Back in the reverse auction heyday between 1999 and 2001, I spent countless hours helping FreeMarkets evangelize its position that companies should avoid buying either software or consulting to do sourcing, but rather a combination of both — a solution. Our primary argument was that the sourcing process was inherently too complicated and difficult to manage for companies wanting to maximize savings through engaging a broader (often global) supply base and to create a level playing field which would enable all suppliers to feel like they had a shot at winning the award decision (little did they know the incumbent usually kept the business). In the end, we capitulated to building software in addition to delivering integrated solutions and ended up developing a me-too (actually, it was not even a me-too product for a while, as our initial QuickSource releases lacked many capabilities relative to the competition) stand-alone software product — SaaS, to be specific. And the services/solutions business began a gradual — and not always steady — slide that it would never fully recover from, as companies increasingly brought in the pure-play consultants once again and opted for stand alone software over hybrid solutions.
There are many parallels — on a much smaller scale — with CombineNet in recent years, not withstanding the obvious geographic relationship of the two providers (located a mile apart). For a number of years, CombineNet was a hot-to-trot sourcing optimization expert with one of the best — if not the best — transportation sourcing solutions in the market (it is still top tier).