Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ariba announces business network analysis enhancements, first transactions conducted under AribaPay

LAS VEGAS -- Ariba wrapped up its annual Ariba LIVE user conference today with a series of announcements, chief among them news that its AribaPay automated B2B payments settlements service is now operational, and a demo of pending mobile applications for its flagship procurement, supplier management and cash flow optimization business applications.

Most of the announcements this week by Ariba, an SAP company, involved enhancements to the Ariba Network. The goal is to drive new levels of connectivity, collaboration, and insight -- all required to optimize buying, selling, and managing cash in today’s networked economy. That activity then sets the stage for gathering unique data sets that spans global regions and hundreds of business verticals. And that community- and business process-generated data allows for unprecedented analytics and business intelligence capabilities that Ariba then delivers back to its network participants.

"Real-time response is no longer enough, predictive is the power of analyzed business networks," says Rachel Spasser, Ariba CMO. "It's time to embrace networks and their intelligence to transform commerce."

Ariba also declared a clear path for bringing more of its apps and services onto the SAP HANA platform, as well as to the HANA cloud. Standardizing on the HANA cloud provides broad synergies with Ariba across other SAP assets (also headed to HANA cloud) such as ERP and business apps, SuccessFactors, CRM functions, and many business analytics capabilities.

“Business today is different than it was 10 – even 5 – years ago. It’s more social and mobile. It’s faster and smarter. And it demands a whole new way of operating,” said Sanish Mondkar, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at Ariba, speaking at The Cosmopolitan hotel here. “With the latest enhancements to the Ariba Network, companies can effectively change the game, leveraging the wisdom and insights of entire communities to enable new processes that drive unprecedented innovation and outcomes.”

Through enhanced spend, process, and network-derived insights, delivered as part of the latest Ariba releases, companies can execute a more intelligent and automated sourcing process that drives better business. Those services are also extending to new countries, as Ariba is -- with significant new SAP financial investment -- building out data centers in China and Russia. "Our globalization innovations will cover 75 countries and 70% of the world’s commerce,” said Mondkar.

For example, with Ariba Spend Visibility now powered by SAP HANA (the first Ariba service to land on HANA), companies can analyze more spend data more quickly. Data loads 20 times faster and is immediately accessible once a sourcing project, contract, or invoice is initiated. Ariba said that Spend Visibility on SAP HANA takes report generation from minutes/hours to seconds.

Companies can perform more complex analyses based on an expanded set of variables, including cost centers, purchase price variances, and micro regions, and receive results in real time. [Disclosure: Ariba is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

With Ariba Sourcing and Ariba Discovery now integrated in Ariba Spot Quote, companies can create and execute one-time purchases for goods or services that are not handled by their supplier base in a fully automated manner. Requests for quote (RFQ) are automatically generated from a backend enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and sourcing events created within Ariba. Suppliers are then invited either as part of the RFQ or from matching through Ariba Discovery – all without any human intervention.

Spot buys are challenging for most companies because they require quick turnaround, and buyers generally lack efficient or effective methods to source them. Leveraging solutions like Ariba Spot Quote, organizations can reduce the time it takes to find the right suppliers from weeks to days or even hours and drive cost reductions of between two and five percent on average.

Selling organizations can more quickly and easily identify new business opportunities and collaborate with trading partners to enhance and expand relationships.

Ariba also shed new light o its next generation of apps and services, code-named Alexandria, after the famed library of the ancient world in Egypt.

The new platform will provide a single source of supplier information, easy syndication (including across SAP) to manage supplier information, and stewardship of network information and broad integrations, said Mondkar. Again the goal is to both create integrated business functions and a data resource capability that generates new and highly valued business analysis -- even to help predict outcomes so businesses can act quickly to their markets and supply chains.

An those same business apps, process flows and the predictive analysis will soon delivered to the enterprise mobile tier. Mondkar showed on the stage here today a really impressive mobile iOS apps and alerts demo for Ariba procurement and supplier processes. It allows the professionals to access their processes, data and alerts any time and any where. I especially like the emphasis on making the app UI and mobile UI context-aware and dynamic to the users' situation. The mobile apps will become generally available in the fall of this year, said Ariba.

