CIPS Middle East welcomes Market Dojo

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!

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

eWorld – September 2013

Last week saw our now regular outing to the eWorld Purchasing & Supply event in London.

The team in front of our booth

My day at eWorld began with a train journey to London Waterloo and a pleasant walk across Westminster Bridge, past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, to the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre. When I arrived, the venue was a hive of activity as exhibitors unpacked their equipment and prepared for the day ahead. I found my colleagues in our familiar location, at the foot of the stairs to the seminar room.  They had already done most of the setup of our stand and I was just able to help add a few final touches.  Very soon it was time to greet the first delegates of the day.

The day flew past as we spoke to delegates about Market Dojo, and also got some interesting new ideas based on  their priorities and suggestions.

For me, what was particularly striking about this eWorld was how many Market Dojo customers were present. A really nice reminder of how we are growing. It was a great chance to put a face to a few familiar names and also discuss how they were getting on.  It was also really exciting to see the positive reaction we got for the  new things which we have been working on.

Before I knew it, the highly efficient catering team were circulating with drinks indicating that the event was almost over.  Of course, we squeezed every last minute out of our day, even doing a demonstration as the event staff began dismantled the booths around us.

After a quick review, it was time to say goodbye to my colleagues, and head back to Waterloo.
Many thanks to Claire Boffey and her team at Revolution for organising a great event.  Thanks also to everyone who took the time to stop and talk to us at eWorld.

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!

Create your own portal

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.

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

Team MD – The force behind the ‘samurai’ release

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.

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

A UK Start-Up’s Viewpoint on the Paradigm Shift in e-Sourcing

We were recently asked to contribute our on-the-ground thoughts of the e-Sourcing market, as we witnessed it.  The original posting can be found here, although for ease we have included it below:

As a new entrant into the already crowded space of e-sourcing during a major economic downturn, it certainly makes for interesting times. After persevering though our first year, we can see many factors actually in our favour (and of course many against, but let’s focus on the positives).

First, procurement continues to gain visibility within organisations, as we know that an efficient procurement strategy can mean the difference between profitability and receivership. Having been both an engineer and a buyer, it is pleasing to see these professions gaining more traction at a board room level, although still maybe not as much as we’d have liked.

Secondly, there is a strong focus on reducing costs. Perhaps that is stating the obvious; however with sales ever tougher under increasing global competition, procurement is the area where you can really recover that lost profit. To quote a figure commonly bandied about during my time at Rolls-Royce, “a one percent saving could increase profits by as much as ten percent.”

Lastly, we perceive a paradigm shift in the e-sourcing market, which is why we chose to develop a SaaS (Software as a Service) application. As an aside, in our opinion, SaaS is just a re-branding of the type of companies formed during dotcom boom, except this time the internet infrastructure can cope with the delivery of their benefits.

The last fifteen years have definitely seen procurement technology come on leaps and bounds. It has evolved from pipe dreams to disparate applications to fully integrated ERP systems. These have been traditionally maintained by the local IT team and supported by a host of consultants with each required change to the interface or operating system costing the better part of an arm and a leg.

The shift that we thought we were predicting was the shift of this technology to online hosting, coupled with the rapid application of these e-Sourcing solutions to the SME and mid-tier market. In many ways we believed we were looking at the commoditisation (or “consumerization” as we learned to call it in the US) of the technology, embedded with more intelligence yet easy to use, professional and openly priced. We had thought that the larger companies were sewn up with the ERP behemoths who, even as we speak, are slowly moving to online hosting by development and acquisition. Parallels could also be drawn to the dotcom boom here, where large multi-nationals swept up the few successful e-providers who survived the bust bubble to give them that dynamic edge.

However, we seem to have got it wrong. We were too early — although we have found that being ahead of the curve is not such a bad thing. What we have hit upon is a lot of interest from large tier one companies desiring a simple, online, and accessible solution which can be used in parallel with or sitting on top of their existing ERP solutions, even if those systems already contain e-Sourcing modules. This is most certainly due to the slower reaction speed and migration period to true SaaS solutions exhibited by the larger providers.

What is the reason for this? Our view would be the need for accessibility and easy adoption. Niche SaaS providers offer uncomplicated, pay-as-you-go products that are easily accessible and have been designed with the end user in mind to deliver very focused solutions. In our case, it is to provide in-house sourcing professional tools for e-RFQs and e-Auctions which can be switched on and off with no implementation costs and very little training. Obviously the large providers are adapting, trying to catch up with different pricing models to counter the competition from the smaller, more nimble SaaS providers. Ariba has demonstrated this most recently with their “free” license option. However, the change in the way software is being delivered, combined with the customers desire for an uncomplicated product, at least lets us put our foot firmly in the door and, in the end, we still have the small and medium tier to approach. All in all, interesting times.

About: Market Dojo provides accessible e-sourcing 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 

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