A Guest Post from Ketera (Part 1)

This afternoon I'd like to welcome Mike Gardner, Ketera's Vice President of Products, to Spend Matters. Please join me in welcoming Mike to Spend Matters.

I'd like to thank Jason for his insightful posts on Ketera recently, and the opportunity to provide some additional information about where we think the market is headed, what we need to offer to the market, and why we've chosen the strategy we have. We'll start off by mentioning some key principles that Ketera uses to organize and structure all our product decisions and delivery efforts. These themes are important to understanding what we are building and why we think we will be successful. These principles are:

1. Value - Our most basic supposition is that Value wins. Period. Make sure that everything we are doing is delivering value -- not just utility, but real value -- to our customers. We have to do it better, and we have to do it less expensively than our competitors. And we don't just mean the cost of getting in the door, we're talking about TCO. Inclusive of training, support, infrastructure, and so on.

2. Listen to the customer - It is only by learning from them that we can make sure our products deliver that value and least TCO. We must lead with solutions that evolve as the marketplace evolves.

3. Spend once, recoup many - Make sure that everything we do has the potential to pay back in multiple ways. If you write code, write it in a way that can be used in different solutions. Always seek out solutions to issues that will have secondary beneficial effects in other areas. This is critical in today's economy, where we're all working lean, but it's also critical for a company like us that's going up against some bigger competitors.

4. Drive the Network Effect - The last 8 years of Ketera software have been about delivering value from software for hundreds of millions of transactions and trillions of dollars. The next 8 years will be about delivering value from software + a network leveraging Metcalfe’s law, which is just as relevant for a social network as it is for a telecomm network.

It's easy to see how these principles have shaped the products we've delivered through the years. Perhaps the most graphic portrayal is to cite just one customer success story from last quarter. A multi-channel home shopping leader conducted a free Google search for sourcing solutions, found the Ketera site, evaluated and then signed up (themselves ... self serve ... using a credit card) for our on demand sourcing application. They were able to search our network of 140,000 suppliers and within a few weeks had conducted a reverse auction event for freight services that will save them over one million dollars in the next year or two. All for $500 in annual subscription fees. That's $500, a few weeks, and a million dollars in savings. Pretty good ROI from KeteraSourcing

We love this example because it shows how we've delivered value to our customers, but it also illustrates very well what the market is now expecting. The move to SaaS, enabled by the Internet and which Ketera pioneered in the Spend space, is an obvious example of how "the Internet has changed everything". But an even more profound change is to users' expectation of self-enablement. Our customers and prospects have told us that business users are now not only accustomed to, but even expecting and preferring walk up and "self serve" solutions for complex business needs and processes. (This is perhaps the most profound change that's happened in business software in a long time -- maybe ever.) So in a way, what we're doing is trying to deliver as much "take control yourself with instant gratification" as possible, both in our Buyer offerings and in our Supplier offerings, and for companies of any size.

To push further on this example of delivering exceptional value through our Sourcing capabilities, we've recently begun offering free "public" RFIs, RFPs and RFQs on the Ketera Network. Any supplier can register onto our network, create an online presence, and receive RFXs, all for free. Any buyer can register onto our network and issue RFIs, RFPs and RFQs to all registered Network Suppliers for free. (We don't just mean by sending an email after a search ... We mean by having a software-enabled structured workflow that gives you reliability, auditability, and so forth.) Some may see us as being a spoiler in the marketplace by offering all this for free, but we really see ourselves as conforming to modern market expectations of "free stuff on the Internet" and easy and quick access to real value. The businesses that experience this value quickly become our best prospective customers for additional solutions that aren't free, but that can deliver even greater value.

Having built easy and value-laden sourcing, we use it all over the place. For example, users of our eProcurement application who are mid-flow in creating a requisition (or approvers who are wondering whether they're about to approve the most cost effective purchase possible) can trigger an RFQ query to that supplier, or to potential alternative suppliers, to try to find better price or terms with QuickQuote.

Why have we done this? Well, it serves our Principle 3. Once our internal "launch RFX" API was built, it's now useful to customers who expect more interoperability from their Internet applications. Because we talk to our customers every day, we know that the ability to easily share info from almost any website to their own networks via services such as Facebook and Twitter has taught people to expect that it shouldn't be more than a few clicks to get their key information out, no matter which site or product or page they start on, and whether they're doing a leisure-time activity (Facebook post) or a business-time activity (finding the best deal for their company). Hopefully, this case of Ketera pushing to build easy interoperability into our products can also be used to dispel a popular misperception that "Web 3.0" functionality (web information from disparate sites enhanced through the power of social networking and communities, and aggregated and prestructured to make it easier for users) must come at the cost of usefulness to Enterprise users. Ease of use -- and easy access to the world and its participants -- is just as much an Enterprise feature as it is a small business feature. When we work through the latest lists of customer requests and suggestions, what we see clearly is that the vast majority of new functionality requested or needed by our enterprises customers actually are aspects of our Web 3.0 vision. We clearly see that by building these new features we are both addressing the evolving needs of our legacy customers, and enabling new participants to easily obtain value from the Ketera Network. And so we continue to listen to both existing and prospective customers, study, analyze, and work to make things easier and easier.

In part 2 of this series, We'll talk more about how we see these market trends and customer needs playing out in the near future, what we're doing to serve those changes, and why we think we can win despite the challenges we face.

Spend Matters would like to thank Mike Gardner for sharing his thoughts.

Jason Busch

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