Emptoris Empower Kicks Off — What’s on My Mind to Focus on?

Emptoris Empower kicks off this week in Boston. I'll be on a flight to my old stomping grounds later today (I lived and worked in the city during my first job out of college/graduate school). Regarding the event itself, I've got quite a lot on my mind, much of which I'm looking forward to probing into and investigating. Even though P.J. Jakovljevic recently penned a comprehensive piece on Emptoris' history and opportunities (you can also read our relatively recent Emptoris analysis here and here), I still think there are a lot of questions that remained unanswered when it comes to understanding Emptoris' current and potential role in the broader sourcing and procurement market. Without any further delay, here are seven questions/subjects on my mind that I'm curious to learn more about:

  1. Emptoris has spent a good deal of time in the past eighteen months getting closer to existing customers, building out its advisory group, etc. I'm curious whether or not this trend towards customer intimacy will continue or whether we'll see a newfound focus on engineering and production innovation (going back to the company's roots) -- or both.
  2. New solution innovation specific to the sourcing area -- where Emptoris excelled in the past -- has tapered off in recent years relative to upstarts such as CoExprise and Pool4Tool. Granted, Emptoris has improved its self-service optimization capability to a level that positions it above broader suite rivals, but not quite at the level of best-of-breed optimization specialists like CombineNet and Trade Extensions. I want to see what is new and/or in the planning phases in the sourcing area.
  3. Partnership and channel activity -- much of Emptoris' customer success in recent years has owed to strong channel relationships. In a world where traditional channels (e.g., SIs, management consultants) still matter yet procurement BPO is picking up steam, it will be interesting to note how Emptoris' channel approaches are evolving.
  4. Making up its mind -- SaaS, installed or both. Emptoris has claimed strong revenue growth in recent quarters, significantly higher than rival Ariba and just about everyone else in the market. Yet it's not a fair comparison, given the number of net new customers and renewals they claim relative to revenue, suggesting that new growth must be a combination of SaaS and installed deals (unlike Ariba, which is pushing SaaS almost entirely in new accounts and existing up sells). Understanding whether or not Emptoris views itself more as an enterprise software company or a SaaS provider will tell us a lot about the DNA it will need to move forward -- as well as its strategic focus.
  5. Renewals and upgrades -- the market for many products Emptoris has sold in the past is materially less than it was in certain cases a few years back. Understanding price points on upgrades and renewals and whether existing customers are expanding relationships during these discussions will be worthwhile.
  6. Product expansion -- Emptoris has recently expanded into services procurement through its Click Commerce acquisition (and continues to position and develop one of the stronger contract management toolsets in the market). Will Emptoris continue to focus on partnerships and acquisitions that enhance these areas, or will we see a greater focus on other product extensions to the core either organically or through acquisition?
  7. What are Emptoris' prospects for an IPO in 2011? Given that SciQuest continues to update its S1/A filings -- which is a good sign in terms of potential of a successful filing -- it seems that Emptoris, with greater revenue than SciQuest (though not all of it SaaS), would be a strong candidate for a public offering next year if SciQuest makes it out. I'm sure the company will be mum on the subject, but if both SciQuest and Emptoris can successfully issue shares in a public setting in the coming quarters, it would be a boon for innovation in the sector as both organizations improve their balance sheets to plough cash back into R&D and related areas.

What are you curious to learn about Emptoris and the direction Patrick Quirk, who took the helm as CEO last year, is taking the company? If you have other areas you'd like to suggest I look at, don't hesitate to drop me a line or post a comment. In the meantime, look for as many live posts from the event as possible, with the remainder set for later this week and next. I'm sure there will be much to cover and discuss.

Jason Busch

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