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Over the weekend, I finally had time to catch up with my nephew, who has been busy traveling around the country meeting with clients and customers interested in partnering with him on the latest creations in kids’ apparel. I was amazed to hear how he had such connections and managed to grow his clientele list so quickly, when not even a year ago, he was making his rounds in our local town stores and boutiques to see if they wanted to carry his apparel line. “It’s all about the networks,” was his response when I asked how he did it. Constantly on his iPhone, MacBook, and iPad Pro, he could barely finish a single thought with me during our conversation without devices chiming multiple times.

 

All about the networks…this millennial is not just on these mobile devices 24/7, but he is actually onto something much bigger. He’s not being lazy, mindlessly browsing online and playing games (as I initially thought) – he’s actually being smart and tapping into channels that allow him to discover, connect, and collaborate with his buyers and up-and-coming partners! The guy is really working and on his way to building his own commercial empire. He’s able to successfully network on networks, which enables him to grow his business and brand without having to spend long hours physically visiting storefronts to market his apparel. How brilliant is that? Saving time, energy, and money – while working smarter by embracing online tools and networks to get the job done. And now, he has interested buyers and partners flying him all over the place to do business with him. What a 360 from 10 months ago!

 

It seems like more and more entrepreneurs and businesses are leaning towards this trend of leveraging online channels and business networks to find new ways to stay agile and grow – both in customers and in sales. Do you blame them? Business networks like Ariba® Network add value to any business by allowing sellers and buyers to work together more efficiently and effectively on all the shared aspects of business commerce. It helps companies sell faster, smarter, and better. It changes the job of selling from complex to simple. How? Check out this Sell Simple video to find out! [For the Mandarin version, SAP Ariba简化销售流, click here. For the Japanese version, SAPアリバでシンプル売ります, click here.

 

From small minority-owned businesses to large Fortune 100 companies, many are finding tremendous benefit from networks such as SAP Ariba’s. By leveraging the power of networks, small to midsize organizations can compete on a global scale, and big businesses can remain nimble and ahead of their competition as market leaders. This is evident from hearing all the great success stories that customers shared at our SAP Ariba Live events in Las Vegas and Madrid earlier this year.

 

Don’t miss the opportunity to listen and network with your peers at the upcoming and final SAP Ariba Live 2016 event taking place in Singapore! If you haven’t already made plans to attend, we invite you to come join us for over two full days of insightful learning and the opportunity to make some great personal and professional connections.

Register for the event today and use coupon code ASIA16 to get 50 USD off your registration.

 

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Though your customers will frequently be the key driver in determining what type of e-catalog you implement, understanding the distinctions can help you manage the process more effectively. Here are a few guidelines to help.

 

CIF Catalogs

What are CIF catalogs? CIF (catalog interchange format) catalogs are static catalogs hosted and maintained by either you or your customer. Creating a CIF catalog is relatively simple, requiring you to set up your product or service data in a comma-separated value file (such as Excel) following a basic file header, line data, and file trailer format.

 

Who should use CIF catalogs? Because they must be manually revised in a flat file and then re-uploaded whenever updates are required, CIF catalogs are more resource-intensive to maintain than PunchOut catalogs. This means that CIF catalogs are generally the better choice if you sell smaller numbers of products that don’t require frequent pricing, availability, or other changes. CIF catalogs also don’t enable you to provide actual copies of product specifications, bills of materials, and similar decision-support resources, nor do they easily accommodate configuration rules, so they’re not effective if what you sell requires complex configuration.

 

That said, many buyers prefer CIF catalogs for the higher degree of control they provide over any revisions that need to be made, and despite the extra work involved, some companies maintain very large CIF catalogs. What’s more, a growing number of buyers are investing extensive resources to customize their CIF catalogs and add features that provide a positive user experience—a clear testament to the value they see in e-catalogs generally and CIF catalogs in particular.

 

PunchOut Catalogs

 

What are PunchOut catalogs? PunchOut catalogs let your customer’s procurement solution access content from your e-commerce website via cXML so users can search for, compare, and select what they want to buy, then return shopping cart items to their procurement application for approval and purchase. Because PunchOut catalogs are dynamic, they offer various advantages over CIF catalogs, including the ability to provide real-time pricing and availability (since updates can be made quickly and easily through your website), extensive configuration capabilities, accommodation for almost limitless documentation and other decision-support information, and enhanced customer service via faster order fulfillment and a very high-tech user experience. Level 2 PunchOut catalogs provide additional benefits, enabling customers to search for products right within their own procurement application and then be brought directly to specific “aisle,” “shelf,” or “product” level of catalogs that arise during their search.

