I had the opportunity to attend the annual Emptoris Empower 2010 customer conference held in Boston this week. Overall it was an interesting and well attended event that provided some significant announcements and certain considerations for the installed Emptoris customer community.  I was pleased that I attended.

This strategic sourcing, procurement and contract management technology provider has been on a roll of late, taking maximum advantage of the need to control material costs across many industry settings, and that was certainly reflected in the communication from CEO and President Patrick Quirk.  He noted a 91% improvement in sales bookings growth during the first half of 2010 with more than 100 customers going live with Emptoris applications. The two biggest competitor’s for Emptoris are of course  Ariba and to some extent, SAP. Since Emptoris is a private company, actual revenue numbers are not shared, which is somewhat of a shame, given this type of momentum in a slowdown economy.  Quirk described the past year as one investing in the company, its relationships, and the customer community. He also described the company as embarking upon a global presence with new and planned presence in many new countries and geographic regions, including Latin America.  Emptoris already has a significant presence in China and India.

Among the multiple announcements made in conjunction with the conference, the most significant  in my view, was that Emptoris has signed a global agreement with SAP regarding the use of SAP Business Objects technology for business intelligence reporting and analysis needs across the Emptoris suite of applications.  I suspect a good majority of Emptoris customers also have SAP installed, and that most likely drove the decision to go with the Business Objects decision.  No doubt, the IT communities among these customers will be pleased with this decision, from an overall integration perspective.  The announcement, in my view, is also reinforcement that Emptoris is responding to customer feedback, namely that data mining and business intelligence needed to be enhanced across the entire suite. There was however no mention of any SAP attendance at this year’s conference, which perhaps is understandable, given that SAP has its own offering of sourcing and procurement technology.

The keynote and customer presentations were all rather informative, but by far, the most interesting and thought provoking was delivered by Geoffrey Moore, author of ‘Crossing the Chasm’ and ‘Inside the Tornado’.  Every time I get the opportunity to hear Moore, I come away with a much better understanding of the big-picture as it relates to business and consumer information technology trends, and my sense is that I was not alone.  Moore spoke to the profound changes occurring in “Systems of Record’ or traditional ERP applications and “Systems of Engagement”, which are evolving person related applications. I will be posting a separate commentary related to this presentation.

Other very informative presentations from my perspective were delivered by Cardinal Heath Inc., Novartis, and United Health Group,  Both Accenture and PRTM shared rather interesting and updated research data on the state of procurement and supply chain risk management across industries, which we will also provide commentary in a separate posting.

Regarding Emptoris itself, a new and transformed management team has been clearly focused on getting closer to customer needs, while making implementation of its technology easier for customer to navigate and manage.  A five step transformation framework was adopted and I was not able to discern specific customer feedback on the benefits thus far.  I suspect that is because this methodology is rather new.  The current Emptoris product release is Emptoris8, but from the presentations I attended, there have been some scalability issues which Emptoris product development teams are addressing. Last year, the company acquired the former Click Commerce contract and service management business which is now re-branded as Emptoris Services Procurement, and after sitting in on the product development session, my sense is that more important functionality will come in future releases.

Some final thoughts relate to other observations.  There has been some debate regarding current customer preferences in deployment options for Emptoris software, specifically whether traditional license of Software-as-a-Service has been garnering the most attractiveness for current deployments. Some of this debate naturally relates on the fact that competitor Ariba tends to favor the SaaS approach.  The feeling I got was that behind-the-firewall or private cloud continues as the preferred option for Emptoris customers.  In the area of sourcing and contract management, it seems that companies are much more sensitive toward keeping confidential and legal content data behind the firewall.

Bob Ferrari