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Whether you’re new to Ariba or a seasoned user, questions about your account, Ariba solutions, e-commerce, or other topics can arise at any time. To make sure you get the right answers—and to connect you with ideas and insights from other sellers and Ariba experts—we’ve launched the new Ariba Exchange User Community.

 

What is the Ariba Exchange User Community?

Created to replace Help@Ariba, the new Ariba Exchange User Community offers diverse features that make it easy for you to obtain the information you need, when and how you need it. Besides offering simpler navigation, better search functionality, and direct access to targeted content, the new community is designed to meet growing user demand for intuitive self-help tools along with multiple options for direct support. Resources include:

  • Popular Topics, content that other users have found the most helpful, which is displayed by contextual relevance (based on your Ariba commerce cloud account) and can be sorted by date
  • Learning Center, where you can browse through the full library of Ariba technical product documentation and tutorials
  • Support Center, which offers access to help from a variety of channels:
    • Phrase or keyword searches
    • Posting an online service request
    • Live chat with Ariba support staff*
    • Phone calls with Ariba support staff
  • Popular Tags and Common Troubleshooting Tags, which you can click to see resources on frequently queried topics
  • Feedback options:
    • A “post comment” feature that lets you share input and exchange opinions with other users about specific content items
    • “Like” icons you can use to thank the writer of any content item you found helpful
    • “Report a problem” webforms that allow you to alert Ariba about content errors or issues
  • Trust.ariba.com hotlink, where you’ll find notifications about product issues, planned downtime, and other status alerts

The community has already proved helpful to plenty of sellers, with more than 73,000 content item views since launch, and traffic continues to increase.

 

Tomorrow: How to get started

If you don't want to wait, go to our Supply Lines group to read the full article.

 

 

*Live chat is currently provided in English on a 24x5 (Monday through Friday) basis to Ariba Network sellers, with rollout to other seller groups scheduled in upcoming months.

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As a seller, you’re often driven by your customer’s contract management process. But when your business reaches a certain level of complexity, not having your own automated contract management solution means you start losing visibility into the contract lifecycle—which can wreak havoc on your company through compliance problems, lost sales from too-slow negotiation cycles or missed renewals, and even legal challenges. In fact, 60% of corporate litigations are related to contract disputes,[i] so reducing that risk through contract automation makes a lot of sense.

 

One expert considers it crucial. Christopher Dwyer, research director for Ardent Partners, notes that up to 75% of all corporate revenues are directly linked to sales contracts—a huge impact that underscores the importance of managing them effectively. Yet many sellers overlook automated contract management, despite the big benefits it can provide. An automated contract lifecycle management (CLM) solution standardizes and streamlines the contracting process, delivering the transparency and collaborative capabilities you need to negotiate and execute sales contracts quickly and efficiently—a key business advantage that can significantly boost your bottom line.

 

Tomorrow: The benefits of automated contract management

If you don't want to wait, go to our Supply Lines group to read the full article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] Source: Fulbright & Jaworski, 2010 Annual Litigation Survey

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Yesterday, we posted a blog that had tips on working with Sourcing Managers.  Today, we'll discuss the last two tips.

 

Tip #7: Don’t take your customer for granted once you finalize the contract. Too many sellers view a signed contract as the end point of their efforts. Yet getting the business is only the first step; keeping it is something else again. Cement relationships by watching for new opportunities to help the customer cut costs, work more efficiently, and make their life easier. If you don’t, you may lose their trust and ultimately, their business. “If a competitor points out ways my current supplier could be saving me money or bringing value-add that they didn’t tell me about, I may bid out that business and award it to someone else, whereas if my current seller had brought it to me up front I’d stick with them,” Sherrill says. “For example, if you’re providing e-catalogs for other customers, or using EDI or pCards or things like that, you should proactively say to us, ‘Do you want to use EDI? Because we can do it; please set us up.’ That’s always better than us having to reach out to you.”

