Ketera Dives Deep on Enablement and Supplier Management

This morning, Ketera hit the wire with news that it is releasing an entirely set of capabilities and solutions in the supplier enablement and management arena. Having previewed a number of these new products -- all of which will be available by the second week of December during this calendar year -- I can honestly say they've invested a lot in thinking about not only the supplier enablement process, but also the ongoing management and measurement of suppliers. In my view, their solution, from an enablement perspective, puts them in a similiar class to Aravo, though functionally -- and from an in the field perspective -- it remains to be seen which solution companies, consultants and BPO providers will prefer to work with.

According to the press release announcing the new capabilities, "Supplier Connect pinpoints key challenges around supplier participation and end user adoption, and it addresses data quality issues related to both supplier profile and catalog content. By providing scalable, repeatable enablement process support, Supplier Connect improves supplier on-boarding to help drive electronic procure-to-pay transactions through Ketera or third-party procurement applications. As a result, procurement departments can accelerate the speed at which end-users adapt to new initiatives or sources of supply, and expand spend under management."

In this new release, Ketera will, in their words, offer "support for data validation, supplier rating, supplier diversity and supplier certification management." However, Ketera is not getting into the content business like a D&B, Equifax (Austin Tetra) or CVM. Nor are they offering third party validation services. Rather, they're simply offering a platform to track compliance and certification information. This type of information might be the subject of an onboarding "campaign", in Ketera's language, to get a supplier into the system. In looking at the the management console that supports these efforts, there are a number of design similarities and shared terms with CRM systems. In fact, one could almost describe Ketera's workflow and design approach to the supplyside as CRM for supplier enablement and management.

Supply Base Management Meets BI/Enterprise Performance Management

Given Burton Goldfield's last gig running sales for Hyperion, we all knew it would only be a matter of time before Ketera took the lead among its rivals in incorporating integrated business intelligence and advanced reporting directly across its entire range of solution modules (they're not there yet in all of their modules, but will soon be, from what I hear). But what's the rationale for doing so in supply base management? Ketera and I both agree that the customer ROI for most procurement implementations often flattens out once customers hit a wall with onboard and actively managing a critical mass of their supply base. For some companies, this might 20% of their suppliers. For others, it might be 20 suppliers.

With their new release solution, Ketera has not only provided a powerful set of supplier onboarding and management tools -- Aravo is probably their only real competitor from a feature/function perspective given the new levels of sophistication Ketera's solution reaches -- but also incorporated performance management and business intelligence directly into the process. How does it work? Are you curious about learning the root cause of challenges surrounding the time to go live for suppliers (or simply the average time to go live)? There's a pre-defined report for you. Or what about discovering the percentage of invoice errors your suppliers fire in your direction. You guessed it -- the BI and reporting platform that Ketera brings to the table makes it simple.

From a BI platform perspective, Ketera licenses and deploys Microstrategy for analytics. They've also implemented Hyperion for reporting. Since both are deployed in Ketera's datacenter, there is no need for customers to purchase a license to either application. However, if an organization already has a deal with Hyperion, it is possible to download Ketera data and reports and manipulate the information in a behind-the-firewall environment using your existence Hyperion license, providing additional flexibility and control. All of the reporting can be tied to a customer's transactional system (e.g., Ketera, SAP, or Ariba) once a supplier is enabled and the system is up and running.

To facilitate SAP integration, Ketera is NetWeaver certified, and in the supply base management area, even has the ability to "punch" into an SAP deployment if a customer or SAP partner is hosting a catalog. This explains what appears to be a major point of differentiation for Ketera in this area. And that's their ability to tightly couple transactional capabilities into supplier enablement and performance management -- in a single workspace and environment. And if you add to this Ketera's ability to offer at least an acceptable workspace and document exchange capabilities between procurement organizations and their suppliers along with the other previously discussed capabilities, their supply base management solution appears novel indeed. But will the market respond? Only time will tell, but those companies (and outsourcers) who need to get next level returns from eProcurement owe it to themselves to at least look at what both Ketera and Aravo have to offer.

Jason Busch

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