Some exciting news fresh off the press is that we shall be attending the CIPS Middle East conference on the 11th May 2015 in Abu Dhabi.
This is courtesy of a generous invitation from our regional partner, ArcBlue / PMMS Consulting, who are sponsoring the event.
Their Dubai-based team provides a range of support to clients including training, organisational assessment, process development, coaching and mentoring, capability assessment and general advisory. PMMS are also the sole provider of training services for CIPS in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and have been using our tools as a training aid for the workshops.
We feel that the Middle East is an exciting market for us, given the extreme ease of use of our tools to benefit those who are less familiar with eSourcing. Coupled with our very low entry price of just £500, there is a real opportunity for companies to give it a try with negligible downside.
So, if you are also due to attend the event or shall be in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi over that period, please do let us know so we can arrange to meet. We have a few days spare during our flying visit and would welcome the chance to speak with as many of you as possible to lure us away from the pristine beaches!
It is obvious that eSourcing adoption has increased in larger organisations as they implement software to bring eSourcing in-house or use consultants to conduct eTenders on their behalf.
eSourcing comes with a huge number of benefits and companies are aware of these.
Recently I started a discussion asking the lovely members of Procurious:
‘What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you hear the word ‘eSourcing?’
They all responded positively with the majority stating ‘efficiency’ as the key factor of eSourcing. Other thoughts that people had around the topic include:
All great reasons to start using eSourcing. However, as touched on by one responder:
Why isn’t everyone utilising eSourcing?
Our biggest competitor is not an all bells and whistles ERP system- it is email… still!
What is it about email that keeps procurement professionals tied in? Or is it just a matter of being stuck in their old ways, unable to see the wood for the trees? People are notoriously opposed to change, but it doesn’t mean you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
How can we promote eSourcing to our fellow procurement professionals, who may still be stuck sourcing goods and services without all the benefits of eSourcing mentioned above?
Today we are very pleased to announce a new release of Market Dojo.
The focus for this release is ‘White labelling’. This gives Hosts some new options for customising Market Dojo with their own branding.
In addition to being able to use their own logo and colours, you can now do the following:
We think White Labelling will be to be useful to anyone who wants to put their branding front and centre. This includes our partners who use Market Dojo as a component of their service, and Hosts, who simply want to give their Participants a clear reminder of who they are working with.
We have also taken the opportunity to upgrade a few other components of the platform, most notably the way we process file uploads. Although not so noticeable, we think these will give many small improvements to the overall user experience.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:
We are really pleased to announce that we have joined the HP Alliance ONE partner program…
Market Dojo joined HP Alliance ONE partner program and have realised significant benefits. The AllianceONE program provides software vendors the tools and resources they need to more effectively address client needs. Market Dojo work with HP to deliver major upgrades to their platform, to conduct load testing and for locating suitable hosting providers for their cloud solution.
Description of AllianceONE:
HP AllianceONE partner program offers a solid framework for collaboration by integrating servers, storage, networking, security, power & cooling and services. As a member of the AllianceONE program, Market Dojo can significantly extend market reach and improve selling success. Market Dojo can leverage HP AllianceONE solutions, tools and resources to help clients speed time to application deployment, optimize infrastructure capacity, reduce power consumption and free resources to focus on innovation that drives business growth.
Quotes from Market Dojo:
“The Alliance One program has given Market Dojo access to significant support not normally available to a new UK SaaS business. It is fantastic that they have seen the potential of our innovative online solution to help with effective procurement in the private and public sector.” Alun Rafique, Co-Founder
“We are also very happy that the ISV Alliances team have helped us locate Liberata who can address our hosting needs thus helping our clients wanting to deal with cloud solutions, but who still have concerns over security and data.”Nicholas Martin, Co-Founder
“HP is unusual for a large multinational in that they proactively help SME’s and see the long term benefits. They have been invaluable in supporting our work, for example, by providing workshop rooms for our next innovative product partly funded by grant from the TSB (Technology Strategy Board).” Nick Drewe, Co-Founder
What solution does Market Dojo hope to enhance through AllianceONE:
Market Dojo decided to join the HP Alliance One program due to the unparalleled benefits offered to a new SaaS company seeking to grow in difficult economic conditions. It is also in these times that their innovative tool assisting procurement professionals to reduce their costs becomes of paramount importance and HPs assistance gives Market Dojo solid foundations from which to grow globally.
