Another request to republish a major article

Here we go again, an august member of the retailer community asked me to (re)post my (now infamous) “Fulcrum” briefing. I told this person that the article is prominently stuck to the sidebar of the front page of my blog, and he said that “my boss is about to make a VERY BIG DECISION regarding our messaging vendor, and he wants to see that your briefing is conspicuously available, because he has footnoted it in his memo to the board of directors. So please, Alan, put it in a post at the TOP of your blog”.

Hey, no problem. Here it is. All mine:

 

 

EDI Network Invoicing Opacity

VAN Invoicing Opacity –

What mama never told you

The Universal Complaint, if one was nominated in the EDI messaging sector, must be regarding Service Plan accounting, or what I call, “invoicing opacity”; it occurs when one attempts to reconcile a VAN bill with what you thought was your service plan / tier / stated rates. How did these extras get slipped in? They charge for interconnect traffic? and so on.

Things get particularly fraught when dealing with the madness with corporations selling VAN services via several aliases.  These corporations are amalgams of several businesses bought, sold, and reconstituted under a PE umbrella. With no founders or engineers left from the founding teams, these run down shells are denuded of essential institutional memory. We can instantly see why invoicing opacity has been routinely adopted by the PE managers and their C-Suite robot warriors at VAN HQ, or what’s left of it.

This  brief monograph lays an easy goal for the author – answering why most VAN invoicing is so opaque, especially as practiced by companies that should know better. These remnants of the declining VAN era should also be called upon to do better for the industry – laying bare an obvious question: “where is the VAN sector going”? And, “where will VAN clients go to once they are sufficiently fed up by the Value Subtracted Network model of the 201X EDI era?”

However, for the moment limiting ourselves to the advanced math of VAN invoice accounting, let’s at least throw down the primary reasons for confusion. After we accept that the situation is far from ideal, then the revolution may commence. Continue reading

State of Networked Messaging 2016

State of Networked Messaging 2016 

bizQuirk (Wilensky et al)

Abstract

Transactional Messaging, particularly in the B2B / Supply Chain domain, has been undergoing a series of protracted upheavals for the last decade, some would say longer. VANs, once the stalwarts of messaging sector, find themselves at the end of a long wind down, despite a hectic period of consolidation at the hands of professional PE.

The service once known as EDI messaging (at one time owned by VANs – period full stop), until recently, purchased as ala carte services, is being increasingly mutated into embedded functions within Enterprise Software and B2B platform services (SAAS).

And so on; change being the reliable constant in all things relating to vendor community management in the retail and manufacturing supply networks.

This article is condensed from the larger body of supply chain systems analysis compiled by the authors over the course of 2015, with an eye to calling the dance for 2016 – so far, the data has tracked accurately. Continue reading

Thought Leaders of 2016’s EDI Subsector

Identifying Prototypical Thought Leaders of 2016’s EDI Subsector
Saving what remains of the Supply Chain and Manufacturing centric transactional messaging market.

Executive Summary

The remaining EDI networks (VANs) post consolidation will require an invigorating outside presence or the guiding hands of smart and savvy veterans to turn around the present sorry state of affairs the industry finds itself in. Examined in this monograph: Who will step forward to right the ship, set a good example, and be Stewards to the EDI Networked Messaging Subsector??

Identifying those “Most Likely to Have a Positive Impact (i.e. Heros) is not challenging, because the opposite stands in stark evidentiary contrast by the PE stoked leviathans still haunting the sector, despite the inherent rot festering within their C-Suites and emanating outwards to their client / victims.

Eliminate the Negative

Postmortem rehashing of the VAN consolidation era – is too depressing to enrobe in ASCII characters, therefore we start with a positive note.

VANs consolidation stoked by PE has have perfected nothing but a talent for disappointing clients. If the 2015 Q3 IT support surveys are credible, Liaison and OpenText have taken X number of EDI networks of varying quality, and transformed them into two logical networks of the poorest quality.

As these megaliths have no founders skin left in the game, no original team equity, and having terminated, bought out, or fired the most experienced (and therefore costly) Software Engineering talent – where does the market now turn in this new year of 2016 for real, functional, EDI Communications services?

Accentuate the Positive

The EDI communications sector has its stalwart Founder / Engineers that have stayed in the sector. The this post was originally going to call these folks, “heros”, but I think I might call them them, “righteous gluttons for punishment”, as the term ‘martyr’ has been corrupted of late, but I digress.

These folks have chosen to fight rather than run, have elected to evolve their product roadmaps and innovate, despite a dark miasma that persists in hanging above the EDI sector like a pall.

We can readily identify these True Stewards.

They all have been very visible in the EDI forums, on linkedin, on EDI-L, everywhere being as outspoken as possible. Many write informative, almost scholarly (but always practical) articles and posts on topics that are timely, sometimes controversial, and occasionally arrow-like in their topicality.

Sometimes I wish they would state what is on my mind, and then I remember that they have a business to run, employees to pay, and that such hit and run commentary is better left to the analysts – that’s what we do,

How do we recognize them by their attributes? Well, at least informally, they write no filler – period full stop. They are deadly serious, but paradoxically sometimes hilarious in the midst of their pontifications – especially when debating a fellow EDI thought leader on the technical merits of somesuch standard or software engineering technique – protocols are always good fodder for debate, and then we can spot two of these giants at work.

