It was 1996. Houston was hot and humid as usual as I drove up to start my new job with TransGas Management Inc. I had come across TransGas along with many of the other early gas management application vendors in my role as GM, Energy & Utilities for Sybase. I’d had a good couple of years helping to build partnerships and reseller agreements with a variety of these new start-up firms that were springing up in Texas and the North East. There were two clear drivers that were fuelling this sudden creation and growth of a new software category. The first was clearly FERC 636 that broke up the functions of energy firms in natural gas markets to try to create a more competitive market and the second was something called Stored Procedures & Triggers in the brave new world of client/server technology. Back then, Sybase had the edge on that particular technology and everyone wanted a piece of it. So, suddenly, I was running around talking to all of these small software vendors and initiatives in various gas companies like Tenneco, for example supporting them on Sybase database technology and helping them go to market. It wasn’t long before one of them made me an offer…..
I remember joining TransGas that day. I think we were 12 people. One guy was running around ‘implementing’ six new customers and some were not so happy. My first job was to go down to one unhappy client’s office in town and meet the EVP of this company to hear his issues. It was one of those ‘first days on the job’ memories that stay with you a lifetime. Unknowing and ill-prepared, I introduced myself as the new VP with TransGas management with responsibility for customers. The EVP with a suit, cowboy boots and a stetson or similar (I’m just pleased he wasn’t carrying a gun to be honest), sprang around the desk and pinned me to the oak paneling of his very large and luxurious office with a superb view of Houston, and told me very loudly exactly what he thought of our implementation efforts to date! Well, the next 6-months were spent working on building an implementation methodology, hiring and training a team of consultants and getting the clients happy – which to our credit, we mostly succeeded in thanks to some heroic efforts from the team. However, I digress….
Gas Management software soon became ETRM software which soon became CTRM software and so on. Vendors grew, succeeded, failed, went public and then private again as this software category grew and grew and went global. Today we still count over 100 software products in the CTRM space and follow many different vendors as analysts. The software category has come of age in many ways and yet……
With a vast array of new regulations, structural changes in the industry, declining profits, and many other significant business drivers driving real change suddenly there are any number of blockchain efforts as well. Blockchain, like client/server before it heralds a breakthrough not just in technology but in how things can be done. Suddenly, the entire process of the trading and supply chain world seem ripe for change and blockchain – or distributed ledger technologies seem to promise a solution. Wait – this sounds very much like 1996 except, I replaced the heat and humidity of Houston with the cold and snowy winter of central Europe. A shift is happening again and of that I am convinced. It will be fun to see where this one goes …..
There is nothing new in life.