As Team GB were creating a success this summer smashing many records and providing one of the most impressive Olympic results in recent times for Great Britain, Team MD was also hard at it.
Now, we’re not saying we are as impressive as the Olympic team (not yet anyway!) but we do try to emulate the spirit.
We were awarded a grant from the Technology Strategy Board late last year to make e-Sourcing, amongst other things, more accessible to the Public Sector. As a small team, we soon realised that the way to make the most of it was through collaboration.
By working closely with many small partners, we achieved a certain synergy and created something worth far more than the sum of its parts. We want to share with you the team makeup and pay tribute to those who made our games a triumph, ultimately resulting in the release, nicknamed ‘Samurai’.
The ‘athletes’ – working for victory:
‘Kolibria’ – Who says you can’t find designers and developers for a reasonable price in the UK? Not only did they do a great job, but as this boutique French consultancy operation could do the design and development, we had found a one stop shop (although not so sure if the Team GB’s thrashing of the French in the medal table made them any happier).
The ‘Coach’ – supporting the team:
The ‘Technology Strategy Board’ – otherwise known as the UK’s Innovation Agency, they were instrumental is listening to our ideas. With matched funding, we had to work together. The Technology Strategy Board steered us to completion through their organised management and assignment of a Monitoring Officer.
The ‘Olympic Torch’ – setting everything in motion:
Is it wrong to equate this to the Market Dojo team? We certainly started the process, created and held the vision for the ‘games’, however I think only time will tell if we are a shining beacon to inspire a generation!
Whilst those above were the core components, there was a huge support crew help to make it happen.
The ‘volunteers’ – helping wherever needed:
We have often found many benefits from working with the academic community. Unfortunately, good students don’t just fall into your lap, you need to work at the relationships and you only get out what you put in.
‘The University of the West of England’ provided an MBA team to help define the market and profile the audience. We work closely with this local university and we also lecture there and even supply the occasional case study.
’Ecole Atlantic de Commerce’ sent us the very capable Hadrien Geffroy who assisted with the multi-cultural element, translated the website and through an affinity to the Rocky movies kept us motivated too. Now we have the software available in French as well as Greek, German and Russian. We also look forward to several more students from this college joining us for a few months next Spring.
‘The Arts University College at Bournmouth’ provided the unique Sam Hallet whose interpretation helped us draw an innovative infographic of our product offering, incorporating our logo as an inspiration.
The ‘message’ – pointing us in the right direction:
‘Modern Media’, a skilled Bristol Marketing agency took the outputs from the UWE project and converted them to the right message for the audience to hopefully inspire a generation. This is seen through the new website and targeted communication, why not have a look.
The ‘starters gun’ – an explosive beginning:
‘Hewlett Packard’ helped kick off the process by providing the premises for our customer and partner engagement workshops. They are an exception in the market, showing that even a behemoth of a company can still support and help nurture SME‘s, focusing on the marathon rather than the sprint. Their benefits will come from the sale of hardware to their partners whose servers we reside. They also help us with load testing, ensuring our software can run at maximum efficiency.
The ‘track’ – underpinning the games:
‘Liberata’, an HP partner and another example of a firm who shares the vision in supporting up-and-coming technology companies. They provide secure foundations and enhance our credibility. Together with Liberata we not only have data assurance to IL3 but they also have their own innovative tools for the public sector such as Capacity Grid, which is a is a virtual shared service marketplace, through which local authorities can connect, collaborate and trade resources.
The ‘Sponsorship’ – gaining momentum:
‘I’m with them productions’, run by the impressive Lee Matthews, developed a marketing video series that grips a nation. See the first episode here on how companies can best save money (…or not!). Lee has had an illustrious career to date which also includes many horror films, such as the award winning Shrove Tuesday.
