“What would Market Dojo be like today if it had started 10 years earlier?”
Following on from the previous post 10 Years Older, “The Past”, we examine what we would look like in this day and age as a bold 15 year old, as opposed to the playful 5 year old that Market Dojo is today.
Market Dojo today provides a cloud-based eSourcing solution. Having been created by procurement professionals with a wealth of experience in consultancy, the tool really addresses the issues of usability that were seen with competitors. The Market Dojo co-founders were able to draw upon their experience of running managed auctions to create an application that was really easy to use not only for the hosts of the online negotiation events, but for the suppliers participating too.
But what if Market Dojo was not the Market Dojo we know and love today? What if Market Dojo had started 10 years earlier? How would having this extra 10 years of market experience define it today?
In the previous article we established that the eSourcing market in 2000 in comparison with that of 2010 (when MD formed) was a completely different kettle of fish! i.e. eSourcing in the year 2000 was in its infancy. Complex SaaS applications did not really appear until 2005 and therefore, Market Dojo as it stands would most likely not exist in the Millennium. If it had formed, we would have started with web-based single-installed version of Market Dojo, but the delivery model of it would have been very primitive in comparison to today’s. We would have had to use a multitude of different means of communication and our growth over the 15 years until today would have shaped us into something else entirely.
The table below shows a comparison of what we would look like today being 5 years old and today being 15 years old. As you can see the differences are quite substantial.
|Market Dojo today as a…|
|5 year old||15 year old|
|Saas||SaaS but sold as if it is on-premise, i.e. multi-instance with support fees, implementation fees, long-term contracts, contingent fees etc.|
|Best of breed/niche provider||Swallowed up by a bigger company|
|Focus on self-service||Huge consultancy arm within Market Dojo|
|Working with a number of partners, resellers and consultants||Conflict of working with partners/consultants since that competes with our own staff.|
|Virtual offices to support clients & our employees across the globe.||Local offices required to sell and support the product.|
|On-demand||Long term contracts to claw back high cost of sales & support|
|Single fee called ‘licence cost’||Licence cost, support cost, implementation cost, training cost, managed services cost, hosting cost|
|Keep the philosophy and focus on customer self-service, as this is the future.||Protect interests of keeping it complex to ensure survival of the business model, or totally revamp/sabotage the business model to move with the times.|
|Instant upgrades and maintenance||Periodic client roll-out and separate fees|
|Version control = Market Dojo, that’s it. 100% same from one client to the next.||Market Dojo v10.1 then v10.2 then v10.3 then v11.001 then…..|
|Agile development team in 2 week sprints||Complex waterfall development routine with releases every 6-12 months|
|Very low overheads and high degree of R&D||Low R&D and high overheads.|
|Keep enhancing the software and develop new tools to make them even easier to adopt and use.||Keep enhancing the service provision to protect the staff or let staff go to focus on the software.|
|Colourful, playful, attractive software that’s enjoyable to use||Grey, grey, grey with lots of tick-boxes and drop-downs.|
|Compatible with many browsers plus tablets and smartphones||You must use Internet Explorer 6, 7 or 8 please.|
|Benefits for the end user and enhanced dashboards for management||Thrust of application about managerial reports with little thought for end user usability.|
Today we offer a cloud-based solution with a focus on adoption and self-service. As a niche provider, we are able to focus on providing a best-of-breed solution, allowing us to form links with a number of partners, resellers and consultants. Customers are able to use us ‘on demand’ and we have a pay-as-you-host’ option. Our monthly/ annual fee is all inclusive, covering all our services from the software licence itself to implementation and support costs.
With our overheads being low, we are able to invest more in Research and Development so we can keep enhancing the software in line with our current philosophy and focus on customer self-service and ease of adoption. This is where the future lies and with our current framework we are in the perfect position to move with the times and stay ahead.
Market Dojo as a fifteen year old would be a completely different creature.