 

Tip #8: Do follow good financial practices. For example:

  • Don’t invoice without a purchase order. Though the best practice is not to render service till you’ve gotten a PO, internal users will often ask you to move forward while promising to get the PO in the system. While that may be okay to a certain point, be sure to get a PO before sending your bill. “Invoices that don’t reference a PO delay the payment process and cause other match exception problems,” Sherrill says. “Instead, they need to insist that the end user gets the PO to them so they can reference it in the invoice.”
  • Know the buyer’s back-end AP processes and automate when possible. Dealing with the myriad ways sellers want to submit invoices creates headaches for buying organizations, so make it your priority to learn and use their preferred method. If e-invoicing is an option, be sure to offer it, since it saves you and your customer effort and expense and greatly increases accuracy.
  • Manage your cash flow effectively. Do whatever it takes to ensure that your bills are paid in a timely fashion and your other cash flow needs are met. “We’ve had suppliers come into our office and wait for AP to print off their check so they could pay their subcontractors and prevent legal action being taken against them,” Sherrill says. “That doesn’t look good.” Resources like Ariba Receivables Financing and dynamic discounting can help you get the money you need when you need it.

 

This post is part of the current issue of Ariba Supply Lines. Ariba Supply Lines is a quarterly newsletter that provides valuable tips, best practices, and the latest thinking to take your online business relationships with your buying customers to the next level.

To subscribe to this permission only newsletter, please click here.

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Yesterday, we talked about the benefits of developing an e-commerce scorecard. Today, we'll cover the first few strategies for e-commerce success!

 

Getting started: Six scorecard success strategies

Okay, so you’re ready to build out an e-commerce scorecard. But how should you get started? And what can you do to maximize its value to your e-commerce team and key stakeholders? Consider the following success strategies shared by three leading sellers—Robert Calvert, head of worldwide B2Bi strategy at Hewlett-Packard; Michelle Meyer, e-commerce sales specialist at Fastenal; and Jamie Werve, senior manager of e-commerce sales operations at Insight—during a session at Ariba LIVE 2014.

 

Strategy #1: Develop measurements that support your focus areas. Measurements that you may want to consider include:

  • Customer satisfaction levels
  • Operational efficiency—reduction in cost of sales as well as order entry, order management, and invoicing costs
  • Cash management—increase in revenue and margins, decrease in DSO
  • Capabilities—improvements in
    • Length: measure capabilities across lead to cash,
      source to settle, or procure to pay
    • Width: measure capabilities across regions and product lines
    • Depth: measure features across advanced features and complexity
  • Cross-selling or up-selling opportunities gained
  • Client growth and retention
  • Time needed to onboard a new client
  • Degree to which clients use a new solution or capability once it’s in place
  • Number of new client implementations per quarter and year
  • Website uptime and speed
  • New client implementations per month, quarter, and year
  • Distribution of orders

 

Strategy #2: Capitalize on what’s happening internally. As you develop your scorecard focus areas, consider your company’s current driving forces and priorities and use them to your advantage, wherever appropriate. “It’s important to make sure you don’t get too narrowly focused in one area,” Calvert notes, “but if there’s management excitement around a certain topic, whether it’s DSO or order entry cost or something else, take advantage of that and start using it to build out your capabilities” by incorporating those metrics in your scorecard.

 

Strategy #3: Create a graphical representation of your scorecard for at-a-glance readability. HP uses a heat map with a color-coded, build-on matrix to make it easy to track capabilities quickly. “It’s kind of hard for management to get a grasp around this; they need pictures,” Calvert says. “The visual is nice and it lets you drill down.” Besides highlighting what you’re already doing well, this helps draw attention to what requires additional improvement and investment, so you can quickly focus discussions on where you need to spend time, energy, and money.

 

Tomorrow: More getting started strategies

If you don't want to wait, go to our Supply Lines group to read the full article.

Do you want to know more about Punchout?  Do you have challenges with Punchout?  Learn more about Punchout from one of our Ariba Supplier Solutions Providers, PunchOutCatalogs.com, in this blog post by Matt Fisher.

Introduction

 

This post is a humble attempt to help Ariba suppliers/sellers by:

  1. Describing what a punchout catalog is
  2. Walking through the typical punchout flow
  3. Identifying some of the advantages and challenges of punchout
  4. Providing additional sources of information for your organization to become punchout capable

 

Preface

 

Even though I’ve been helping suppliers and buyers conduct business electronically with each other since Ariba’s early days in the 1990s, this is my very first post on Ariba Exchange. With every visit to the site, I’m increasingly impressed with the growing sense of community and look forward to contributing and learning from you all.

 

We’re all experts at something, and while supplier enablement is admittedly my one area of expertise, I sincerely acknowledge that there’s always more to learn from people. With that said, all of us who have worked with punchout catalogs know that no two definitions of  punchout are the same, and it’s different every time we try to explain it to someone.

