Last week, I attended Day One of the Emptoris Empower conference in Boston, the fifth time I have been able to attend at least part of this conference. What follows are three takeaways from that day.

Crossing the Chasm

It was perhaps a little ironic that Emptoris brought noted author and big brain consultant, Geoffrey Moore in to deliver the Keynote address (see below). Moore has written several technology-themed books, including the best-seller “Crossing the Chasm,” which looks at how new technologies are adopted in the market. The man who introduced Moore, Patrick Quirk, the Emptoris CEO, joined the company right around this time last year and has spent his time since leading Emptoris away from its legacy roots and into its new future (crossing a different type of “chasm” if you will).

Without dwelling on the past, it is clear that Quirk’s strategies are making an impact and that the changes hold promise for its customers, prospects, partners, and owners. Many new faces now populate the executive ranks and I have seen first-hand that Emptoris has improved its approach with at least a few of its recent prospects – sharpening its pencil, rolling up its sleeves, and doing what it can to be a better partner. In what was perhaps a moment of self-reflection during his opening address, Quirk quoted Emptoris Chairman, William Atkinson as saying that “we’re finally being run by adults.”

BRIC – Brazil Russia India China

It stands to reason that the world’s four fastest growing countries will have an increasing need for supply management leaders, strategies, and technologies, yet it is rare to hear solution providers talk about their prospects in this region. Without going into details (they were shared in an off-the-record lunch discussion) Emptoris sees these countries as a huge and largely untapped market for supply management solutions. Few would disagree with that view. What remains unclear is the current baseline of procurement maturity in these markets and the expected pace of advancement and market growth – two topics that we would love to research and better understand (Sidebar: If any of our readers from those regions care to share their views, please email me). No matter the ultimate exit strategy of primary owner, Marlin Equity Partners, a strong “BRIC growth” story would have nice implications.

The Future of Enterprise IT (Part 1)

The opportunity to get a company update and speak to senior sourcing and procurement leaders has always made the Emptoris Empower conference an interesting one, but this year’s keynote speaker, Geoffrey Moore, a renowned consultant and writer who focuses on technology adoption, technology trends, and technology marketing was a particularly big draw for me. Moore’s presentation “The Future of Enterprise IT 2010 – 2020: From Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement” was a thought-provoking presentation on the enterprise technology market and where it is headed. I think there are some very practical applications that can be made to our world of supply management technology which I will discuss today and in our next article.

Moore began by stating his view that while the need and desire for “Systems of Record” (those systems that capture and hold information like ERP, HR, and Accounting systems) have been the primary driver of investment in enterprise technology for the past 30 years, this era has ended. “The market has had its fill of systems of record,” said Moore and now we see an enterprise IT market that has been on hold for some time while the consumer IT market has been on fire (iPad, mobility, etc.).

Moore believes that consumer technologies will be a very disruptive force on the enterprise market and that there are several market shifts that will force IT departments to begin to look for what he calls “Systems of Engagement” (systems that improve communication and collaboration) to drive value in the enterprise. Moore used two simple examples to make his case:

1. How can I be so powerful as a consumer and so lame as a customer? In a procurement context, consider how much information is available at the click of a mouse for any large home purchase (car, consumer electronics, etc.) – product reviews, pricing, low-cost sellers, cost structures, strategies for negotiations, etc. – versus a new category that you have to source for the business.

2. Google In the consumer realm, you can Google and get an answer to any question in milliseconds, often thousands of answers. Consider how long it can take to get a sales or spend report on your top three customers or suppliers.

Think about the implications on supply management… all that and much “Moore” next time.

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