We would either operate as an on-premise model or with a very simplistic SaaS structure that still encompassed elements of on-premise such as support and implementation fees, long-term contracts etc. We would most likely have been swallowed up by a large provider and have a huge consultancy arm with a myriad of offices across the globe to support local implementation..
There would be a need to protect the complexity of the model. Failing that, we would have to invest heavily in completely reshaping the structure of the product to be more ‘online’ and similar to what we have today. These could easily create large divisions within the company as you see with some companies today in splitting development resource between On Premise and SaaS teams.
The Market Dojo of today would be what a 15 year old Market Dojo would ultimately inspire to be: a new and improved version of itself. The initial concerns when developing Market Dojo in 2000 would have caused many complications for us today, and we would be unrecognisable in comparison with today’s model.
The potential ten years of market experience may have been detrimental to us today with regards to the opportunities that we were presented with when starting out in 2010. (Thank goodness for good timing! (?))
However, there are obvious disadvantages in starting when we did, namely that we need to enter a market where there are already some big players with an established customer base of large multi-nationals. Although as we focus on adoption with a different price point, there is a whole new layer of medium-sized companies open to us. This is a very similar strategy to how Google entered the application space by focusing on business applications for the small and medium sized companies where Microsoft failed to capitalise. And, as mentioned already, the larger companies are also able to look at Best of Breed. With the separate artistic nature of eSourcing, this sometimes can work very well alongside the larger ERP applications.
The next part of this series will investigate what the future of Market Dojo will hold. How can we use the benefit of looking back at the drivers of the technological movements of the past and apply these to potential future changes.
“What would Market Dojo be like today if it had started 10 years earlier?”
In this section, we’re going to use what we’ve learned about the past to think about the vision of the future. Through analysing what we’ve learnt so far, a touch of market knowledge from the directors at Market Dojo, and a dash of foresight as to what we think the future holds for eSourcing, we should be able to adapt to any changes in the market/technology.
So how do we prepare ourselves? How do we mitigate the risk of becoming “just another” large provider? There are many interesting aspects we need to look at in regards to this and a number of potential concerns we need to be aware of.
Alun Rafique and Nick Drewe, co-founders of Market Dojo shared some thoughts on areas to watch out for in the future:
There have been recent changes in how Google perceives websites for ease of use with mobile devices. With respect to this and the future of design, we need to make sure we are responsive, searchable and usable across the mobile technology of the future.
Google (power of the web/search)
This is the biggest unknown and potentially the biggest competitor (at the moment, our biggest competitor is still email). Will this develop enough and become intelligent enough to make eSourcing applications obsolete?
To mitigate this risk, we must do as any other successful modern SaaS provider and focus on the last ‘S’, not to mention being dynamic in our R+D.
We must ensure that our support is second to none on areas where strategy is crucially important. We predict that long gone will be the days of short-sighted support functions. Instead the main differentiator in industry will be support personnel who focus on resolution of queries instead of simply noting them. Training/help desk/light consultancy is where the battle may be fought. Although this does not mean there is a need for consultancy alongside our offering.
The ability to integrate between solutions is already possible, but in the future it is set to become even more simple. We must look at ways to make it even easier to integrate with any product through standard connectors so that best of breed becomes as attractive as an ERP solution.
There seems to be a current trend at the moment within procurement software for Venture Capitalists to throw money into investing in particular areas such as P2P and eInvoicing.
To help us stay ahead of this, we must keep focussing on our USPs by continuing to provide an easy to adopt, completely transparent pay-as-you-host pricing model. That is how we will aim to combat this type of competition along with our friendly one-to-one service.
Amazon/Google/Apple B2B platform
eSourcing and P2P are fundamentally different. One is strategic. One is operational. It is unlikely that these eMarketplaces are going to be in direct competition with our focus on eSourcing.
