Its been too long but the time is right now. I have to cover Rearden Commerce and the only excuse I have for not doing much more than mentioning this rather amazing bunch is a "the dog ate my homework" excuse. I was actually writing something on Rearden a few months ago - I forget exactly how long ago (ummm, convenient memory loss?) and my system went down and I had to rebuild it. My system that is. Arf. Woof.
In any case, I'm a long time fan of Rearden Commerce for a lot of reasons and their recent announcement on their partnership with American Express is both something comment-worthy on the one hand, a good excuse to talk about Rearden and why I like them on the other hand, and a place where I can mouth a bit on the integration of work and personal life rather than the balance of work and personal life and the smart behavior that companies should be exhibiting by recognizing this, on the third hand (okay, so I'm a mutant...maybe its a spiritual, or ghostly or mystical third hand. But then, maybe not...).
Rearden Commerce, AMEX, Live (And Work) Like Them....
(This headline is an homage to the 60s, BTW. Can anyone remember the original that went with it? First one to give me the right answer - there are more than one - wins $10.00 gift certificate to Amazon.com)
Rearden Commerce, on November 13, announced a partnership with American Express that can be called CRM 2.0 - The Right Way.
The idea is simple. American Express and Rearden are offering the Rearden Personal Assistant Service to American Express's (?) 4000 corporate customers so that they can have an array of mainstream and long tail travel services in a coherent web-fed environment.
The premise behind this one (and Rearden Commerce in general) is twofold. First, that it is understood by intelligent businesses who happen to reside in a 21st century milieu that their workforce is working a lot longer hours than it used to. That work-life balance is not really that but work-life integration. Ergo, the individual employee is going to need to do two things. One, be more productive and two, be more productive. But both in different ways.
The first "more productive" is the recognition by businesses that providing a wide array of services to the employee, makes the organized scheduling and use of those services that much more effective, efficient and productive. Isn't it easier, my fine untethered friends, to be able to utilize multiple channels to do things like book travel, line up cars, hotels, etc. and airport parking, PLUS provide the evening's entertainment through ticketing and concierge services and A/V conferencing space ad infinitum or at least ad thousands more servicesum all in one convenient and coherent personalized portalized service-oriented-architectural way? The answer here is a resounding YES!
The second "more productive" has to do with the increasing recognition by employers that since their employees ARE working longer hours and even from home that it is highly likely that employees are going to do personal things from work - the same way they do work things from home. The smart employers are saying, "well, I suppose that means that we should provide make the services easily available to our employees so that they can take care of those personal things more efficiently and thus will be more productive because they were able to do the personal stuff fasterbetter and thus have more time to work at work AND they will like us for not only letting them do it but for giving them the tools to do it better."
Rearden is perhaps the first company to both recognize the two "more productives" and then develop the technology AND procure the services to take care of it.
With an on-demand platform, no less. AND a fully realized service oriented architecture. The first one that I've seen that I can comfortably say is a true SOA, not just a bunch of advanced web services that try to link a few business rules to it - typically reminds me of bunch of ugly hair extensions on a bald guy.
And THAT starts the story....
The Market and the Offering
According to one of the very Rearden-friendly reports I read (I found very little criticism out there, frankly, and because the Rearden VP of Marketing Jeff Pulver is a good bud of mine, I looked hard - as a counterbalance to possible prejudiced thinking, of course) from PhoCusWright (how cute!), the market for business services in the U.S. alone is $471 billion - a whole lotta jack. That also means that companies out there are crying for business services ranging from shipping packages to airport parking to web and telephone services to event planning to insurance services, gift services, couriers, charter flights, and any other of the services that the 135,000 providers that Rearden has direct and indirect access to can provide. That is a number that Rearden claims, not me exaggerating and knowing them, they can back it up. I'll ask them for a complete list immediately.
The fact is that the while many of the services offered are niche services that are now defined as "long tail" after the book of the same name, the user-centric approach that Rearden takes makes all that work. By aggregating the 135,000 services that Rearden can reach out to, and taking a user centric approach, the small niches become both successful and profitable as part of a personal value chain or, if you want to call it this, a user ecosystem. Rather than going to a series of disparate sites to take care of the services that you need for your business (and personal) requirements, you, as a user, have all the services aggregated to a single place for you to view - your very own business services portal door. Plus, based on the business rules and the workflow, changes and alerts can be pushed to your personal "site" so that you can access new services that might meet your profiled needs or learn about changes in your services as they occur.
The suppliers to this platform are part of the Rearden Commerce Network - RCN - you know them; the ones with Anderson Cooper's 360 - oh, waitaminute, that's CNN, not RCN. RCN means the Royal Canadian Navy - oh wait a minute, that's RCN, not RCN.
Actually, the Rearden Commerce Network is the supplier network. Its members are "attached" to the architecture by industry standard adapters or custom built ones when the industry standard adapters just won't do. Then the Services Console comes into action. That's where the group and individual profiles are created and permissions/roles etc. are created. So how the consumer/user accesses the RCN is done by the managers and administrators at the Services Console.
There are other technology pieces but the heart of the whole thing is The Personal Assistant that sits at the center of the American Express offering. This is where "service as a platform" gets transformed to "business services on demand." Assuming permissions set in the Service Console, you, as a consumer, or as a group of consumers, set your shopping requirements, booking needs, notifications and alerts depending on your interests. Do you want to have two different set of services - one to handle your business needs like airport parking and travel booking, hotel booking and equipment shipping and the other to handle your more personal shopping needs ranging from online grocery shopping and delivery to notifications that are sent to your friends and significant others about your travel plans? Done. Do you want the notifications to come to your cell phone, your travel companion's Blackberry, your spouse's laptop. Done. Done. Done. Done.
Cool model, isn't it?
Yeah it is. But not just cool. Its potentially disruptive and a step forward in the on demand world. Not only is "software as a service" (Industry-wide) or "service as a software" (NetSuite) but the idea that "service as a platform" (I coined this particular phrase, I think) becomes a reality as Rearden Commerce implements a massive offering of ancillary and direct services that are valuable to businesses on a fully realized services oriented architectural platter.
Rearden Commerce rocks. They are just so...so...CRM/Web 2.0.