (wringing the tea bag is much more technical than it seems). Being an intern at Market Dojo also involves eating bacon sandwiches, playing tennis, going to the cinema, watching the London Olympic games, looking at videos on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCiY1y3uJ3o), so many things that make you forget you are here for work!!

So many thanks to Alun, Nic and Nick for these 6 weeks!

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Market Dojo celebrate their second birthday with a year of amazing growth

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
August 2012

Market Dojo celebrate their second birthday with a year of amazing growth

Last week marked Market Dojo’s second successful year in business, with a massive ten-fold increase in the previous year’s revenues.  Co-founder Nic Martin was delighted with this important milestone, “the last 12 months have been a fantastic period of growth for our young company and has really proven that our business has the key ingredients to succeed, from a great product, excellent customers and a brilliant team”.

The rapidly expanding software technology company, based in the South West, offers an online application that helps businesses negotiate more easily and efficiently with suppliers via the internet. Businesses can also run reverse auctions where suppliers compete to win contracts to supply goods and services.

Market Dojo now has in excess of 25 customers who use the application up to 5 times a day to receive quotes from suppliers for goods and services as varied as electrical cables, paper bags, van and car hire, brake pedals, machined parts and office furniture.

“What makes us unique is that we have taken a concept that was previously restricted to large businesses, due to the complexity and cost of existing software, and made it accessible even to small-to-medium sized businesses”, explains fellow co-founder Alun Rafique.

Their ambitions now lie in building the customer base, both home and abroad, as well as releasing a whole new product upgrade which is just around the corner.

Editors Notes:

Sprechen sie Deutsch?!

Today, we are really pleased to announce some great new features for Market Dojo.  We believe these reflect our four core beliefs: being collaborative, transparent, agile and to have fun doing it.

Here are the highlights…

Translated Market Dojo into German and Russian
We added these specific languages in direct response to customer needs.  We are well aware that our users are based all over the world, and for many of them, English is not their first language. This release also lays the groundwork for more languages in the future. We are already planning improvements to the public areas of the website in these first two languages with a new web design planned for July.

Bigger file uploads
Several customers told us they needed to include bigger files with their RFQ and Auctions Events.  We have increased the maximum file size to 10Mb, to allow even more detailed documentation to be included.

Improved Edit Mode
Changes happen.  When they do, it is important that they are correctly communicated to all affected parties.  We have learned that when you are dealing with dozens of people in several different timezones, more focus and detail in the information you provide up front will save time later.  Previously Market Dojo automatically notified everyone of changes to an Event, now this is done at the Hosts discretion, so only those who are affected will be informed.  Hosts are able to include a detailed message explaining exactly what has changed.

More upload/download formats
Previously, data imported and exported from Market Dojo was only  in CSV (comma separated values) text format.  Now, we also support Excel (XLSX) format files.  This format will address problems for users in countries where the comma is not used in CSV files and also give us more flexibility in the format of reporting we provide. Currently this is a ‘beta’ feature, and we are really keen to get any feedback on how this works in the field.

Improvements and bug fixes
We have made more than 20 improvements  and fixes to give our users a better a experience.  These range from changes to which information is shown first at various stages of an Event, to clearer messaging and integration to our customer database.
We have had a lot of fun putting this release together, but we are really looking forward to is hearing how it helps our customers.  Do let us know what you think!

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Big thanks to University of Gloucestershire Digital Film Production students!

We would like to say a massive thanks to Tea, Liz, Sanni and their lecturer Ben, all from the Digital Film Production course from University of Gloucestershire , for their time and skills in producing an excellent video for us.

For those who haven’t seen it, you can find it on our YouTube channel here: Barney – your average co-worker!

The team came up with several great concepts before bounding on with our preference of the story of Barney, your average co-worker, who is bored, frustrated and generally disillusioned with life in the purchasing office, with all the manual processes and wasted time.

However, upon a fleeting introduction to Market Dojo, he latches on to how it can transform his working life by allowing him to carry out his purchasing activities more easily and more efficiently via a web-based tool.

He quickly shares the benefits with his colleagues who are enormously grateful, resulting in him getting the recognition from his boss that he truly deserves.

It was an absolute pleasure working with the team and fantastic to celebrate the completion of the video with an enjoyable lunch out.  We are really pleased with the results and look forward to hopefully working with them again.

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Market Dojo needs you!

We have created accessible e-sourcing software, attracted customers both large and small, proved its value and now we want to share our success.

“Market Dojo is looking for resellers”
SaaS solutions are being adopted by many companies in the market and offer advantages over the traditional software applications. We have taken this and applied it very successfully to the e-Procurement space as a best of breed e-Sourcing solution. Our solutions currently extend to electronic quotations and auctions, however, we have many more developments coming soon.

We have demonstrated that our software is as competent as many solutions out on the market, yet is available for a fraction of the cost:

To help bring our solution quickly to the global market, we are looking for resellers. We are happy to work with consultancies and also pure software resellers where our solution will be a great addition to your offerings.