 

I offer this first post to the community and welcome any and all feedback as we continue to help each other.

 

1)    What is a Punchout Catalog?

The majority of large corporations and many government agencies use some kind of eProcurement solution like Ariba Buyer to streamline and control the millions or billions of dollars of products and services that they buy every year. The employees in these organizations are being asked to use these eProcurement tools to create purchase orders rather than simply using their credit card to buy directly from suppliers’ B2C eCommerce sites or in a physical store. By driving spend through these tools, buyers gain control through approval rules, visibility through reporting, and bargaining power by driving business to contracted suppliers.

 

The preferred way for employees to create purchase orders is to use catalogs. Catalogs make it easier for employees to create accurate and detailed purchase orders that are most likely to be fulfilled without issue by suppliers. Employees would prefer to use catalogs and simply add what they need with a few clicks rather than being forced to manually type in all the required information in a “non-catalog” purchase requisition.

 

There are typically two types of catalogs:

A.     A relatively simple spreadsheet that lists supplier products or sometimes simple services, e.g. Ariba’s CIF file.

B.     More complex punchout websites that are similar in functionality to the common online ordering website. Punchout sites         have a special ability to integrate with customers that use eProcurement systems like Ariba Buyer.

 

For the less technical business owner, account manager, or sales rep, a punchout catalog is an online ordering website that your large customers can connect to in order to find the information they need about your products or services. Sounds simple enough?

 

For the more technical IT manager, website administrator, or consultant, a punchout catalog is a customized eCommerce shopping cart that integrates with eProcurement systems through a series of HTTPS posts transmitting predefined cXML documents that allow for secure authentication and ultimately the transfer of item information from the site’s cart to the buyer’s purchase requisition. Whew!

 

It’s an impressively technical solution that provides a deceivingly simple result: customers are able to get into your site securely, get a quote for what they need, then transfer all the information they need.

 

2)    Typical Punchout Flow

Here’s an attempt at walking you through the typical steps when a user (your customer) wants to buy something from you using your punchout website:

 

1.  Log In

  • Users log into the company’s eProcurement system (e.g. Ariba Buyer).
  • Unlike typical business to consumer (B2C) eCommerce, the customer will never log into your punchout site directly from the Internet, e.g. http://www.yourstore.com – it will always be accessed via the eProcurement system.
  • This is a huge advantage for suppliers as there is no need to administer hundreds or thousands of individual usernames and passwords – this is all handled on the buyer side.

2.  Browse or Search

  • The users browse or search through the potentially numerous catalogs to hopefully find the link to your punchout website.
  • Keep reading for a tip on how to increase the probability of getting found.

3.  “Punch Out” to Website

  • When users click your punchout link in Ariba Buyer, they seamlessly enter your punchout site. At first glance, it may appear that the customers have simply been forwarded to your website; however the users are actually still in their Ariba Buyer sessions – there will be an Ariba Buyer-branded frame at the top of the browser window.
  • This is where the term “punch out” stems from, as users are still in Ariba, but they’ve now connected out to your website for the sole purpose of grabbing the information they need to complete their purchase request.

4.  Transfer Cart Contents

  • Once customers have punched out to your website, they’ll search or browse for their desired product or service just like a typical online shopper would.
  • The checkout process is different, however. When users decide to checkout their carts, instead of the site prompting them for shipping and billing information, they are taken back to their purchase requisitions within Ariba Buyer, and the items that were in the punchout website carts now magically appear in the right spot within their purchase requisitions!
  • Note that customers have NOT actually purchased anything from you yet – remember, they need to send you a purchase order, so what they’ve really done is simply gathered a quote themselves with the help of your punchout site.  True customer self-service!

5.  Submit for Approval & Transmit Purchase Order

  • Once users have finished adding items to the purchase requisition, they are required to enter/confirm additional information such as shipping address, account(s) to be billed, and internal notes such as justification explanation, the requisitions may require approval before purchase orders are finally transmitted to the supplier.

One common misconception is that punchout suppliers must now switch to receiving purchase orders via cXML and start transmitting invoices via cXML as well. While this is a best practice, buyers typically don’t care HOW you receive your orders or transmit your invoices, as long as you fulfill the orders quickly and invoice accurately.