 

Who should use PunchOut catalogs? Generally speaking, PunchOut catalogs are the better choice if you sell complex, service-oriented, or highly configurable product offerings; have large catalogs with many SKUs and line items; sell goods that require constant updates on price, description, and content; or have a high number of transactions.

 

Keep in mind, however, that implementing a PunchOut catalog typically requires greater IT resources and means more work up front, since you’ll either need to build an e-commerce website—requiring you to organize and populate a master catalog with categories, descriptions, specifications, pricing, images, and more—or retrofit your existing site to support PunchOut. Finally, you’ll also have to test your catalog to make sure it works with your customer’s e-procurement system.

 

 

In The Next Blog: Getting Started: What You’ll Need to Implement Your E-Catalog

If you don't want to wait until tomorrow to learn more, then go to A Guide to Business Commerce Integrationhttp://exchange.ariba.com/groups/supplylines/blog/2013/03/26/which-online-catalog-is-right-for-you to read the full article.

Hey folks,

As promised at both Ariba Live in Las Vegas and in Barcelona, I'm posting the first of two eCommerce Value Calculators.   This is the simplified, high-level value calculator.  It should be used to help you determine where your greatest opportunity to impact your business in the areas of:

  • Working Capital Improvement
  • Increased Wallet Share
  • Efficiency Benefits
    • Invoice Efficiency Improvement
    • Purchase Order Error Reduction
    • Invoice Error Reduction

 

You can find localized calculators in the following locations. 

 

http://www.ariba.com/go/econcalc/High-Level-Directional-eCommerce-Value-Calculator-British-English.xlsx
  http://www.ariba.com/go/econcalc/High-Level-Directional-eCommerce-Value-Calculator-English.xlsx
  http://www.ariba.com/go/econcalc/High-Level-Directional-eCommerce-Value-Calculator-French.xlsx
  http://www.ariba.com/go/econcalc/High-Level-Directional-eCommerce-Value-Calculator-German.xlsx
  http://www.ariba.com/go/econcalc/High-Level-Directional-eCommerce-Value-Calculator-Spanish.xlsx

 

 

Stay tuned for the more detailed eCommerce Value Calculator that I showed at Ariba Live Las Vegas.  I'm doing some final validations and consultations with customers. 

Often times, a company’s first thoughts when thinking about transaction automation are about “EDI”.  As many others do, you may be asking yourself, what differentiates Ariba against EDI?  Here are 5 top differentiators:

 

1)      Solution for all suppliers – Ariba was designed from the ground up to be a solution for every type of supplier. With Ariba, suppliers’ maintain their transaction profile preferences within a graphical user interface, and can setup the transaction process that meets their requirements. UNLIMTED SUPPLER ENABLEMENT SERVICES ensures a continuous focus on migration away from paper, so all suppliers, regardless of size, can become electronic. Ariba is a modern technology and service for the modern age.

 

2)      Supplier Value – Ariba provides revenue generating and product search tools like supplier discovery, cash management tools that accelerate collections and improve cash flow for Accounts Receivable and Credit Manager stakeholders, and provides error reports to eliminate payment risk. The Network Effect, available only with web-based, SAAS applications, creates leverage across many buyer relationships.

 

3)      Scale and Flexibility – EDI is point to point data transmission and relies on older file standards.  Ariba provides the best of BOTH worlds- we are backwards compatible with yesterday’s EDI technology, as well as providing the best of what the internet has to offer with integrated support for modern, flexible standards to meet modern age demands. This flexibility allows Ariba the ability to better serve the supplier community and automate more transactions and deliver more value.

 

4)      More than transmission - Ariba does more than just transmit data!  Ariba is a destination for functional business users to address opportunities and solve business problems. Ariba provides a feature rich, web-based application environment that provides both transaction automation AND business application functionality. This is a big difference and a great example is Smart Invoicing, where business logic detects a broad array of exceptions to ensure transactions are clean and error free. Modular based web applications like workflow, cash management, contract flip, procurement content, and discovery are other examples of doing more than moving data from point A to point B.

 

5)      We understand AP – The challenge in Accounts Payable isn’t moving data faster from a supplier to a buyer- too much risk is created if that is the only focus. The big objective for AP is CONTROL, COMPLIANCE, AND EFFICIENCY. Smart Invoicing, Workflow, and Payment Automation all deliver on these objectives. Another hidden dimension of efficiency is working capital efficiency. It is often said that the opportunity cost tied up in the Accounts Payable balance makes AP the most expensive debt on the balance sheet. Ariba Dynamic Discounting delivers on this critical dimension of efficiency.

 

What do you see as a differentiator for Ariba vs. EDI?

