SAP is embracing the cloud. Various cloud models and offerings are available, especially for the new product generation S/4 Hana. A cornerstone of SAP’s cloud strategy is SAP Cloud Platform (SCP), which enables user companies, partners and ISVs to integrate their own developments into the SAP ecosystem. Contributing to the portfolio of SAP Cloud Platform, SAP partner xSuite Group has brought a new product to market – the xSuite Business Partner Portal Sphere.
The product addresses purchasing departments in SAP user companies. It offers them a central platform for standardized automated exchange of data and documents in procure-to-pay processes with vendors. The portal allows not only purchasing and accounting departments but also vendors to perform all procurement tasks digitally. Accessed via web browser, the xSuite Business Partner Portal Sphere is designed for companies that use ERP or S/4 Hana.
The portal solution runs in SCP and uses the SAP Cloud Connector. xSuite has already completed an SAP readiness check and is currently planning to secure additional SAP certification. CEO Matthias Lemenkuehler explains, “SAP releases updates on a regular basis – either once a year or quarterly, depending on the version – for the cloud versions of S/4. With solutions specifically developed for the SAP Cloud Platform, user companies no longer have to check whether everything has gone smoothly every time there is a new release or update. This relieves organizations of a time-consuming task.”
Entire procure-to-pay process transferred to portal
With the new Business Partner Portal, purchasing departments continue to work in their SAP environments. Purchase orders are created in SAP as usual and then automatically made available to the vendor in the portal. The vendor can use the purchase order to create all necessary follow-up documents – order confirmations, shipping notifications, invoices, and credit notes – and forward them to the purchasing department. Alternatively, the vendor can upload these documents.
In either case, the buyer’s SAP system automatically receives the documents and data from the Business Partner Portal. Purchasing and accounting departments can then access all the necessary information and documents directly in SAP and process them in the usual way. This eliminates the need to print and send documents, making the entire procure-to-pay process quicker, avoiding the typical errors that occur when paper documents are digitized.
The Business Partner Portal furthermore offers useful functions, for example a self-service option which allows new vendors to enter all relevant information, such as contact and bank account details, themselves. This starts an approval workflow whereby the vendor’s details are also saved in the SAP system. Details can be updated in the same manner.
In addition, companies can use the Business Partner Portal to communicate with vendors about specific processes. For example, the vendor can use the portal to ask follow-up questions about orders while the buyer can share information such as a new address. The advantage is that all information is easy to find, as it is gathered in one central place and no longer scattered across emails, phone memos, files, etc.
Function for dynamic discounting
The xSuite Group’s Business Partner Portal offers a useful tool for liquidity planning: dynamic discounting. Vendors can use the portal to offer customized discounts when invoices are paid early, choosing their discount amounts and payment dates. In contrast to German early payment discounts, which have rather rigid conditions, it is also possible to offer a range of payment dates with varying discount amounts. The German-style early payment discount model is rarely used outside Germany. In fact, even in non-German speaking EU countries, one rarely encounters it, as demonstrated by the fact that the CIUS (Core Invoice Usage Specification), which was drawn up by the EU as part of Directive 2014/55/EU on electronic invoicing, does not cover early payment discounts. A field for an early payment discount is only provided in the German XRechnung format.
Particularly in the US, the dynamic discounting trend has been picking up pace over the past few years. The basic principle of dynamic discounting is the same as the German-style early payment discount, but it is more flexible – or rather, as its name suggests, dynamic. In Germany, early payment discounts are generally agreed upon in the delivery conditions. This means that the same conditions apply to all of a vendor’s invoices. In dynamic discounting, in contrast, a different discount can be chosen for each individual invoice. Another key difference is that early payment discounts tend to be undifferentiated; regardless of whether the buyer pays on the exact payment date or a few days earlier, the reduction is the same.
Dynamic discounting is far more differentiated, allowing vendors to offer any number of payment dates with different reductions for each one. However, without an automated system, this flexibility and differentiation are practically impossible. Dynamic discounting would simply be too complex and time consuming to implement, and the likelihood of errors would be too high. The xSuite Group’s dynamic discounting function can be beneficial in this case.