The ‘audience’ – supporting the games and judging success:
Where would any of us be without the public, quite literally in our case. The public sector have been involved from the start as the inspiration, in providing the challenge, aiding us along the way and ultimately being the audience who will determine our success. Why not visit us and let us know. Our Sandpit allows you to try to all the e-Sourcing strategies you need, sign up for free and explore our solutions.
Buyers Meeting Point has written a great article about our new Samurai release. We were so pleased, here it is in full:
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.
Over a year old and apparently a lot wiser, would we be able to take the time out to tackle Revolution’s second e-purchasing event of the year? Is it worth attending? Will there be value in a biannual event?
I must admit that whilst stuck on the M4 into London, admiring the Lucozade advert and the well placed broken down vehicle causing a 5 mile jam, I had second thoughts.
However, on arriving at eWorld just after nine a.m., all the concerns evaporated, along with the oxygen debt from the sprint from the station! My fellow co-founder had set up the stand and was engaged in deep conversation. There was already a great feel to it. Obviously we weren’t the only ones to agree on its value and decide to pop along. The floor was busy, everyone engaged in conversation and lots of smiles.
Clair Boffey and Revolution had managed to again squeeze us in at the last minute in a great position at the foot of the stairs to the seminar rooms. Our bright-coloured stand and viral videos were catching more than a few people’s attention. With the fantastic London backdrop it really did set the scene for a great day and we even managed a small interview for the events show-reel (which can be seen Here).
The whole day went in a bit of a blur. Admittedly there seemed to be fewer delegates than in March, which seems normal for an event held later in the year, but in the end we only had minutes to spare in between discussions and live demos. For an exhibitor, you would think that the main time for engaging with the delegates is between the seminar sessions, although many delegates took advantage of the quiet periods for more detailed chats on our solution and our unique view on e-negotiation.
The main difference this time, apart from our dashing red ties and balloons on the stand, was that we knew many people there and they also knew us or knew of us. There were friendly faces passing by to see how we are getting on, many new people who had heard of us and also even a few customers.
At one point, we had our third co-founder come and join us. As a new business breaking out in this market, we are very fortunate to have been able to generate a real buzz in the e-purchasing community and it is an exciting time for us all.
eWorld is certainly the right place to meet companies interested in e-Procurement and it once again proves itself with real value and many conversations to follow up, a number of which have continued from the previous event in March. The corner has certainly been turned and we really feel that we have arrived.
As the day drew to a close, we only seemed to become busier and before we knew it, we were once again the only stand left as everyone else packed away amidst the complementary drinks. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and our only disappointment would be the lack of an after-show party – Revolution…maybe next time?!
About: Market Dojo provides business-to-business e-auction and e-sourcing software. Find out more at www.marketdojo.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.Things to consider when creating an e-Cademy
For each purchasing department there are many benefits in creating a centre for best practice which centralises all the company methodology for procurement. As Market Dojo works in the e-procurement space, we thought it wise to offer some pointers on creating an e-procurement academy – hence e-Cademy! OK, not the most thrilling play on words but it will do for now.
Should you have an e-Cademy?
I think the answer is always yes but to what extent is the question. There are many ideas below you might want to consider. An e-Cademy would lend itself to a larger organisation but even if you are a one man band, centralising and organising your documentation will always be beneficial.
So what would you include in the e-Cademy?
We can see two principal areas: support and communication.
Support will be at the heart of any e-Cademy and could encompass several layers.
a) Training – Any e-Cademy would need to provide some sort of training. This falls into two sub-categories – processes and systems. There is always the question over whether you bespoke the systems to your processes or bespoke your processes to the systems. The latter enables you to use off the shelf systems but might require a change in the way you do things. Hopefully, if the system has been designed by professionals then this should not be a major process change, and as with the case with our software, we would also think can be quite beneficial. Our software guides you through the best practice process for RFQs and online negotiation thus allowing for one training course which easily combines the processes with the system to guide you through the best methodology.