3a) Benefits for Suppliers

 

These are just a few of the main ones and I’m sure many of you can offer others:

 

  • Control the Shopping Experience (Or At Least Part of It)
    • Suppliers that simply provide local catalogs have absolutely no control over the shopping experience beyond the content of the catalog. On the other hand, a punchout allows complete control over the shopping experience and catalog content once customers enter your site.  Suppliers tend to find punchouts more empowering as they can actually see what their customer sees.

  • Update Catalog Content As Needed
    • When it comes time to update your product catalog, if you are using a CIF file, you’ll need to ask coordinate with your buyer to ask permission to make the changes then rely on them to upload the file into Ariba Buyer.  With punchout, you are allowed (and expected) to update your catalog yourself, without the customer needing to do anything.  It is a best practice to at least notify your customers of any notable changes.

  • Upsell and Cross-Sell
    • One way to take advantage of your punchout site is by upselling and cross-selling. If a customer is looking at a camera, suggest that they look at two others in an effort to push more preferred items.  If a customer has added a camera to their cart, suggest additional items they may have forgotten such as a case and tripod!

  • Become “Stickier”
    • When buyers invite you to integrate your punchout website, they’re investing time and effort in you. It’s in their best interest that the integration is thoroughly tested and your website is as user-friendly as possible. Once integrated, they typically are not in a rush to do it all over again with another supplier anytime soon.

  • Market Your Punchout Abilities to Other Customers
    • Now that you’ve taken care of the immediate need to provide a punchout solution to one of your customers, use your new capabilities to your advantage!  Issue a press release. Email all your other customers to see if they are using eProcurement. Update your Ariba Supplier Network profile. Consider joining the Ariba Ready program. Definitely contact Ariba Connection Solutions and express your desire to service additional Ariba customers: http://www.ariba.com/solutions/connection.cfm

  • Provide Enhanced Functionality
    • When you have a punchout site, you have the opportunity to continuously add value. Rather than just provide the bare minimum requirements that your customer has requested, go crazy with value-add functionality! Strive to provide the best punchout possible. Your buyers might even agree to announce notable new functionality to their users, improving your exposure. My next post will include a long list of impressive ways that suppliers are adding value for their customers.

 

3b) Challenges for Suppliers

 

Again, here are just a couple of challenges, however there are more:

 

  • Getting Found in eProcurement Searches
    • The truth is you’re essentially at the mercy of your customers when it comes to how easily your punchout link can be found. You can’t highlight your link, make it bold, or have it float to the top. You might be fortunate enough to be the only listing under your category, or you might be one search result in a listing of thousands. Once the punchout site is up, ask your buyer how best to advise customers on how to find your punchout link.
    • TIP: Suppliers should provide buyers with a list of recommended keywords to help increase the likelihood of your punchout link to be found within Ariba Buyer (e.g. if you’re a printing company add keywords like “business card, letterhead, letter head, envelope, notepad, note pad, print”).
    • NOTE: Instead of providing your buyer with a simple link to your website’s homepage, a more advanced option might be to provide individual links to every category (aisle level punchout) or even every product (item level punchout). This combination of a punchout website with a more detailed catalog file is called level 2 punchout. There are pros and cons to level 2 punchout that I’ll save for another post.

  • Deciding How Best to Go Punchout
    • If you already have an online ordering site, you have three options: try to do it all yourself (DIY), partner with an integrator to outsource at least the new cXML punchout piece, or simply license a turnkey punchout capable shopping cart.
    • This is often a difficult decision to make, especially if you’ve invested substantial time and money in your existing website. The most common approach (in my humble experience) has been to go with the option with the least risk and unknowns: a second site that is already punchout capable. I’ll save this option analysis for another post as well.
    • If you don’t have online ordering capabilities today, then the option is clear: go with a solution that can address all of your customers, both those that are asking for a punchout catalog ASAP and any other customer that may want to order online but not necessarily via punchout.

 

4) Where to Get Help

 

Ariba provides suppliers with useful documentation, live webinars, and third party solution providers:

 

1.  Ariba Supplier Network Help Page

2.  Ariba’s Live Demos

 

3.  Ariba Supplier Solution Providers

 

About the Author

Matt Fisher is the founder and COO of PunchOutCatalogs.com, the longest standing Ariba Supplier Solution Provider, providing suppliers with Ariba certified punchout capable solutions known for their extremely consumer friendly look and feel and a long list of feature functionality, implemented by experienced professionals.  Visit www.PunchOutCatalogs.com for more information.

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