To see some of the benefits and more detail, please go to our Webpage or send an email to reseller@marketdojo.com

What is a Japanese Auction?

We have just implemented Japanese Auction capability in our software at the recent request of a customer of ours.  Despite our procurement consultancy past, this is an auction format of which we have very little prior experience.  In fact, how much knowledge and experience is there in the general purchasing community of this approach to negotiation?

For those who are not familiar, here is an excerpt from our website of the Japanese Auction process:
“The Host states an opening price and participants have to accept that price level or withdraw from the auction.  Acceptance indicates that the participant is prepared to supply at the stated price.  When all participants reply to a certain price, the software lowers the price level by a pre-determined amount and again asks participants to accept or decline at the new price level.”

The process continues in this manner until all participants have ‘opted out’ of the auction.

As you can see, the approach can be very effective at establishing the final price for each participant in turn, regardless of the market competition.  Consequently the approach can be adopted in situations where market liquidity is very low or markets which are dominated by a handful of major players, such as dairy or utilities.  The Japanese Auction can even be used for a single-source negotiation, which was the major reason our customer favoured the Japanese Auction, ever since they used it to negotiate a significant cost reduction with just a few keen participants involved.

Other situations where the Japanese Auction can be used effectively are when there are large cost differences between bidders, despite both quoting for the same specifications.  With your typical Ranked Auction, the participant in first place will unlikely be challenged, even though they may have built in some margin to play with.  However, utilise the Japanese Auction and even that participant will be asked to improve their offer.

So far we have outlined a reverse Japanese Auction, i.e. where the bidding comes down in value upon each round.  However, we have encountered situations where a Japanese Auction can be used in an upward price direction, such as the negotiation of rebates amongst your supply base.  Since it is fairly meaningless to give suppliers market feedback on their rebates, as each supplier could be contracted for different goods and services and different spend levels, the Japanese Auction presents itself as a superb way to negotiate with each supplier individually, yet concurrently in a single auction.  For example, in Round 1 the suppliers are asked whether they agree to a rebate of 0.5% of full year spend, with an answer of “Yes / No”.  For those who reply favourably, they are then asked in Round 2 whether they agree to a rebate of 1.0% and so on.  There is a huge efficiency saving compared to the traditional way rebates are negotiated, as well as the potential for far greater results.

There are of course challenges to Japanese Auctions.  Firstly, they are not widely known about, which means that participants will require a greater degree of hand-holding and reassurance.  Secondly, they offer little to the participants in the way of market feedback.  Nevertheless, post-auction you can certainly provide feedback at your own discretion and to whatever extent you wish.  Thirdly they operate in a rigid manner, with participants only able to accept or decline each price level rather than to come in at their own price level.  It may mean that some participants have to wait a little longer to submit their final offer but the goal of establishing the market price is still achieved.

If anyone would like to know more, please feel free to contact us and we would be happy to take you through a web demo to show you how it works.

About: Market Dojo provides accessible eSourcing software.   Find out more at www.marketdojo.com

Would we participate in a reverse auction?

Reverse auctions and even e-sourcing software has become a commodity product.  There are numerous players in this market offering broadly the same functionality.  Sure, some have a few more bells and whistles and others can integrate nicely with other e-procurement solutions, but on the whole there is little to distinguish between them aside from cost and aesthetics.

So, if I had responsibility as a buyer for a large company to implement an e-sourcing solution, why would I not consider conducting a reverse auction to settle the negotiation and how would I go about such a thing?

Well, if you look at the key ingredients for a successful e-auction, purely and simply it comes down to being able to accurately and robustly define what you need and to ensure you have enough capable and interested participants who can meet those needs.

In terms of e-sourcing software, I would draft up the core features and functionality that I would look for in any capable vendor.  Now, I could do this the complex way and draft up a weighted RFI followed by a weighted auction to allow bidders who have “special” features to score more highly, but then why make this difficult.  Simply knock up the list of “must-haves” and make each participant verify that they can satisfy the requirements.  I would request a 2 hour web-demo with each participant to help me decide whether or not to include them in the bidding process.  Since the whole process will be run on “Buyer’s Choice”, I will decide post-negotiation which participant to award the business to, taking into account the price of their solution as well as the other features and service levels that they can be distinguished by.

Having done this, I have my list of capable and interested participants. To complete my requirements, I would also compile my commercial and contractual terms, such as length of contract, number of users, approximate number of sourcing events, suggested payment terms, my training requirements and so on. This would allow my participants to submit accurate and sustainable quotations.

The next step is to conduct the negotiation and for this we could choose the reverse auction.  The interesting step here is to pick a platform on which to conduct the auction, as it would most likely be inappropriate to use the software of one of the competing vendors, even though I could probably source a free event from them!  Perhaps one of my earlier unsuccessful candidates would supply this, which would at least be something of a consolation for them.