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What do winning B2B sales organizations do to gain market advantage? Not what they used to, that’s for sure. Within the past decade, the world of sales has changed dramatically. In a podcast recorded at Ariba LIVE in Las Vegas, principal analyst Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions talked with Mike Schultz, president of the sales consulting firm RAIN Group, and Brady Seiberlich, IT e-procurement and development manager at National Business Furniture (NBF), about what separates winners from losers in today’s volatile B2B marketplace.

 

Though many forces are driving the shift in sales dynamics, two things play a key role:

 

  1. A parity view of sellers: Today’s buyers see seller offerings as somewhat similar and interchangeable, says Mike, which means that conventional feature-function-benefit selling no longer works. Instead, sellers must compete by helping customers use and apply their products and services in ways that deliver the greatest benefits. In this scenario, the power of the ideas, innovation, and collaboration that sellers bring to the table matters most.
  2. Information symmetry: Gone are the days when sellers controlled the lion’s share of information about their products and services, while buyers had all the need and desire. The ability to research and network online has eliminated this asymmetry, enabling buyers to learn most of what they need to know about planned purchases without ever contacting sales teams.

 

It all adds up to a more level playing field—where sellers must be smarter than ever to succeed. “Sellers used to be able to just take orders; they can’t do that anymore and still win,” Mike points out. Brady agrees, noting that better-informed buyers are challenging sellers to work harder and deliver more in order to win and keep new business.

 

So how can sellers adjust? A recent RAIN Group study of B2B buyers’ purchasing behavior found that winning sellers—those best able to foster customer loyalty and gain repeat business—sell in a radically different way than their less-successful peers. And here’s what makes the greatest impact: When deciding between sellers with roughly equal products and services, buyers chose the one who created a better purchasing experience. "How the seller treated the buyer, what they did with the buyer were the tipping points for why they got awarded the business,” says Mike.

 

To build this winning experience for your customers, consider the following strategies:

 

  • Make buying easy through shared technology. Connecting with customers through the technology networks, applications, and mobile interfaces they prefer helps you build trust and strengthen relationships. It also makes you easy to buy from, since you’re already part of the systems they’re integrated with and use every day. For example, NBF joined collaborative business networks early on, creating an efficient, data-driven process for sales that streamlines buying from beginning to end. Along the way, the company built a solid track record as a tech-savvy seller, making it the highest-rated furniture provider on the Ariba® Network (see this case study for details). Another bonus: The experience gained with one customer can be leveraged to make the process smoother for others. “We’re trying to push customers to continue to buy from us off these networks, because we’ve proven how simple it can be,” Brady says.
  • Bring value-add to the buy. For example, NBF has replaced paper catalogs with highly detailed product information on its e-procurement website. “Information is huge for us,” Brady says. “We give customers as much information as possible, because they want to make the decision themselves and be done with it.” But if customers do have questions, NBF gives them direct access to expert help. With an average 10+ years of experience, service reps can tap deep product knowledge to find a solution that really fits each buyer. The company also invests in technology that improves buyer-relevant data and analysis, which benefits both sides.
  • Offer insights unavailable elsewhere. By doing so, you demonstrate to buyers that working with you brings superior value—a crucial differentiator in driving sales wins. A buyer in the RAIN Group study explained how this impacted an important software purchase he was making for his firm. In the final bid stages, he met with the two leading contenders to share his concerns about unknown pitfalls that could arise as the project moved forward. One seller responded by surveying 15 of his own clients, then writing up a brief report of insights to set the buyer’s mind at ease. “He created his own little focus group to gather information for me, so I could think about what challenges might await me,” the buyer reported. “The other guy didn’t do that.” Despite having a higher bid price, that seller won the bid, since the buyer recognized the value of such support in ensuring the initiative’s long-term success.
  • Provide missing context. All too often, sellers trying to negotiate even complex, high-value deals report that “the purchasing person they’re working with doesn’t actually understand the business context of what they’re trying to get done,” Mike says. Yet with the right approach, you can turn this to your favor. Don’t be afraid to introduce relevant ideas, teach buyers new ways of thinking, and push back when they head down unfruitful paths. Suggest approaches that alert buyers to needs or considerations they weren’t aware of, and offer industry knowledge or inside expertise that can help them make or save money. This illustrates what your company brings to the table that differentiates you beyond price. It also reminds buyers that the cheapest seller isn’t always the best seller.

 

The bottom line: Though today’s selling environment presents big challenges, it offers big opportunities as well. And while negative feedback travels fast in this networked world, so does word about what’s interesting and worthwhile. This means the more you can show how working with you benefits buyers—over and above the value of your product alone—the better off you’ll be. “The technology amplifies the good sellers, and they end up selling a lot more,” Mike says. By delivering real value in the right ways, “You can win and win consistently.”

 

Want to dig deeper? Listen to the podcast, read the transcript, or join the discussion by adding your thoughts below.

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