Earlier this month, I had the chance to demo Ketera's latest eProcurement release, and I came away smiling. Because it's not everyday that you see a procurement product which is immediately intuitive and easy to use for the typical employee. And this is a shame. In the Spend Management world, Rearden Commerce still takes first prize in usability, but Ketera is catching up with their latest eProcurement release, in my view. You can read their PR spin on it in this linked press release.
Ketera's latest release adds a few bells and whistles such as single sign on capability, enhanced contract management integration, and a few other functional enhancements. But what takes the cake in this version is the user interface which masks the complexity of a typical requisition workflow and process. Of course the more complicated views are easy to restore with the click of a button, but the average requisition experience for a typical Ketera user will now be far closer to an Amazon.com than SAP R/3. Built in spell checking capabilities (like Google) and a quick reference file -- only 2 pages in length -- further simplify the buying experience, making compliance easier, if not enjoyable for the typical user.
Ketera's product team told me the whole concept behind the update is getting the cost of eProcurement down for the organization by not requiring significant training, and making requisitioning and workflow management a lot more simple and fast for the typical user without compromising on features. In other words, the user is only exposed to the base level of complexity required for a given task.
This approach is not only smart design, but a shrewd approach to taking on the ERP players who are trying to catch up with the best of breeds when it comes to functional eProcurement capability (and rapidly building marketshare with end users if you believe the analyst reports). Ariba, on the other hand, is focusing on building out valuable extensions to eProcurement -- such as its supplier network and EIPP solutions -- rather than simplifying the user experience. Though to be candid, Ariba Buyer was never that complicated an application to use once it was configured (at least relative to the ERP packages, especially given the degree of complexity and configurability one can expose with Buyer). Still, at this point, I give a slight nod to Ketera from an aesthetic perspective, at least from a requisitioner's view. Oracle has also improved their procurement UI as well in recent months from what I hear, though I have not personally looked at the latest rev of the product.