With the auction and hence price negotiation complete I would be in the position to award the business, using my buyer’s choice to take into account all the other differentials.

So, would we as a company participate in such a process?  

The short answer is most certainly yes!  Whilst some organisations refuse to take part reverse auctions on the basis that they are too price-focused and that they drive you to prices that are unsustainable, we would actually be very keen to take part in any such opportunity as we know this is not true.

Firstly, the sales process is much shorter.  A buyer would be approaching us with a genuine interest to buy and has been given the green-light from above.  We would not have to spend much time at all writing proposals, reviewing proposals, re-writing proposals and so on!  Instead, the buyer has taken the time to lay all of this out for us in advance.  All we have to do is examine whether it is within our core capability and interest to supply it and at what price.  Since we know from experience that the entire reverse auction process and award decision takes approximately 8 weeks, this method is far quicker than the 6 months it can take in a traditional process.

Secondly we have huge belief in our business model and offering to the extent that we think we would perform very well under competitive pressures.  Should we not be successful, at least we have live and dynamic market feedback on how we compare to our genuine competitors.  If we continued to be unsuccessful against the competition then it would provoke us to carefully review our business, thereby mitigating the risk of longer term failure that would inevitably have occurred should we not have pitted ourselves against the competition.

As for the potential objections, sure the auction itself is focused on price however the award process is not.  During the process, as a participant I would be in regular dialogue with the buyer, building up the relationship, advising where the specifications are not quite right, being supportive, proactive and punctual.  Let’s not forget that the negotiation is still part of the sales process and so by demonstrating a high degree of professionalism and that you are a company that can be trusted, you are greatly influencing the buyer’s decision once the auction is over.   This can make the difference between success and failure, despite your ranking in the auction.

The only ground for objection here is that the auction is simply too effective as a negotiation tool.  With my buyer’s hat on, sometimes I do wish that suppliers I am negotiating with stopped offering me all these extra services and features that I don’t want and simply reduced their price for those that I am actually asking for! This is where the auction is so powerful.

As for auctions leading to unsustainable contract pricing, this is where you need to do your groundwork and stick to it during the auction itself.  Sure, it can be tempting during an auction to submit that “one last offer” only to later realise you cannot commit to it, but it is in no one’s interest for this to happen.  The buyer is looking for a capable partner at the most competitive price level and we as a participant are looking for a new customer at a price level that allows us to grow. There is certainly middle ground here where both parties can win.  Again, if you keep losing out whilst bidding on auctions, it is time to take a look at where you are leaking costs or to re-think which markets you should be competing in. Perhaps all those additional service levels and quality accreditations are simply not important to your customers, or on the other hand, perhaps your run-of-the-mill offering is not specialised or distinct enough to convince your customers to partner with you.  An auction plus award decision offers genuine market feedback combined with specific personal feedback.  You can really use this to your advantage to improve your sales performance in future activities.  In fact, should you be successful in an e-auction, why not shout it from the roof-tops.  You have just positioned your company as one of the best in the market.  What a fantastic statement to make when you are next in a sales dialogue.

One final note is that we as an e-sourcing and e-auction software vendor, who encourages organisations across the globe to tender their business via this approach, really should be able to put our money where our mouth is and wholly support any buyer who would like to auction us.

Well, it would be our pleasure!

About: Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com 

Why we are so grateful for the ‘cloud’

Last month we surpassed the milestone of our first year in business.  Understandably we were delighted, as we read previously that up to four-fifths of start-ups fail in their first 12 months.  Yet we feel we are truly on our way to becoming an established player in this market, with a client list that is expanding rapidly.  However, when we look back at how we started Market Dojo, there is one aspect that stands out when assessing what helped us reach this goal, and that is the use of cloud technology.

For those who are not familiar with cloud technology, and to admit such a thing is akin to never having watched a Star Wars film or never to have heard a Beatles song, our take on it is the use of software or an application over the web on a ‘pay per use’ or monthly basis which you can use straight away with clear benefits.  Think Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube.  No installation, no set-up costs, and in many cases no fee.  If you like just think of it as the dotcom boom version 2.0, only this time it is here to stay!

When you consider any business, you will find it will most likely have office infrastructure to some extent.  Such infrastructure might include a phone system, an e-mail system, a fax system, an accountancy system, a CRM system, a calendar sharing system, a data storage system, a web-hosting system, or even a customer support system.  Clearly there can be a lot of systems and many of these are non-core to your business, meaning time and money spent in these areas would be detrimental to other areas of your business.

I can only imagine how much it might have cost us 15 years ago to cater for all these systems.  We would probably require a receptionist for the phones, a PA to manage the CRM, an on-site accountant, a very large printed calendar, an even larger filing cabinet and a staffed front-desk for our customer support.  We would then need a rather large room to host all this.

