Ariba Supplier Network Alternatives: Ketera/Rearden (Part 2)

This post is part of a Spend Matters series looking at Ariba Supplier Network alternatives. We will cover each Ariba supplier network alternative beginning with each provider's basic background in the area and then their solution approach and Ariba/third party systems integration. Finally, we will provide our own summary and analysis of the provider's overall capabilities. Click here to read Part 1 of this series.

Ketera has designed its network capabilities to support small and large suppliers alike (including those that don't submit invoices electronically). In this regard, Ketera told Spend Matters that in the traditional P2P arena, they offer non-software services to span the gaps between ideal, all-electronic procurement/invoicing and often paper-based reality. Specifically they note, "independent of a client's preferred PO delivery system or mechanism, we allow suppliers to receive POs electronically (EDI or cXML), via e-mail, via fax, or directly within the Ketera Network. We also allow suppliers to submit invoices in each of these formats. In addition, to support more traditional suppliers, we offer document receipt, OCR/scanning, transformation and delivery services (e.g., receive invoices via fax, e-mail, or paper, convert those invoices into electronic documents, and deliver them electronically to clients)."

From a supplier enablement perspective, Ketera's Supplier services include supplier information gathering, catalog upload/cleanse/host, and enablement for PO receipt/invoice transmission. Ketera also offers additional services that include supplier outreach programs for "additional supplier information gathering, supplier recruitment, supplier support for sourcing event participation, and supplier data maintenance." These services take place online and over the phone, including telephone and e-mail outreach to suppliers. The Ketera services team can also create and host custom supplier data forms and can compile, host and analyze resulting supplier data.

Unlike most other supplier network providers (with the material exception of Ariba), Ketera is also quite deep in the area of catalog management and supplier master data management (MDM). In addition to providing enabling technology in this area, Ketera provides a range of services around content cleansing, translation, enrichment and management. They note here that "content often includes inventory item and material master data as well as traditional catalog content." These services engagements often focus on cleansing and enriching data from disparate sources and can include "establishing data naming, structure and quality standards, and maintaining the quality of that data ... after the initial project is complete."

When it comes to supplier onboarding, Ketera offers a comprehensive model focused on both the basics of vendor management-type information gathering but also the support of catalog specific content. Moreover, Ketera hosts and manages supplier information and catalogs even if suppliers have "never interacted with procurement systems previously." For general onboarding, Ketera has adopted a pragmatic philosophy based on the realities of supplier preparedness. They note that, "in an ideal world, suppliers would simply be told to log onto a common network and provide all of the information needed."

Yet "there are two big problems with this type of thinking." First, Ketera notes, each client has specific information that they want from suppliers (e.g., diversity data, certifications, insurance information, etc.) that is 'non-standard'. And second, suppliers, like everyone else, won't proactively do anything. Even an 'opportunity to do business with Buyer' won't necessarily cause them to take action. To overcome this, Ketera has developed a process and methodology that Spend Matters believes goes deeper than many other supplier network providers for general supplier information gathering/management. It combines elements of general network enablement with spend analysis-type enrichment and what Gartner terms "supply base management."

Ketera notes the first step in the process is to "dedup/cleanse/enrich the client's supplier data". Their experience suggests that the typical vendor master database is woefully inaccurate, with "20-30% duplicates and up to 50% incorrect data ... [Ketera] has supplier information for over 650,000 suppliers, so the next step is to match the client's supplier list against [its] own -- for matches, Ketera can enrich with the data they already have on those suppliers." Ketera suggests, in part, this is the power of a network-based approach. To wit, the odds are that a "supplier list has a high overlap with suppliers for other Ketera clients," just as it would a company that uploads a vendor master file to a data enrichment provider.

Stay tuned as we continue our analysis of Ketera's supplier network capabilities on Thursday.

- Jason Busch

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