I landed in Boston last night and will be spending the rest of the week at Emptoris Empower. I heard from someone in the Emptoris organization yesterday that they're expecting around 200 (perhaps more) attendees -- not a bad number considering how many travel budgets remain in deep freeze mode. But the first real item of interest at the event will not be the customers who come back year after year -- yet alone the new faces -- but rather Emptoris' new CEO who will be making his début appearance this morning. After a relatively rapid search -- at least based on everything I've heard -- Marlin and their search firm hired Patrick Quirk to take the helm. I plan to interview Patrick at the event and will share his insights into both the market and Emptoris' direction on Spend Matters in the coming days. Patrick is no stranger to the Spend Management sector, having run a broader solution set and P&L that encompassed PeopleSoft's procurement and supply chain products a few years back.
I suspect we'll be hearing quite a bit from Patrick and his team about the new direction the organization intends to set. From the early information I've been able to glean regarding Emptoris' overall solution direction and new portfolio enhancements, it seems very much as if the organization will remain committed to innovation, albeit this time around they'll be taking a more proactive role by actively listening to what customers are looking for rather than attempting to remain a few steps ahead of what the market needs through its own independent research and development efforts. Moreover, if Emptoris' latest release is any indication, the features they prioritized for release this fall fit solidly in line with what many customers are looking for in the immediate quarters (e.g., supply risk insights).
In my view, Emptoris must use this event as an overall platform to reinforce in its customers' and prospects' eyes that the organization remains as committed as ever not only to developing solutions that help procurement organizations outdistance their overall sourcing and contracting performance from the competition, but also that they will remain focused on real and immediate customer needs and requirements rather than just meeting the financial metrics that their private equity owners are looking for. Sometimes -- in fact quite often -- the two are not always aligned, but I suspect in this case that Emptoris knows that it is facing increasing competition for product leadership from competitors like Ariba and BravoSolution but also SAP and Oracle, who are constantly improving their own products and releasing new ones (e.g., spend visibility). In other words, without a razor focus on the customer, Emptoris could quickly lose its edge and become less relevant as a leader in the sector. We'll see what comes of Empower, but Emptoris has quite a bit on its plate to accomplish in my view. For the sake of choice and innovation in the market, let's hope they're up to the challenge.
Stay tuned for updates and dispatches from Empower throughout the rest of this week and early next. Check back often, as I'll try to cover the product and solution news as it's announced.
- Jason Busch