This takes me to why we are so grateful for the cloud.  At Market Dojo we have embraced the best of today’s technology to turn us into a professional company, as ultimately that is what we wish to extend to our clients.  
Our phone system is Skype, where you rent a phone number by the month and only pay for your usage, most of which is free.  This includes video conferencing, file sharing and instant messaging for everyone in our company and gives us a global presence by allowing us to rent or cease renting international phone numbers when we like.   Whilst Skype is not strictly cloud, as you do install software, you can log in across the world from any computer that has it or that you can download it to, so in many respects it is very similar.

Our CRM is Zoho.  We only pay per user per month.  It integrates with our other applications, including Skype, which means no repetition.  Within our own software development we have the approach of “Don’t Repeat Yourself” (DRY) which any business would be wise to apply to administrative tasks as well.  Zoho also caters for the customer support system on the same basis.

Data storage and sharing, calendar sharing and e-mail is all with Google Apps, which is completely free and is as robust as the google.com website, even though everything is still in beta!

Our accountancy software is Clearbooks.  Again, pay per month per user.  We can even add our accountant to it so that they never even need to set foot in the office, as we can upload all our receipts and invoices to Google Docs.
We don’t have any need for a fax system, but if we did there are plenty of cloud systems out there that charge per use.

And finally our web-hosting is all with an external hosting provider, secure and backed-up daily, paid monthly of course and with zero set-up costs.

The advantages that cloud technology has brought to us are simply enormous.  The most obvious one is cost.  If I were a sole trader, I would be able to set up and manage all of this for less than £600 a year.  I would need no training and no upfront capital expenditure.  To ‘house’ all of this technology, all I would require is a computer, in fact no, a smartphone.  It would take me all of about 3 hours to set up and I would be happily catered for until I was running a global empire, at which point some apps might start to creak at the edges.

The main risk that companies quote for not examining the cloud as a serious solution can be easily mitigated.  Data security is a major and very understandable concern.  However, with such a broad choice of hosting providers on the market, you can always source a provider that offers the necessary level of data protection, whether for personal use or for the Ministry of Defence.  You can also find cloud-based data back-up providers!

Another major objection is reliability.  Today though, the internet is probably less likely to fail than your internal LAN and with an increasing number of companies providing networks that are dual-hosted, these risks are diminishing.  In fact, you can actually end up with a more reliable solution than your own internal network.  For your servers, do you have back-up generators, CCTV, a fire suppression system, 24/7 security patrols, CESG accreditation, dual-hosting and multiple internet providers?  This is certainly what we look for in our hosting provider.

When you compare the old approach to starting a business and the new with all the technology that is now available to us, the two are worlds apart.   You don’t need capital expenditure for office infrastructure, nor the staff to manage it, nor the space to house it.  You don’t need a hardware refresh, nor have costly upgrades as you grow or as old technology becomes redundant.  There is a valid question over whether you need an office at all.  And best of all, you only pay for what you use.

Just like you do with us!

Our Press Release (A bit late!!)

Market Dojo celebrates their 1 year birthday!
Market Dojo, an innovative Bristol-based software company, recently celebrated their first year in business.  The company, incorporated on the 2nd August 2010, is looking to soon become global with potential clients in Greece, Peru, US and Germany.

Co-founder Alun Rafique reflected, “It has been a fantastic year in which we have learned a lot and come a long way.  We’ve been very surprised by the level of interest that we have seen, not just from the small-to-medium sized companies but also from the larger enterprises.”

Market Dojo offers easy to use, professional e-sourcing software to help businesses save time and money on their purchases. The key benefits of their software include increased efficiency, centralisation of information, repeatability, transparency and auditability of the sourcing process.

To date Market Dojo has helped their clients average savings of approximately 30% from e-auctions alone, as well as bringing major efficiency improvements for all involved.  The more standard Request for Quotation activities have seen similar results, which is all the more significant given each client averages 15 new sourcing activities a month.
Even more impressively, their clients have generated an average return on investment with Market Dojo of little over 2 weeks!

Alun Rafique looks forward to the next year with huge enthusiasm, “We have laid a great foundation for the future.  We have established the business and proven the benefits of our product, so it is now a case of expanding the sales and marketing activities to bring the benefits to many more companies.”

About Market Dojo:

We offer Business to Business e-Sourcing software [RFQ’s and Auctions] to help companies save time and money when negotiating for their goods and services.
Our guiding philosophy has been to develop cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) suited for the in-house professional.

It is designed around three core ideas:

Our software costs just £1,000 per sourcing event or £5,000 for a single-user annual licence to run as many sourcing events as you wish.

For more information please refer to www.marketdojo.com
Key contact: Co-founder Alun Rafique, 0117 230 9200, alun.rafique@marketdojo.com.

Why should you go for Best of Breed?

We were having a meeting the other day with a vastly experienced ex-CPO of many FTSE 250 organisations, whose counsel to us was that we should look at developing a fully integrated eProcurement toolset if we were to have a chance of working with FTSE companies. Given our current direction, it did get us thinking about the whole best of breed versus enterprise solution debate.

