Catching up with Ketera

During my recent trip to the San Francisco Bay Area, I had a chance to catch up with Ketera, who have been working hard on improving not only their next generation spend analysis solution and on integrating their solution with Hyperion, as discussed in my March post, but on improving their catalog management, contract management, and invoice management integration, their reporting capabilities, and their supplier enablement solution.

Although they have one of the larger supplier networks, with over 115,000 users, it was a breath of fresh air to find out that Ketera understands that a supplier network in itself has no inherent value and that the real value is in supplier enablement. After all, if you’re a fortune 3000 company that’s been in business for tens or hundreds of years, you know who your suppliers are and who their competitors are and the supplier discovery mechanisms touted by supplier network providers really aren’t all that valuable to you. The value of a supplier network is the ability to electronically communicate with your suppliers, automatically send and receive purchase orders, goods receipts, invoices, and payments, and enable your suppliers to new levels of integration and productivity. Thus, the maximum value is obtained when all of your key and large-volume suppliers are connected to the network, and this requires a solution that is standards based, open standards browser compliant, easy to use and adopt, and capable of supporting the information that both you and your suppliers need.

To this end, Ketera is working on improving its supplier on-loading processes and solutions, adding interfaces to common back-end systems used by its customers (to complement its newly acquired SAP Netweaver Certification), and streamlining it’s document exchange protocols, mechanisms, and management tools. Ketera is also working on extending it’s catalog capabilities and punch out support and integrating price cross-checking with its contract management solution to improve compliance across-the-board.

Although I don’t expect any new releases or major announcements from Ketera until the fall, they’re certainly a company to keep an eye on. Not only are they one of the few companies in the space to offer integrated sourcing and procurement solutions on-demand, but one of the few companies that understand the benefits of helping their customers with whatever solutions they need and playing nice. For example, although they offer best-of-breed spend analysis, RFX*, and contract management solutions, their event management solution is weak and they don’t offer modern reverse auctions or decision optimization and they recognize that some customers will need these solutions. To this end, they partner (and re-sell) Iasta‘s solution to insure that customers that need the full range of eSourcing tools have them at their disposal. Combined with their fairly extensive e-Procurement offerings (which, from a basic cycle perspective, is only missing direct integration with leading payment providers and tax reclamation software integration), this provides users with one of the most extensive solutions in the marketplace from an integrated end-to-end e-Sourcing and e-Procurement cycle perspective.

Furthermore, I expect that before the end of the year, they’ll reach a point where they could start working on some very advanced and very interesting predictive cost baselining and modeling solutions that can only be built once integration is achieved to the point where holistic analytics become a possibility. This would allow companies that don’t have the extensive data required by Akoya or the physical process planning knowledge required by Apriori to tackle cost modeling and cost estimation in a way that they are unable to today. In other words, there’s still room for lots of innovation in the space, and Ketera is one of the few companies that I’ve talked to that might really break it open in the next few years by introducing new capabilities that can be used by the masses.

* Please read the comments! This was a typo. When their RFX capabilities are augmented with Iasta’s through their partnership reselling agreement, they compete with best-of-breed RFX solutions but, as Jason Busch points out, they do not on their own. My apologies.