But here is a better list that characterizes the personalities and their organizations generally, for their hard won positive attributes:

  1. They are Founder / Owners of closely-held corporations.
  2. The Founder(s) is often an Engineer or a scientist that has driven the original and often the continuing product or service vision of the Corp.
  3. They are a population of exemplary bootstrappers; known for shunning outside capital; if persuaded to dilute holdings, they do so cautiously. This has been the case when time-to-scale is at stake.
  4. Most of these EDI Leaders are at least a decade plus into their maturity cycle of providing services, delivering products, and generating solid net revenues.
  5. Most of them have been reliably making payroll for many years. They are responsible people.
  6. They have built handpicked teams, not general hires. One can plainly see a mentor / coach model. Their staff tenures exceed 65-75% of the company’s age.

Personal and business reputation, creditworthiness, and credibility is a watchword and life principle for these thought-leaders, they will not sacrifice their moral standing for temporal gains.

They are inherent, inveterate innovators. They own the knowledge space wherein they practice and do business – they are not threatened by colleagues who are worthy and just as opinionated. Without exception, all are the final authorities for advice in the highly technical arenas and scientific specialties where they practice.

I am never surprised when one of these, often a new client, shows me that they are also just as competent and expert in a completely unrelated field of scientific or technical endeavor, or in a difficult to master art.

Do you knows these leaders of the EDI sector? Can you name two or three? As a Tribute, I will name a few in the next post, and write a bit in what they have contributed to the art of transactional messaging or data layer services, etc.

Early Release Abstract – Examining the Qualitative Attributes Used for Selecting Investment Worthy Ventures in the B2B IT Subsector

Examining the Recent History of Qualifying Investment Worthy Target Ventures in the B2B IT subsectors.

Alan D. Wilensky, Analyst and Industry Relations Advocate
bizQuirk, LLC.

Abstract

Is the The B2B IT sector a difficult arena to source and place capital or, conversely, to harvest capital out of such deals? According to a diverse pool of analysts, including several specializing in the enterprise software and services sector, the past 15 years of high-profile B2B tech company consolidations driven by certain PE funds, has resulted in a reduction in overall availability of mid stage direct placement capital deals for well-established, maturing ventures poised for growth. This reduction in capital resources, and how it came about, is a troubling tale. The epilogue is even sadder as if that were even possible, describing the pollution that occurred in the aftermath of the B2B consolidations. The selection criteria and commonsense values became out of phase, upside down, leading to long-term damages. These are the wages of fear and doubt that reliably occur when sound targeting attributes are ignored. Applying the corrective selection targeting criteria  – no MBA required – when the next phase of capitalization restarts – and we shall see that these mature, well led, clearly innovative B2B ventures come to the surface, with long-established continuities of private ownership; these ventures have been overlooked en mass for the past 15 years in the B2B IT subsectors.

While it seems a bit  farfetched to state that, “better companies were deliberately ignored in favor of the now well-known, (even infamous) weeble-companies tagged by PE’s for toxic consolidation). They were all past their prime,  overstaffed, overstuffed, having long abandoned their founders drive and vision, and eschewing the technical staff’s architectural and system acumen.  The sordid mess. in a nutshell, stank of corruption, but there is still hope….

We all know that no one can stop a true inventor –  the Edison’s, the Teslas, the Jobsian leaders….these brilliant, hard-headed, are true to themselves (and to the very wordInnovators  –  they never go away, they continue to innovate and improve, and gain more ground.  Continue reading

Industry Announcement – Loren Data Reaches an Agreement with OpenText – No Disruption

The following has been reposted from the Loren Data Corp President’s Blog:

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OpenText has agreed to continue exchanging data with Loren Data and has rescinded the disconnection.

The ability to set up new partnerships will resume immediately and data will continue to flow uninterrupted.

Industry and Customer First – Always

Regards,

Todd Gould
President & CEO

 

Editor’s Note: A great deal of credit and recognition must be accorded to Todd Gould and his counterparts at OpenText for persevering through these issues.

EDI Communication market up in the air, up for grabs, consolidation notwithstanding

My analytical writings for lawyers and regulators have covered the dynamics of interconnections between networks in general and VANs in particular. To say, “The VAN industry was built upon collegial and permissive interconnection policies, in order to create and sustain its nascent sector”, is an ex-post facto spin. The facts are more raw.

I believe that this industry sector called “EDI Value Added Networks”, is in potential jeopardy unless it regains a unity of purpose. That is the sum total of the client satisfaction surveys aggregated from 3 major investment banks, plus my own focused telephone survey of GXS hub class clients, over 800 in total. All of the normalized results point to a damaged and deflating sector. Meanwhile, the transactional volume climbs, which is an indicator  the health  of the underlying technologies – however, there is ample room for improvement even in the tech space of EDI systems.

The EDI Comms industry, writ large, is the beneficiary of a vision, but finds itself running on reflexes, reactions, which will not allow the market to continue forward. If my colleagues do not consider the outlook quite so black, it makes the situation worse – as an institutional blindness may be setting in amongst analysts, and it’s our job to watch things closely from afar, to point out missing elements, while taking the temperature of the customers. With that all said, I don’t like what I see, and if GXS’ track record is being swallowed whole by savvy Opentext, this is just more fodder for negative speculation. Additionally, the endemic weakness of SPS Commerce in its back-end services infrastructure, counterpoised against its stock price and market cap, seem disconnected from the standpoint of critical reality….this baffles me, but at least SPS has created efficiencies in the market for the SME suppliers. I can’t see one good thing arising out of the GXS PE funded rollups. I can say there are many ex-Inovis customers that were thrown onto the GXS heap, and they are a very unhappy user population. Take that one to the bank with the previous generation of ex-IBM IE customers. Never has a 100% functional and robust VAN property been intentionally broken by its new owner, like IE was by GXS. Awful bloody awful, it was.   Continue reading