At vendor conferences, the big headlines typically show what e-procurement provider marketing and communications executives want to highlight. But these areas are often out of touch with what customers really care about. Fortunately at Ariba LIVE this year, there were several quieter announcements and center points in the break-out sections focused on product capabilities and features – the items customers actually are interested in hearing.
Some of these jumped out and grabbed my attention. While I won’t do justice to all of them, here are a few:
- Addressing indirect spend holisitically beyond the transaction by linking strategic sourcing, tactical sourcing (e.g., 3-bids-and-buy) and spot buys (non-sourced, ad-hoc purchases).
- New technologies and solutions to manage and automate SOW, professional services and contract-based service. Fieldglass is obviousy a piece of this, but not all of it.
- Addressing supplier risk and visibility through network-based approaches (call it the “great grandchild of SAPSupplier InfoNet”) – really a call for fundamental change on the way firms anticipate and mitigate potential disruption threats through the power of crowdsourcing systems and other types of information from various users and ultimately different tiers of network participants.
- The introduction of Ariba Cloud Catalogs that make more than 120 million catalog items available (new features).
- An improved Ariba Contract Management solution that is better integrated with the outline agreement capability in SAP ECC, which provides a faster way to search contracts and access relevant information for companies with an SAP backend.
- Ariba Spot Quote, which enables buyers to get quotes for non-contracted items from a number of suppliers leveraging the Ariba Network’s capabilities. Ariba’s Network Spot Buy also enables compliance with the goal of getting unplanned buys under control (including the partnership with partnership with eBay).
- The inclusion of e-invoicing programs for LATAM governments.
Ariba has a number of challenges ahead as it faces competition from a range of suite vendors and new best-of-breed specialists (e.g., in e-procurement for larger-scale implementations and CD replacements, BuyerQuest is likely to prove a thorn in its side). But we like what we see as we dig deeeper into the product improvements and capablities and look past the headlines. The entire market will benefit from an Ariba that is recommitted to product innovation.
Now all Ariba needs to do is convince Craig Federighi, Ariba’s former CTO and no doubt the most gifited technology leader ever to touch procurement solutions, to return.
Stay tuned for additional Ariba LIVE coverage.
(Cross-posted @ Spend Matters)