The main advantage of best of breed is that is allows customers to select the ‘best’ product for each requirement, rather than going for one tool that can satisfy every requirement in perhaps a sub-standard way. Time and again we have seen certain modules of these enterprise solutions gathering dust within an organisation simply because they are not a best fit yet organisations are paying the software companies for supporting these unused features. In worse cases, best of breed applications are still brought in to do the very same task, only better, leading to the company paying for the same requirement twice over.

It is frequently cited that enterprise solutions have less integration costs. However in many cases it can be far more costly to implement an ERP solution onto the current IT infrastructure and then to bespoke it to fit the specific requirements. Perhaps if there were any true SaaS ERP applications out there at the moment then maybe the implementation costs would be much less. However adopting a best of breed route opens up the choice in the market considerably, which in turn increases your negotiation potential, in the same way that a buyer might devise ‘Lots’ for a tender process. This becomes particularly prevalent when it may come to switching your provider, as the fully integrated solutions will be extremely challenging to dislodge, whereas you can phase out individual best of breed applications gradually.

Furthermore integration costs can be cut drastically, in terms of price, time and complexity, through the use of clever cloud-based integration tools that remotely link SaaS applications. Boomi, Pervasive and Cast Iron are some example solutions for this. Suddenly the potential to integrate best of breed solutions becomes even simpler, and all possible via the web, thereby greatly increasing the flexibility of this approach.

From our side, the first major hurdle we would have to overcome to become an enterprise solution is that we would need to develop the other modules, such as spend analytics, contract management, P2P, SRM, SIM, project management and so on. This would create huge development costs on our side, costs which would of course be transferred over to our clients. It would also mean our maintenance and upgrade schedules would be vastly more complex as our team has to keep an eye on tens of thousands more lines of software code, much of which cannot be refined in isolation but must be looked at as part of the bigger picture. Naturally, as soon as this happens, cracks appear in previously excellent products, functionality starts to suffer and the user experience is greatly diminished due to the increasing number of options that the user is presented with. It is no surprise that best of breed applications are more streamlined than the larger ERP solutions, as they only have to handle 99% of the capability. As soon as attempts are made to plug the final 1%, which can move them further into the ERP domain, the application becomes unwieldy.

Instead we could partner with best of breed vendors in each of the key areas, using cloud integration tools to integrate our respective solutions, and then our team can focus on our key strengths and plans, and our partners can focus on theirs. We could even have multiple partners within the same product type, for example contract management, so that we could present our clients with several possible solutions from the all-singing, all-dancing right down to the very basic.

The partnership between applications can create huge value. Just a casual glance through the Google Apps Marketplace and you can find thousands of best of breed applications, designed specifically for simple integration with Google Apps. Google could have kept all their software behind closed doors and prevented third parties from branching out. However Google recognises the innovation and perfection of solutions that is created by promoting such an open network of best of breed applications. We certainly use a number of these applications, such as Zoho and Oggchat, and thanks to the way that these applications can feed off the functionality of Google, the costs are extremely low and integration was a doddle.

So, the next time you are looking for a suite of solutions to cater for your procurement needs, please do bear in mind the best of breed approach and use it to create your own solution to perfectly fit your needs whilst keeping your options open for the future.

Market Dojo Interview with Buyers Meeting Point, November 2010

To get us started, give us a little background on Market Dojo and the team.

Two of the founding Directors, Alun Rafique and I, worked as cost reduction consultants for a nearly a decade combined. We helped companies like BP, Asda, Tarmac, Meggitt, Rolls-Royce and others to reduce cost and risk in their supply chains through strategic sourcing, tactical negotiations, supplier workshops and managed e-auctions.  During this time we noticed a gradual shift whereby companies wanted to carry out the activities in-house.  This gave us the seedling that became Market Dojo, the business-to-business e-auction software provider.

Our third Director, who used to work as an IT database specialist, but now currently designs complex data analysis software, has created solutions for companies like Tesco, Argos and Best Buy.  Therefore between us we feel we have all the necessary skills to create and manage an e-auction software company.  Our goal is to enable small and medium-sized businesses to run their own e-auctions successfully.

There are already so many players in the market – why enter the scene now?
We think that the timing is ideal.  We’ve noticed procurement organisations are facing new challenges as many of their clients who have enjoyed their services now wish to self-manage e-auctions to reduce costs.  Businesses have also learnt from the consultancies and there are an ever-increasing number of educational e-auction courses available.  Thus we have focused our company to supply the procurement professional with a commoditised solution.  We are not aware of any other e-auction providers that offer a product which is openly and reasonably priced (with no hidden prices or price escalations), yet easy to use and adopts professional processes to ensure success for third party use.  Furthermore the “cloud”, which is big news at the moment, allows us to provide the software-as-a-service solution to a very broad market with no set-up costs.