However, diversification is very important. And we have our own eMarketplace concepts (focussing on sourcing rather than fulfilment) which should help protect us in the future. Watch this space…
Eradicating the user interface
Moving from slick user interface to ‘no user interface’, as per this Coupa article. A rather controversial idea, but we can see some logic that instead of having to log into a tool every day, instead it fits around your life so you can interact with it outside the tool, e.g. suppliers responding to events via email with auto-doc upload/download, auto-messaging, auto-comparison of bids, etc.
As technology develops and the knowledge of eSourcing expands, the number of people using eSourcing will increase. We will hopefully begin to see true commoditization of the process and tools, so it really does just come down to price in the lower end of the spectrum. Eventually, it won’t just be large and medium sized enterprises utilising eSourcing, the smaller SMEs will be aware of and embracing it too.
Centralised eSourcing teams move in conjunction with local self-serve teams who even use the tools to get quotes on low value tenders of a few hundred pounds.
(See our video on the four stages of technological growth taken from a TED lecture.)
Not game changers, but here are some other areas to be aware of:
|Voice Activation||Keeping up to date with developments eg. Google voice, Siri, etc. and how this may possibly impact us.|
|Geo-locational sourcing||So you can find better suppliers locally and search locally.|
|Integrated market information||Such as global new stories and how they affect your sourcing events.|
|More focus on AI||The software could take actions when it ‘thinks’ it is needed. e.g. delay an auction due to lack of liquidity, or suggest a better lot structure based on the bids received.|
|More automation||So the software will actually create and publish events without you needing to do anything.|
|Newer, more flexible technologies||As technology continues to grow and develop, we need to ensure we keep up to date with the latest news and trends and ensure that our product move in line with this.|
|Commoditized combinatorial, expressive and transformational eAuctions||Making this usable to the majority.|
|Interactive content||In relation to how we market ourselves, we must ensure our content stays in line with technological changes and becomes more interactive.|
|Developing Countries||Competition from these countries is vastly improving and we must not overlook them. We can counteract this by keeping our development dynamic and increasing our brand marketing strategies. We must also market to these countries and think about ways to collaborate with as well as repel competition.|
|Public Sector Procurement||A big shake-up in the public sector software market to disrupt the legacy tools with their complex workflows and procedures to be a slick tool that people enjoy using.|
|IT will no longer play a part in the selection of SaaS tools||No more 100-page RFIs asking what software stack SaaS software is using and what the data hierarchy looks like.|
|Security barriers||Utilising new technology to address these and make eSourcing even more accessible.|
|Marketing||How will people find us in the future, compared to how they find us now?
How will the power of search change in the future?
At the minute, the focus is on Content Marketing, but what next?
Exciting times lie ahead of us at Market Dojo.
In hindsight, with what we have learnt from looking at the past and analysing the potential future of an older Market Dojo, we must continue to pro-actively develop, adapt to and overcome any fluctuations in the ever-evolving technological environment, whilst remaining true to our brand values.
The latter is very important. By embracing new technologies to enable more seamless integration with other providers, we should be able to remain true to our original ideologies of putting the customer at the forefront of everything we do, whilst making our product as easy to adopt as possible and bringing eSourcing to the forefront of every business.
“What would Market Dojo be like today if it had started 10 years earlier?”
That was the question posed by Jon Hansen of Procurement Insights one fine day in April.
Having only been part of the Market Dojo team (and the world of eProcurement!) for around 10 weeks at that point, analysing the history of an industry I barely knew existed at a time when I was just 10 years old seemed a daunting task. However, as I’ve been researching and writing, my knowledge and understanding of procurement has developed and I have learnt a lot from the process.
Originally this was going to be one article, but three defined sections have shaped up nicely into a series of posts.
The three sections of the article will look at 3 different periods of time:
The first part revolves around what life was like ten years prior to Market Dojo, bringing us to the year 2000. After gaining an understanding of technology, especially eSourcing, (See Nick’s blog highlighting important technology of this era) we thought about what would have happened if we had formed then: how would our ideologies and objectives have differed from those of today?