Custom products

New custom products and services categories within Ariba Discovery were announced to enable better matching of buyer postings to seller opportunities and the automatic delivery of more qualified leads.

With daily delivery of leads automatically categorized as “new,” “best match,” or “closing soon,” selling organizations can efficiently monitor and manage opportunities and ensure that nothing is missed. And with new email capabilities, buyers can view and reply to sellers directly from their email client without logging into Ariba Discovery, speeding responses and enhancing collaboration.

Through enhancements to Ariba Invoice Management, companies can expand touchless invoice processing to new spend categories on a global basis, while also presenting new opportunities to enforce compliance and improve collaboration among trading partners.

Project-based invoices, common for construction, engineering, repairs and facilities management, are among the most critical expenses to manage, and most difficult to control. With Ariba Services Invoicing, companies can extend the smart invoicing process – where e-invoices undergo an automated validation process upon supplier submission so that only accurate and approved invoices reach accounts payable – to these complex spend categories.
Business today is different than it was 10 – even 5 – years ago. It’s more social and mobile. It’s faster and smarter. And it demands a whole new way of operating.

Buyers can review and approve service entry sheets—which detail the services performed before, not after, invoice submission. Suppliers can then “flip” approved service entry sheets into invoices to create the perfect payable.

Brazil and Mexico are among the countries with the most complex tax requirements for electronic invoices. By extending e-invoicing support to these countries, the Ariba Network provides the infrastructure needed to receive and validate e-invoices that meet these stringent regulations, along with an e-invoice archive and audit trail for additional business controls, so that global organizations can expand their e-invoice initiatives to these fast-growing Latin American markets.

 “The business of tomorrow will be different from today,” Mondkar said. “But companies that leverage the Ariba Network – and the enhancements unveiled today –can future proof their operations and make better decisions that create significant advantage.”

To learn more the Ariba Network and the value it can deliver for your organization, visit:

First transactions on AribaPay

Ariba has also announced the first transactions completed on AribaPay, its cloud-based B2B payments solution. Arlington Computer Products, a provider of IT productivity solutions, was the first to dip its toe into the water, participating in an early access program and has completed the first payments using the new Ariba service.

A fully integrated, end-to-end solution, AribaPay completes the procure-to-pay cycle embedded in the Ariba Network by integrating it to Discover’s trusted global payments infrastructure to effect payments at maturity.
Companies can reduce costs, reduce risk, and complete the procure-to-pay process faster, easier, and with greater transparency and security.

With AribaPay on the Ariba Network, ordering, billing, and settlement processes between buyers and sellers are fully integrated. Companies can reduce costs, reduce risk, and complete the procure-to-pay process faster, easier, and with greater transparency and security.

AribaPay creates value on both sides of the transaction. Buyers who create purchase orders and receive invoices through the Ariba Network will now be able to close the procure-to-pay loop by sending payments to their suppliers using Ariba Pay. That results in less paper, less risk, and less effort in managing bank account information and related data. Buyers will uncover and resolve disputes faster, monitor on-going payments better and lower their processing costs and fraud risk.

Sellers will be able to receive rich remittance information and gain a clear and reliable view into future payments. They’ll be able to track and trace payments, uncover payment problems earlier, and ultimately reconcile faster while lowering their payment processing costs.

Other benefits include:
  • Lower processing costs
  • Richer remittance advice
  • Elimination of paper checks and invoices
  • Fewer payments lost to escheatment
  • Ability to track and trace transactions
  • Faster reconciliation and dispute resolution
AribaPay is in use and will be made generally available in the United States during the second quarter of 2014. Support for additional countries will be announced in the second half of 2014.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Top 25 SharePoint influencers: Social influence nicely collides with collaboration clouds

Educating technology markets and communities is now, more than ever, a function of influence, social media, digital word of mouth -- and of cultivating an ecosystem of trusted collaboration. The role of social media and the power of personal connections have really become dominant forces in how people learn how to find and use technology.

This is such a major departure from the past — marketing has changed more in the last 5 years than the previous 50 — that any instruction on what actually works best these days is highly prized.

Therefore, I’ve been keenly interested in how the hottest new wave of marketing — digital social influence -- intersects with one the hottest areas of cloud computingsoftware-as-a-service (SaaS) collaboration and documents/objects sharing.
Can Microsoft, which itself is undergoing wrenching transitions, be as good at the new marketing ways as in the past?