Our offering, which aims to provide businesses between $5m and $500m annual turnover with the tools required to run their own e-auctions, is very neatly spaced in its own market niche.  A number of our competitors would struggle to keep their skilled consultant workforce if they approached this market with our philosophy.  We believe this is exemplified by Ariba divesting their consultancy arm of the business to Accenture.  Both experienced professionals as well as complete novices are able to use our software.  We embed best practice into the software, which means our support costs will be greatly reduced.

One of the distinct things about Market Dojo is your credit based pricing system. Why did you choose to take this approach rather than just charging straight GBP for a license?
The credits model is to give us and our clients flexibility.  What we offer is a solution that caters for 90% of the e-auction market as standard, but with modular functionality to satisfy the remaining 10% of users, for example having bespoke categorised participant databases or using advanced reporting.  Our clients can expend credits to add such functionality to their account, if they so choose, and can make this choice once their experience and requirements develop, i.e. once they feel comfortable.

Credits also allow clients to consolidate their purchasing and invoicing transactions and allow them to continue to use their account uninterrupted. This works in the same way as something like ICIS LOR, the plastics and chemicals market price database.  Credits can be purchased in bulk by our clients to be used how they want, when they want.

For us the credit system is an advantage because the consolidated invoicing also aids our cash flow.  Furthermore the credits allow us to carry out some great marketing initiatives.  For example, exclusively for Buyers Meeting Point, sign up with Market Dojo before the end of 2010 and drop us a line quoting “Buyers Meeting Point” and we shall give you 25 free credits towards your first event, plus a further 25 credits in return for a case study.

One of the challenges of running a successful auction is being absolutely prepared. How you plan to be sure that users of the Market Dojo solution have positive results – not just because the software is useable but because they have the knowledge in house to follow a good process in advance?
We completely agree that the so called “plug and play” e-auctions can require just as much work as the consultancy-led managed auction process to be successful.  We have worked hard to inform our clients of the work and thorough process required, which is encapsulated in our free guides, yet by streamlining the process within the software we have managed to reduce the workload.

Whilst working as a consultant I recall assisting a client who wished to run their own e-auction.  After initially agreeing to proof-read their RFP, I ended up re-writing it for them, as well as adjusting the spend data and Lot structure.  However, despite our warnings, we just could not convince them to bolster the number of participants.  In the end they received a mere 3 qualification bids and during the e-auction itself just one further bid was placed.  It just demonstrated that the traditional “three bids and a buy” embedded itself in their process so firmly that even the e-auction became a part of it.  However, there is also an element that because the company sought to run an e-auction themselves via software from a consultancy, there was a blur in the roles and responsibilities, which ultimately caused it to fail.  At Market Dojo we counter this by clearly outlining the process in our guides and by taking on the clear role of a software provider.

Our past experience gave us a great learning platform to incorporate into Market Dojo. We have developed a number of features to make our clients, in their own capacity, run successful e-auctions. Firstly, we offer only self-managed e-auctions, therefore the clients know what to expect. To assist them we have created nearly 20 guides packed full of our consultancy knowledge and experience, which are free for all our users.  We have established our own community site, called Community Dojo, which encourages the free exchange of knowledge and learnings from running e-auctions and using Market Dojo. We have created professional, step-by-step software that has information help icons for every title, button and action that not just state information but provide advice and tips as well.  We also have professional support on stand-by in the form of e-mail, phone and Live Chat.

All of these features combined mean that we have used our past learnings to fuel the future success of our clients.  Nevertheless, although we do focus on the software, we are a new company and we would be happy to go the extra mile in return for a testimonial or referral to make sure that our clients exceed their targets.

What is ‘market price’ and how do I know I’ve found it?

I realised recently that this is a term we brandish about quite frequently at various meetings and conversations we have.   Occasionally we get nods of appreciation for the term, but more commonly we receive a look of faint recognition, as if it were a friend last seen in school days wearing braces and ill-fitting clothes.  So, perhaps it might be worth giving our take on the term, just to help freshen up the concept, plus a little advice on how you might seek it.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides the following:  “a price actually given in current market dealings”.

There are several key words in this definition.  Let’s take the word ‘actually’ for example, for the above sentence can make perfect sense without it, yet the insertion is deliberate.  It adds gravitas to the word ‘price’.  It is not a suggested price or an implied price or even a piece of estimation, but an actual price.

What we would interpret this to mean in the procurement world is that this price is genuinely valid and acceptable.  It has been submitted based on all the specified requirements of quality, technical, commercial, logistical, operational, administrative, health and safety and so forth.   In other words, it is real and it is based on a product or service that meets your needs.

Another key word is ‘current’.  A market price cannot be so if it is founded upon old or even future information.  It has to be based current facts and information.  If I purchased my property for £200,000 two years ago, I would be misinformed to say it is now worth the same.  And nor could I actually tell now you the market price for it in 6 months time.  If I want to know an accurate figure for my property today, I would consult the market today.  It’s the only way to be certain.

