It looks like Ketera is getting on the Rearden Commerce bandwagon from an ease of use perspective by introducing, in their words, a "point, click, buy, save" solution for eProcurement. For those who don't know Rearden, the web services Spend Management vendor pioneered what is arguably the easiest to use procurement application in the market (which is specific to corporate services, travel and shipping especially). In my view, the Rearden services spend portal puts the Ariba, SAP, and Oracle UIs to shame. While I have not seen Ketera's new eProcurement product, I can understand why they are moving in this direction, especially in the middle market. Ketera's press release announcing the new product states that "the new version of Ketera Procurement enables rapid adoption as users don't have to learn a complex corporate purchasing system and can instead leverage their ecommerce shopping experience at work. The look and feel of the new solution can be completely customized to match the customer's website for a seamless user experience. Additionally, the on demand solution has been optimized for the fewest "clicks-to-completion." Hopefully Ketera is not stepping on Amazon's patents here. But even if they aren't, given ePlus' litigious track record suing Ariba and SAP based on a process patent claiming infringement on their requisitioning process, I'm sure the shark patent litigators from Herndon will start circling if they see enough blood on the water to feed on.
On a much more important note (patent suits bore the heck out of me), it sounds like Ketera's new release will push the limits of what else is available in the market (again, I say this not having seen the product, but having a solid understanding of the technical architecture and business process approach necessary to build such a solution). According to Ketera, "the new solution features improved search capabilities allowing users to search by expanded criteria, including cost range or specified vendors, to find what they are looking for more efficiently. It also incorporates Web 2.0 technologies such as AJAX to make the user interface much more dynamic and easier to use than traditional web-based applications. The service also streamlines the approval process so managers spend less time on administrative tasks and shortens the procurement cycle significantly. The new procurement solution is also flexible enough to allow administrators to tier the complexity of the user experience based on the user's role in the procurement process and their level of technical savvy."
Ketera's investment in improving the technology fueling their eProcurement solution shows that they have not conceded the core eProcurement market to Oracle and SAP (who are rapidly building market and wallet share relative to Ariba in this space). This is a great sign because as Rearden Commerce shows, there is still tremendous opportunity for new technologies and Spend Management approaches to help organizations continue to save money and improve the work lives of their employees. When it comes to Spend Management technology, I believe that innovation will always come from the best of breed players, who in turn will need to prove that the 80% solutions that ERP providers offer barely scratch the surface of the types of value that procurement organizations can generate by taking the best of breed route in select areas. In my book, whether a company deploys applications in an on-demand format or not is secondary. Given this, I would argue that Ketera should continue to push innovation from a solution development and marketing perspective regardless of the software and solution delivery mechanism. For non-ERP players, having an On-Demand capability is just the ante!