Do these new waves double-up, cancel out, create an interference pattern, or harmonize in new and valuable ways? I really want to know.

So I helped guide the creation of a list of the top 25 U.S. SharePoint influencers, recently unveiled at the recent SharePoint 2014 Conference in Las Vegas. The effort was sponsored by, the provider of a collaboration app for a single-screen, seamless user experience anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Here’s the full list.

I’ll be doing a BriefingsDirect podcast soon with a panel of these newly identified influencers on SharePoint challenges and opportunities to help find out what matters most in the SharePoint ecosystem.

I’ve been an avid observer of Microsoft for more than 20 years. At one time, there was no better company in all of IT at marketing and evangelizing into multiple user bases: developers, channel, independent software vendors (ISVs), end users, and enterprises.

But what about now, given that the evangelizing game has changed so much? Can Microsoft, which itself is undergoing wrenching transitions, be as good at the new marketing ways as in the past? Again, I really want to know.

Tip of the arrow

Industry influencers are the tip on the arrow of how social media can be a positive force for sharing knowledge — whether it’s on Twitter or blogs or at events. With influencers, I benefit from them and they benefit from me. This is the same for anyone engaged in social media. So it’s really a powerful way to learn and to then add something to that learning process to then make it almost a hive-mentality or ecosystem-mentality affair.

It’s no surprise that of the top 25 SharePoint influencers that we identified, 48 percent are SharePoint specialists or consultants. The other two major categories are senior executives and SharePoint architects/engineers/developers. And gender equality had a good year, as the growth in women SharePoint influencers over the previous year -- up to 4 spots and 16 percent of the list -- marks a significant rise over only 1 female influencer on the 2013 list.
It’s the people in the know, in the trenches, that see both the forest and trees that influence the way markets learn.

It’s the people in the know, in the technology trenches, that see both the forest and trees that can then effectively influence the way markets learn.

So I am very bullish on the role of influencers as a spark or catalyst for larger social interactions and for new wave knowledge transfer. Those social interactions in a discrete community like the SharePoint ecosystem are a big part of what drives innovation, and can help users as well as supplier companies understand the best course for products and services.

Of course, the role of SharePoint, Yammer, and Office 365 is rapidly shifting into more of a cloud-collaboration, hive offering itself. So how apropos for it to use social influence to evangelize tools that consequently promote social influence and knowledge sharing?

You have to remember that SharePoint, once likened to a corporate intranet, is extending into a cloud platform with SharePoint 2013. It’s far more integratable. And, there are rich features for security and versioning of file data. Exchange is also becoming predominately cloud-oriented in its new function drive.

Boundaries blurring

The boundaries then between all these Microsoft communications “products” are blurring because they are increasingly bundles of cloud data services.

Marketing products is so 1990s. Letting the social-hive support a fast-evolving hive of cloud-based collaboration services is so now. That’s why Microsoft must become adept at social and must properly influence the influencers. There’s no better way to scale down its cloud services — SharePoint and Office 365 chief among them. Single office/home office (SOHO) and small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are where these services should grow like crazy, especially for those used to working with Exchange, Outlook, and Office. They will be guided by their chosen social milieu and peers, not by Microsoft’s spec sheets and sales force.

So check out the list of top SharePoint influencers, and also consider how the role of influencers is not so much outsized as right-sized. As companies and workers seek better collaboration and coordination among themselves, they will look to among themselves for the best means. SharePoint needs to be this chosen common controlled hive for employees, especially through the mobile tier.
The voice of the community, whether it’s around a product or service or an industry or a vertical market, should be really important to vendors like Microsoft.

And look for our BriefingsDirect podcast soon with a panel of these latest influencers. Many are returning because this is the third consecutive annual list of SharePoint influencers.

It seems to me that the voice of the community, whether it’s around a product or service or an industry or a vertical market, should be really important to vendors like Microsoft. They should be, I think, pretty sensitive to learning from the community, and I hope the community takes the opportunity to voice its opinion and make its requirements known as these companies produce new products and adjusts their strategies.

But this is a time where change is ripe, and Microsoft is in a position to react in a way that only benefits the users. The influencers can certainly show them how.

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