The same applies in procurement.  Where certain prices rely heavily on raw material costs, such as fuel or steel, don’t leave it to the supplier to hedge their bets on raw material price movements as part of their offer to you.  It won’t be a market price if this happens.  Instead, ask them to give you a price based on today’s raw material costs and to provide a raw material index mechanism for future price reviews.  This way no one needs to take a gamble and lose out.  Such a mechanism is fair, open and transparent.  Currency reviews should operate in the same way.

However, what this definition does leave open is that you could receive a number of so-called ‘market prices’.  Which one is the right one?

This is where we would go a step further.  We would classify a market price as, “the best actual price in current market dealings that is sustainable for the required term”.  It is in no one’s interest for the price to be so competitive that it causes a supplier to go out of business or conversely so uncompetitive that it causes the buying company to go bust.  So, put into plain English, we see the market price as being the best price for a product or service, based on current market conditions, that meets your needs and is sustainable for the duration you want.
So, if that is what the market price is, how do we go about finding it?

First you specify your requirements.   Second, you engage the market.  It’s as simple as that.  Think about something like Money Supermarket or Compare the Market.  By filling in your car insurance requirements, you are provided with up to 30 quotes.  The top two or three are usually around the market price level, i.e. the best price, based on current market conditions, that meets your needs and is sustainable for the period you require it.  Beware of spurious prices, the ones that look too good to be true, because usually they are! A bit of due diligence is required just to double-check that the quotes are based on what you require. You don’t want to later find out your excess, for example, is ten times more than the next best quote.

For procurement, it is a case of designing a robust RFQ or set of requirements, leaving as little scope for interpretation as possible.  Secondly, you distribute it to your own private market, whereby you should have a plentiful number of capable and interested suppliers. Finally, pick the top two or three bids and carry out that bit of due diligence to make sure everything has been understood and that the quotes are accurate.

The knack is in creating your market.  If you were to approach two suppliers down the road and get prices, would you say that you have approached the market?  No.  If however you approach 10,000 suppliers around the globe, would you say that you need a few more before you know the market?  Also no, you would say you have covered a sufficient number of bases.  Clearly something lies in between.

Thankfully this is where online sourcing technology can greatly help you by keeping everything together in an auditable and controlled manner, allowing you to involve huge numbers of suppliers.  My personal record was a sourcing exercise that involved 1,500 suppliers, of which 140 or so provided prices.  Having completed this, I was particularly confident I had found the market price.

However this is a one-off example.  The practical way to create and involve the market is to:
1) Outline your supplier criteria, such as geography, turnover, accreditations, capabilities etc.
2) Source suppliers using your contacts, your experience, trade shows, associations, sourcing agencies and databases such as Kompass, Hotfrog, Kellysearch, Applegate, Alibaba, TradeIndia and so on,
3) Qualify the suppliers against your criteria, using questionnaires and submitted responses if time permits.

Once done, send out the RFQ or grant the qualified suppliers access to it and simply manage any questions that come back.  Once all the prices are in, carry out the competitive negotiation, be it an e-auction or otherwise, and the market price will be revealed before your very eyes!

About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.

Gamification – An evolution in software design or just continuing the trend?

Recently there has been an article in Supply Management (issue 6th Jan 2011) and also on the UK Spend Matters blog by Peter Smith (3rd February 2011) touching on the subject of Gamification.

For those unfamiliar with the term, here is the Wikipedia definition:

“Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game, particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. Read More 

The gaming industries revenue is measured in tens of billions and it is growing at an almost exponential rate. They are obviously doing something right. 

Should the business software world take note and learn from this industry? Is it just a fad? Or is ‘Gamification’ just renaming of existing practices that companies are already engaged with whilst ignoring other elements of the gaming industry such as story telling which are central to games but not so relevant for business applications? 

There is quite an academic debate around this issue. This article is not about resolving this but to give a pragmatic viewpoint.

What you can say is that irrespective of the naming convention, it is obvious that the business world has a great deal to learn from the gaming industry. Software in the business world is becoming more useable, functional and can be easily customised, but misses the point if it is trying to learn from the gaming industry. 

The primary strength of the gaming industry is around the user experience. There are many other words that could be included here but it is the user experience which seems core to the uptake of their technology. There are many facets which make up the user experience: ease of use, attractive GUI, inbuilt intelligent tutorials, dynamic interfaces, fun to use, reward mechanisms, online communities, challenges, stories, scoring and so on… The list is endless and different applications will focus on different points.

The key is that the user engages with a very complex system easily and effortlessly to become proficient and then is self motivated to continue and progress and share information. It is the user experience which drives this however it is made up. You can’t say this about many (any?) business applications. Although you can certainly see that many modern websites and applications are starting to take on a different look and feel which seems to draw on important aspects of the gaming industry. They have taken on a more fun approach and well as a clearer and easier to use interface. Some nice examples here are Survey Monkey and Value my Stuff whose websites and functionality are laid out in very clear and simple steps.

