A thing of the past: the digitalization has reached purchasing and is leading to an increase in data and new planning options. [shutterstock: 284042969, Freedom_Studios]

A thing of the past: the digitalization has reached purchasing and is leading to an increase in data and new planning options. [shutterstock: 284042969, Freedom_Studios]

Ariba Network: Motor for Digital Purchasing

Digitalisation means that purchasing will become increasingly important. Cloud services by SAP Ariba provide an important trigger.

Data managers, networkers, system specialists: these are the roles that purchasers will have to master in the future in order to meet the challenges they will face. Even in purchasing, the digital transformation is leading to an exponential increase in data, resulting in new ways to make real-time decisions and strategic plans.

“Purchasing departments have the chance to get actively involved in managing the supply chain and contributing more to the value chain as a whole,” summarised by Sebastian Asshauer, Associate Partner at apsolut.

However, this requires a targeted collection and evaluation of Big Data – and the proper use of state-of-the-art technologies and methods for data warehousing, data mining and forecasting.

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Better Networking Needed

As an important part of the value creation chain, purchasing must increase their networking in order to avoid becoming a stumbling block for digital transformation. This includes relationships with suppliers as well as with different departments within the company.

To put it simply, this means: purchasing’s roles will have to change. Their task used to be simple; to reliably purchase the necessary resources at low prices, but purchasers now have to become networkers, strategically maintaining relationships with selected suppliers.

Now, it’s not just about a supplier providing special services and good conditions. A central criteria in being accepted as a “preferred vendor” is a supplier’s own readiness for digital transformation.

Ongoing IT Support

When looking at purchasing processes beyond the limitations of departments and companies, the need for supporting IT systems that can be seamlessly integrated into purchasing solutions is growing. The standard interface problems must be reduced in many areas.

For the users of SAP-based purchasing solutions, such as Suppler Relationship Management (SRM), Supplier Lifecycle Management (SLC), Materials Management (MM) and S/4, a combination of SAP-based Ariba Cloud solutions is ideal.

These hybrid solution scenarios cover the needs of most companies in general business. Sebastian Asshauer from apsolut had this to say: “By integrating the Ariba network, SAP users can quickly and easily access digitalisation benefits within a well-established system landscape.”

By integrating the Ariba network, SAP users can quickly and easily access digitalisation benefits within a well-established system landscape.

Sebastian AsshauerAssociate Partner, apsolut

Ariba provides users with a range of services via standard interfaces to digitalise the whole purchasing process: from finding new suppliers to tenders and contract management as well as exchanging orders and invoices in the Ariba network. This significantly increases efficiency, all while error rates decrease.

One example is the new “Ariba Guided Buying” solution, which allows employees to   complete procurement processes either without or with minimal involvement of the purchasing department.

“Ariba Guided Buying” allows for company-specific purchasing rules, such as budgets, minimum bids for certain transactions and preferred suppliers. Instead of having to spend time dealing with these complex processes, employees are automatically directed to suppliers, products and services that comply with internal requirements and preferences.

Ad hoc purchases can also be made with “Spot Buy”. This allows an employee to place an order with a supplier without their company having to enter into a framework contract with this supplier.

A cooperation with eBay means that SAP Ariba can now open up purchasing to the world’s largest online marketplace. Ariba solutions ensure that individual purchasing policies are upheld and that the whole purchasing process is carried out properly.

Shadow Processing Saves Time and Money

Another examples of the increased efficiency offered by Ariba Cloud solutions is digital bookkeeping. The key phrase here is shadow processing. Companies working with suppliers via the Ariba network can completely automise their invoicing system.

A workflow compares invoice dates with order dates and information about goods received from the ERP system. As long as there are no deviations from the rules, the workflow will forward the information from the data set to the SAP bookkeeping module on its own. There’s no need for the usual scanning process, as the data is already digitally available.

This significantly streamlines the invoice review process, saving the company time and expense usually spent on processing invoices. Furthermore, Ariba can be seamlessly integrated into SAP VIM by OpenText and similar solutions. Suppliers are paid on time and discount deadlines are made, meaning benefits for both sides.

Plan Introduction Projects Well

The examples show: SAP-based purchasing systems can drive digitalisation with the Ariba network and other Ariba components. However, companies that want to take advantage of these benefits should plan their introduction of Ariba strategically – as apsolut Ariba expert Sebastian Asshauer puts it: “A structured and efficient approach will dictate the project’s success”.

Firstly, SAP-based purchasing solutions should be connected to Ariba, so that the company can use the network to carry out all their supplier communication. Although SAP provides a range of different connection options – in the form of add-ons or transport requests, customer-specific requirements may mean that adjustments or expansions are necessary.

A structured and efficient approach will dictate the project’s success.

Sebastian AsshauerAssociate Partner, apsolut

In any case, it is worth having an SAP consulting company on board that specialises in process and IT consulting for electronic purchasing and that boasts comprehensive experience with Ariba projects.

The consultants can then not only support the customers in the technical implementation of the new hybrid scenarios, but also help both employees and suppliers with change management.

SAP SRM and ERP users that would like to use Ariba’s Cloud services don’t need to worry about future-proofing their purchasing landscape. Even the new S/4 solution is ideal for integrating native Ariba. On this path, customers can choose from a variety of interim steps to make sure their transition goes to plan.

SAP Purchasing is Going Mobile

SAP user interfaces have even been adjusted to reflect expectations for intuitive user experience, and have been given fresh, new designs. With Fiori Apps and Ariba Apps, purchasing departments already have access to the technology needed for mobile digitalisation.

Purchasers can use intuitive user interfaces on any end device to access the applications and evaluations they need, so that they’re connected to their suppliers, partners and colleagues anytime, anywhere.

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