Next we asked ourselves, ‘what about now?’, how would we look today as a bold, brash 15 year old? How would we have grown? In what way would having an extra 10 years of experience shape who we are today?
The last and most important aspect of this series is ‘The Future’. What does the future look like for Market Dojo? Looking at what’s ahead and using the value of hindsight in assessing how we would have succeeded or failed 10 years ago, can we carve a path for us for the next 10 years?
Next week, we shall be releasing the three parts of the blog, so keep your eyes peeled…
This is part one of a three piece blog providing an in-depth analysis of the evolution of eSourcing around the question:
“What would Market Dojo be like today if it had started 10 years earlier?”
The Year 2000. The Millennium.
Throughout the year and across the globe, monumental events were taking place such as George Bush becoming president of the US by a slim margin, the Olympic Games being hosted in Australia and in the UK, Big Brother graced our screens for the first time (Yay).
One event (of even greater relevance than Big Brother) which cannot be ignored was the collapse of the dotcom bubble.
Mesmerised by the sweet bliss of dotcom, eCommerce companies such as Boo.com, Pets.com and Toysmart.com were thriving from investment. Little did they know that their demise was swiftly encroaching and soon they would become mere ghosts of their former triumphs.
Amazon and Ebay were entering their 5th year with seemingly little hope for the future. On 22nd June, the Lehman Brothers Inc. debt analyst Ravi Suria released a scandalous report on Amazon’s predicted loss and the future of the eMarketplace, and the entirety of the World Wide Web at that point in time looked pretty bleak.
The price of technology was just too much to sustain at that point, the price of marketing was far too high and the volume of people using the web was simply not great enough. The business world had got carried away and over-invested in the dotcom concept at a time when demand was simply too low.
So what was happening in the procurement world? What was eSourcing like?
Until 2000, the emphasis had been on on-premise software solutions. These came with many benefits at the time such as the company having ultimate control over all their systems, potentially sensitive data being stored internally and having a dedicated team of IT staff available for support. However on-premise solutions did come with its own set of problems. One main concern was integrating the various software vendors. One solution to this was that companies merged together or were bought out to form a few major software suites who could provide an all-in-one solution that met every purchasing need a company could possibly desire. For example, Ariba acquiring Freemarkets (who pioneered managed eAuctions) for $493 million in 2004 (who later sold it to Accenture for $51M, showing how eAuctions became more commoditized).
With the formation of these large conglomerates, the intrinsic values (such as usability and maintenance) of the original software providers were somewhat lost, as the companies were stretched and their focus moved away from the customers’ needs to company growth and management. The phrase “one throat to choke” was coined as users gradually became more infuriated with the amalgamated giants and sought one person to blame for the myriad of problems that occurred. Fortunately, alongside this thunderstorm that was unfurling, the dawn of cloud computing was on the horizon and the sunshine of a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution was the prize at the end of the rainbow.
Cloud computing refers to the ability to host applications (software) online. Surprisingly, the Millennium did not provide the first emergence of cloud technology. As early as the 1950s, cloud computing was present in the form of large-scale mainframe computers, VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) encompassed cloud technology in the 90s, but the most recent is the Millennium version which we use today which has revolutionised technology as we previously knew it by driving on-premise platforms to a slow demise.
There are many benefits of implementing cloud tools such as reduced costs, reduced on-site support, and eradication of long-winded clunky updates with difficult roll-outs. The latter, being the most note-worthy in the B2B environment, has enabled companies to quickly and easily attain best of breed solutions from niche suppliers due to integration issues being drastically reduced. The majority of us use single sign-on as consumers with Gmail, Twitter and Facebook when signing in to third-party applications. Market Dojo itself uses this today to easily toggle between our different tools: Market Dojo, Category Dojo, Innovation Dojo and SIM Dojo.