Obviously business applications are always striving to become more user friendly, and this has been an industry trend for many years. However it seems that they always put functionality first above the user experience. They can continually make the user interface easier but it is by examining other industries such as the gaming sector that will result in an application which people want to use. If more business application started design by looking at the user experience and ultimately engagement first then there would be less multi million pound software implementations where much of the workforce don’t use to their full capability. We have spoken to companies who have Oracle and SAP implementations where they need to bring external consultants in to show them how to use the systems and increase uptake. Forcing users to uptake new technologies by changing processes is one way but wouldn’t it be great if users really wanted to use a new technology? 

Gamification, for want of a better word, seems to embody an incremental step change in the way business software applications are designed through the priority given to user experience.
You could just say it is a next level of design, but the word itself embodies a very specific element in the way design strategy is changing and there are other benefits to just user uptake. Games tend to be fun. This is because they are easy to use and encourage engagement. They tend to avoid repetitive tasks and focus on getting back into the thick of it. Thus the advantages of enhancing the user experience through design from the gaming industry in business applications will not just be around the faster uptake of the technology but also other areas such as reduced administration and efficiency.

One just has to look at Apple. It is very impressive how they have put the user experience first and have thus created a loyalty in their user base which continually grows. The IPhone has many little nuances which impress and you can see how it also makes the experience easier and richer. It seems they looked at the market and put the user first before putting in the functionality. (OK, still a good question around flash!)

At Market Dojo we believe the skill is not just around a nice looking GUI, or inbuilt tutorials but much more fundamental. Our philosophy is built around making a software product which people want to use rather than one that they simply can use. It seems this is now the goal of many other upcoming SasS vendors who are new to the market and it is a very interesting time for business applications and their evolution in design.

About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more atwww.marketdojo.com.  

10 (and a bit) things you didn’t know about Market Dojo

*This has since been beaten, and we have had a client register, purchase the software and run an auction within a 48 hour time period. Amazing! Some of our more experienced users are now so familiar with the process that they can turn set up an auction with questionnaires within 45 minutes.

About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more atwww.marketdojo.com.

The Market Dojo eWorld Purchasing & Supply experience!

Despite being in existence for only 7 months, we decided to invest in exhibiting in the eWorld show, having recognised it to be the premier event to exhibit for organisations in the e-procurement market after several great recommendations.

Organised by the very personable and accommodating Claire Boffey from Revolution Events, we were fast-tracked at the very last minute for the March 2011 event at the QEII Conference Centre in the heart of London.   Our position was in a great spot sandwiched between two networking areas and adjacent to the buffet area which allowed us to chat with the hungry visitors.  The London Eye and Big Ben provided the fantastic back-drop to our stand.  Setting up in the morning was the greatest challenge, unravelling our pristine banner and laying out the freshly printed brochures, although the highlight was the relief sought after dropping the heavy cargo off my now-disfigured back!  Revolution Events were very helpful in making sure we had all we needed, helping us overcome the usual technical issues of connecting to the wireless internet.   Chatting to our neighbours left and right whilst setting up, we discovered we were in the presence of an ex-Dragon’s Den contestant, which provided a fun start to the day to learn the truth behind the scenes of a smoothly-edited television programme!

Our first visitor popped by shortly after 9am and by 9:30am we had a steady stream of engaging discussions.  We were able to give live demonstrations of the software which proved popular, as did our prize draw for a free e-auction, amongst other prizes.  One thing we did see was the very noticeable ebb and flow of visitors in harmony with popular presentations scheduled throughout the day, which meant that one minute all would be quiet and the next you would have people queuing up to talk with you.  This did become a tricky balance as you didn’t want to cut visitors short or allocate them a later time for fear of appearing rude, yet at the same time you couldn’t keep people waiting either.  Even with the four of us on the stand it did get a little frantic on occasion, but naturally we took this as a great sign of encouragement!  Bizarrely it took us until the afternoon to realise that rather than doing a full live demonstration of the software each time, we would be just as informative by talking visitors through the 2 minute demonstration video that we have on our homepage of the complete e-sourcing process.  I don’t know why it took us so long to think of this.

As the afternoon passed, the visitor numbers began to dwindle, as did the resoluteness in our feet.  We met our final visitor on the dot of 4:30pm whilst those around us were starting to pack up.  Looking back on it, we were quite fortunate for not packing immediately as our visitor had just arrived, saw that we were the only ones still going, and we now have an exciting meeting scheduled with them.  We also have already had a great meeting post-eWorld with one of our neighbouring stands and we have many more meetings lined up as well. It really was a brilliant day for generating numerous opportunities and I highly recommend eWorld to anyone else thinking of taking part, be it presenting a talk or sponsoring a stand.

We were also pleased to announce that the winner of the free e-auction out of our 30 or so entrants was the Alzheimer’s Society.  I hope that this will be of great benefit to them and a very worthy cause it is too.
About:  Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software.  Find out more at www.marketdojo.com.

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