Emptoris Empower 2011: Dispatch Three — Ease of Use Takes Center Stage

Please click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this post.

With Emptoris' latest release (V9), we sense an evolution in the vendor's strategy focused on tying together the broader Emptoris suite (e.g., sourcing, spend analysis, supplier management, contract management, telecom expense management, etc.) with a new type of front-end rather than complete interoperability and architectural unity between the different suite components. This is an important step in the right direction for Emptoris and alone, does not put them at a handicap compared with Ariba, BravoSolution, SAP, Zycus, Iasta and Oracle, among others, who also sell solutions built on separate platforms and code bases with different degrees of unification from a broader suite perspective. The only vendors we're aware of in the market with an integrated source-to-pay capability built on a single platform come from outside the US and include b-pack, Ivalua and Intenda, although there's usually a trade-off between depth in certain application areas and overall single architectural and stack breadth.

Emptoris' new program management solution and enterprise intelligence front-end deploys with a portal framework that leverages an overall new workflow design, dashboard and BI interface that unifies the various applications in a new console sitting on top of the disparate architectures. A mouthful, I know, but the execution is more elegant than my description. Aspects are BI heavy (BusinessObjects), but that's not a bad thing. This front-end includes reporting across the suite including enterprise-wide supplier data that has cross-suite reporting (e.g., spend analysis, supplier management and sourcing data in one place). In the first post in this series, we explored Emptoris' new Virtual Supplier Master in detail, which is also a central component of their new vision and a gateway to additional capabilities such as supplier discovery based on NAICS, SIC code, category, etc., plus integration with third-party content sources, such as risk enrichment, which can also appear in the front-end portal view alongside Emptoris' cross-suite content visibility in a single interface.

With this new executive view of the supplier, Emptoris set out to provide a range of standard reports and queries that go beyond looking retroactively at past performance toward planning for future savings implementation programs including broader opportunity analysis, which lets users consider the overall impact of different program elements (e.g., projected telecom savings vs. broader category specific initiatives). In forecasting implemented savings, for example, users might query the sum of an overall set of actions, the specific impact on budget (estimated) and historic efforts on budget (actual) as well as savings variance. This seems a bit Sievo-like in practice (although on a much simpler level than Sievo), but is certainly a step further than where some of Emptoris' competitors have gone in terms of providing a savings implementation and tracking cockpit. Beyond the dashboard view, which includes the standard well-configured BI numerical fields, areas and drill-downs, standard SAP BusinessObjects charting is also built in and only a quick click away for graphical visualization of data.

Shifting areas but staying in the context of the broader platform front-end wrapper, Emptoris has included quite a bit of new capability in defining workflow for specific areas of its product suite. The workflow builder is graphical and relatively intuitive at first glance. Yet we've not spent enough time without to know how it works in practice other than a demonstration walk through. From an interface and wrapper standpoint, it's also important to mention Emptoris' enhanced support for mobile devices including the ability to create and manage orders, requests and timesheets in their services procurement module (Emptoris has also added new native mobile capability for contract management and iPhone reporting for sourcing, contracts and services procurement). The mobile interface is built to look like an app, but it can run on any mobile browser. Emptoris told Spend Matters they designed the mobile interface for rapid deployment and enhancement by taking a browser-based approach rather than building out specific apps (which would each require a broader development and QA process for each upgrade).

Even though we'll save most of the details around Emptoris' product enhancement for the final post in this solution update series, it is worth noting that Emptoris opted to highlight much of the new capability that the Xcitec acquisition brought during the main stage solution update keynote at the event. This includes supplier qualification, supplier evaluation, supplier classification, supplier development and supply risk management. During a different keynote, an executive from Anglo American, an historic user of Emptoris sourcing, contracts and spend analysis capability, expressed great enthusiasm for deploying Xcitec as a logical next step in broader supplier engagement and management.

Stay tuned as our analysis of Emptoris continues.

Jason Busch

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