As the cloud began to re-form, the procurement world started to analyse the ‘one stop shop’ solution and was able to look at the new areas and take advantage of integrating best of breed P2P, eSourcing and ERP solutions. So what would Market Dojo have done if it had started in the year 2000 instead of in 2010? Who better to ask than a Market Dojo co-founder…
I asked Alun Rafique, one of the co-founders alongside Nick Drewe and Nicholas Martin, a series of questions around eSourcing in the year 2000 and Market Dojo’s position had they formed the company then.
In summary Alun hypothesised:
Market Dojo as we know it today would not have been possible. Technology at this time was not advanced enough to allow the SaaS model that Market Dojo has adopted to be easily designed, built, hosted and used in a profitable way. Realistically, SaaS only became reliable for these types of application around 2005 and this would have prohibited the accessibility of the tool. Obviously you did have some players who started in SaaS such as Salesforce around the year 2000 but this type of application (CRM) avoided some of the challenges with eProcurement such complex events set up with interaction in real time between many parties and also the type of data that would be securely held would generally be less critical. Also eMail programs like Hotmail were around before this but again their reach into the B2B IT infrastructure was limited. Companies, with large IT departments and internal layers, were just not set up to take on the paradigm shift and use online eSourcing programs in lieu of on-premise, at least not in the volume that would be needed to make a SaaS company grow.
eSourcing at the time was only adopted by huge companies within the framework of large procurement software packages with EDI links to suppliers. As Market Dojo is very much a best of breed solution, this was not something that was desirable at the time as the technology to easily integrate these tools was simply not there.
In 2000, eSourcing, as done through these large providers, used a strange mix of electronic and paper-based solutions. While elements such as the tender itself were carried out electronically, the fulfilment to the supplier was carried out via paper. The full advantages of eTendering would therefore not have been fully utilised with this multi-channel approach.
If Market Dojo had started at this time, it would have most likely been an on-premise solution, there would have been a need to form EDIs with suppliers (specific electronic links) and as it moved forward, it would have had to use email as a means of communication. There would have been large implementation and training costs, limiting the software to large MNCs and creating barriers for smaller companies. Also large consultative part would have been necessary.
It would have been possible to perhaps form Market Dojo in 2005 with SaaS developing at this time and communication with suppliers would have improved in that 5 year period, however the SaaS-based model at this time was extremely expensive and less flexible than it was in 2010 when Market Dojo formed. Web development costs would have been exorbitant due to the complexity of what would be required compared to the skill base and programming options available at the time.
Nick Drewe, fellow co-founder of Market Dojo stated:
“We rely heavily on clever plug-ins and external tech (OAuth, Highcharts, etc.) that may not have been around then, so our product would not have been as slick.
In turn this means we wouldn’t have been able to address what we wanted to: adoption. Our offering would have been a consultancy service with some neat in-house kit as opposed to a self-service software solution. We would have been focusing on a different pain, be it lack of resources or experience to run strategic projects or failure to hit cost reduction targets. Our time would be largely spent on educating the market and getting to engage with pioneers in the space.
This means it isn’t really a software model but a consultancy one. Our entire philosophy would be different.
We would have to charge high fees to offer a bespoke service per client, and the software would play second fiddle, as we see with software packages today that were designed in the late nineties.”
It seems like the year 2010 provided pretty good entry to the SaaS eSourcing market for Market Dojo due to the paradigm shift in the market to bring these technologies in house, allowing an affordable model with a focus on ease of adoption and bringing the benefits to the end user.
Had the co-founders sat down in the year 2000 to create Market Dojo, there would have been various options in terms of releasing an on-premise version or a primitive SaaS solution. Although it can be agreed that neither outcome would come anywhere close to what we have in place today.
In the second part of this 3 piece feature, we shall examine the current eSourcing market and what Market Dojo would have been like today if born in 2000, and how different it would look in comparison with the Market Dojo that actually exists today.
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!