Emptoris Ups the Supplier Performance Ante

Earlier today, Emptoris announced the release of Emptoris 7, the vendor's latest platform upgrade. While I won't get into all of the details about the announcement in this post, I had the chance to walk through some of the enhancements with Emptoris last week and will be taking a closer look at them in person today at their user conference in Boston. In the meantime, I thought I'd share some initial observations on the new release from an overall positioning and supplier performance perspective. I'll also share some thoughts in a separate post this week about the sourcing enhancements Emptoris has made to their modules.

To begin, Emptoris 7 is available in three variants: Basic (in a SaaS delivery model), Professional (also in a SaaS delivery model) and Enterprise (available in either a SaaS delivery model or as a behind the firewall deployment). As you might imagine, the capabilities and features improve as you migrate up the Emptoris product line to Enterprise. Emptoris' goal behind offering this variation of levels is to provide customers with a clear upward migration path as they begin their sourcing and supply management journey until they improve their processes and capabilities to the point where they need industry leading capabilities -- in other words, the premium bells and whistles which keep best of breed providers in business.

From a solution enhancement perspective, there are a couple of areas that Emptoris chose to focus on in Release 7. And focus they did, introducing a set up innovative enhancements in the supplier performance and sourcing areas (I'll tackle sourcing in a later post). From a supplier performance perspective, Emptoris 7 goes far beyond positioning performance as just a single add-on module. Rather, it is now part of the DNA of the suite, for those who select it. It includes what I'd describe as foundational elements of performance management including basic scorecarding, alerts and formulas, and trend analysis. But it also includes more advanced monitoring capabilities such as the ability to create an overall performance score that is rolled up from commodity or category analyses for specific suppliers. And it also includes the ability to deploy balanced scorecarding approaches as well. Also, from a supplier development perspective, Emptoris 7 features collaboration tools which enable procurement organizations to poll both suppliers and stakeholders to obtain feedback. Supporting this capability is a supplier interaction portal which enables suppliers to offer input as well as the ability to gather internal peer analysis using survey capabilities within an organization.

Outside of both basic and advanced performance measurement and information gathering, Emptoris 7 also now includes enhanced virtual supplier assessment capabilities which feature the ability to deploy qualitative interviews which can serve in place of -- or alongside -- traditional supplier audits. Personally, from a global sourcing perspective, I'd never recommend using this approach in lieu of on-site walkthroughs and inspections, but it's a neat capability nonetheless. Emptoris has also made available best practice templates for lean and Six Sigma. I was surprised to learn that they do not offer any out-of-the box industry-based certification or quality templates (e.g., TS) given the depth of the lean and Six Sigma survey capabilities. Still, the ability to not only monitor performance but to survey suppliers and conduct true virtual assessments can help organizations, as Emptoris puts it, develop a 360 degree view into supplier performance and supplier capabilities. And when linked to the compliance piece including spend visibility components, it can help organizations not just observe performance and take reactive measures, but to truly take proactive measures to track supplier compliance in performance and quality related areas.

Emptoris 7 also includes a set of capabilities which can be used from a supplier development perspective to create milestones and goals, project notifications, project linking (to scores, surveys, etc.), and a virtual team workspace. But at this point, I'd describe this collaborative environment as most useful on the indirect and services category areas -- it does not begin to approach the collaborative engineering and supplier development workspaces that a Co-Exprise or the PLM players have to offer. If Emptoris is going to get serious about dominating the performance management space for direct materials, they'll need to develop or buy additional capabilities here that create CAD-neutral 2D and 3D environments for sharing and collaborating on design information as part of supplier development programs. Until then, Emptoris' supplier development capabilities -- and that of every other pure play spend or supply management vendor -- will only really be useful from a process and high level category perspective for direct materials (not at the individual part, component or assembly level).

Jason Busch

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