Obviously you will end up with the same result if you bespoke the software but the downfall with this approach is maintenance of a system which deviates from the norm. It also assumes that the processes you bespoke the system to are indeed best practice.
b) Documentation and Reports – Any good e-Cademy should have templates, guides and reports. Templates will enable an easy uptake for the commonalised procurement activities and will ensure continuity and compliance. Guides should be available to be used for reference in case the new graduates (Graduate – our name for those who have passed through the e-Cademy) get stuck along the way. Finally a good reporting system needs to be put in place. This is not just referring to a summary report from the activity which can be sent to stakeholders but one that also leaves an auditable trail as well as covering areas such as implementation. These can also be used in the e-Cademies communication on the results achieved by the graduates and the central procurement team activities.
c) Mentoring or shadowing – e-Procurement can be quite a daunting task for those new to it. We can easily relate to the fear of running your first auction; will the suppliers bid? Will my incumbent engage with the process? Have I put everything in my documentation? The fear is justified. However this fear can be allayed by good training and continued support. We find this is best given in the form of mentoring or shadowing for each graduates first foray into these activities. For example it is worth checking their documentation, liquidity and how they have set up the auction activity to keep the education moving in the right direction. This will also help with confidence and knowledge transfer.
d) Support line – Any graduate from the e-Cademy has the capability to add substantial benefit to the organisation. The ROI from activities such as auctions can be within months, if not weeks, and part of the e-Cademies remit should be acting as a support line to all the graduates from the scheme, who are out in far flung parts of the organisation.
Communication from the e-Cademy will be invaluable. How else will people know about it? How will the board of directors know what benefits it brings? No-one else will be blowing your own trumpet so you need to self-proclaim. This communication can also help with encouraging involvement from all parts of the organisation and to avoid surprise when you mention an auction on the more strategic items. There are many ways to carry out this activity so we will start with the easiest:
a) Newsletters – This or a simple e-mail to the procurement staff and key people in the organisation can be a great benefit. Our two top tips here are 1) keep it simple and 2) not too often, once a month would be more than enough and if it is a newsletter, once a quarter. It is also wise to send out a summary e-mail after each e-auction activity to the relevant stakeholders.
b) Web Page – This is a much more involved activity and requires a close link to the IT department with maybe a bribe of a bacon sarnie or two. Basically create an internal webpage for people to go to and see what’s going on. You could also use this page to centralise resources and documentation, although this may be better placed somewhere on the intranet. This creates an easy place to update everyone on your activities without the need to continually send out e-mails, especially if you are able to update the content yourself.
c) Internal conferences / seminars – Many people will be interested in these new e-Procurement activities. The majority may not work in procurement but may easily be affected by your activities; in other words your internal stakeholders. Internal events provide a platform for communication and knowledge transfer that will not only help promote the status of the e-Procurement activities but also encourage involvement and awareness. You could also use these events to encourage innovation in the process to ensure it fits within the organisation and continually improves.
d) Awards – For graduates of the e-Cademy, certificates should be awarded and communicated. This will help give the e-Cademy a certain professionalism and status and will also encourage pride in the graduates. This can also be rolled into professional development plans.
At Market Dojo we have sometimes drawn the parallel to cars. Auctions are just vehicles to get from A to B. Obviously there can be drawbacks as with any vehicle but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. The way that cars get around the disadvantages is to make sure all drivers have a licence. Could you have an e-Auction licence? You could even give ‘drivers’ points for bad practice!
Also if you are lucky enough to be part of a large organisation with many teams, maybe you could create inter-team competitions to encourage success and give you another reason to hand out some trophies at the end of the year!
This just about sums up our thoughts here. Please feel free to add more via the comments and highlight any experiences (good and bad) that you have had with ventures such as these. One other thing I missed off the list is don’t forget to celebrate success with a trip to the local.
Footnote: Interestingly the name Academy traces back to Plato’s school of philosophy, founded 385 BC at Akademia, a sanctuary of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and skill. Over the course of history it has been used to describe all types of institution from renaissance academies to independent state schools. It is about time we brought it into the world of e-procurement.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.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.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.