Emptoris’ New CEO Patrick Quirk — In His Own Words (Part 1)

Earlier in the month, I had a quick conversation with Emptoris' new CEO Patrick Quirk at the Emptoris Empower event. At the time, even though Pat was busy talking to customers, I thought it would be worth pulling him aside for a more formal interview when time permitted. We had the chance last week to continue our initial dialogue over a more in-depth phone discussion that covered a range of issues. With Pat's permission, I took copious notes during our chat, and thought I'd share his responses here on a range of topics from his opinion regarding the overall Spend Management marketplace to what he views as some of the larger opportunities for Emptoris customers to get more from existing and future technology investments. I'd also like to give Spend Matters' readers a chance to ask Pat questions in this forum, and while he's a busy person, I'm sure he'll make the time to respond to all serious questions in due course as time permits. So consider this two-part series a kick-off to a continued dialogue with Emptoris and how they plan to engage in more frequent and open dialogue with customers and the market. If you have additional questions you'd like answers to, please post them as a comment or drop me a line.

Jason -- Where do you think we are in terms of adoption and potential growth for the spend/supply management sector? Is this a mature market in terms of technology adoption?

Patrick -- Prior to joining Emptoris, I did a significant amount of due diligence with customers, competitors, analysts and the management team / former-management team. My observations are that a solid foundation has been set. Companies have achieved real, tangible value. However, only a small percentage of the potential population is on track at a high-level, and a tremendous amount of dollars are still left on the table.

As far as adoption, that's a big issue. I believe adoption requires navigating a political environment to get consensus within a company, and across the global organization. In my experience, the deployments of technology and integration always take a while to truly get right. In a lot of cases where technology companies get involved, they sell it as a point solution, yet they do not really focus on getting executive buy-in past the signing of the contract -- at least not at the level it needs to be. One of the challenges here, as a provider, is that if we don't get full adoption the vendor is held accountable. The issue is really bigger than our company or any other providers in the sector. Adoption needs to be driven at an executive level, and we need to consistently help our customers push it at an executive level. It's also a matter of the maturation of the market and simply time.

Before and after joining Emptoris, I called out to the customer base to probe this issue. What I learned is that in the past, the Emptoris product management and marketing team have done a good job packaging things up. But they focused on solutions and innovation vs. maximizing adoption. When I reached out to companies on this issue, especially to involve them more in our R&D process, 80% of companies raised their hand and said they wanted to get more involved with us, in part to work on developing solutions that maximize adoption.

That's why you'll see me placing so much of my focus as Emptoris' CEO on agile programming and usability. One of my self-imposed charters is to make sure people get full realization of the technology. There are technical sides to this (e.g., easier on-boarding, better UIs, etc.). However, as important, it does take someone at a high enough level inside the customer company to put an adoption and usage stake in the ground. This has been a tangible problem for companies that have gotten started with programs but have seen efforts stall at a certain point. It's also where I believe there is significant potential growth for the space. I believe the savings in the adoption is just starting.

Jason -- Coming from PeopleSoft in your prior life, what's your view about ERP value and competitiveness in the sector?

Patrick -- Companies like Emptoris have a first mover advantage [relative to ERP]. Moreover, this is all we do. We can move faster -- much faster -- and innovate at an entirely different level. We don't need to worry about making sure all of our releases work with 17 different versions of a database on different modules/version of core ERP. Our whole focus is on integrating to wherever the source of information is vs. forcing customers into the latest ERP upgrade to take advantage of recent enhancements. In addition, we do believe our products are better [than ERP providers and others]. I won't say we're number one. We don't want to be arrogant. We want to make sure our customers get value out of them. They have a lot of other priorities, and our job is to listen, respond and work with them to deploy the best possible set of solutions for the job. Also, as a non-ERP provider, we have an advantage in getting disparate systems talking together.

This is one area where I believe we'll be successful in competing with Oracle and SAP.

Jason -- If you could change one thing about how Emptoris has gone to market in the past, what would it be?

Patrick -- We definitely could have had a larger budget to help get the word out and for product strategy resources, to solicit, build, and test solutions, as well as to have more formal beta programs. Doing a day in the life of the customer is critical. If you looked at what Emptoris did best in the past, it was innovation. Pure innovation. This made Emptoris a leader in the early evolution of the market.

I think at this stage of Emptoris, the key thing we need to do is listen to and work with customers. We need to listen better to customers, hence the agile programming process we're already deploying to hear concerns and wishes and rapidly create prototypes and enhancements that address them. We plan to create new releases quickly with leading edge customers. We will work closely with customers as a key piece of our innovation cycle.

Spend Matters would like to thank Patrick Quirk for taking the time to answer some of our questions as he takes over the helm at Emptoris. Check back for Part 2 of this interview in the coming days.

Jason Busch

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