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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 Integration 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.



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?

If it seems like every day more of your customers are asking you to participate in B2B collaboration, there’s good reason. By eliminating barriers to shared information and extending visibility beyond the walls of the organization, B2B collaboration lets them—and you—cut costs and maximize efficiency, making it easier to deal with the pressures of a complex global market. As a seller, you gain in other ways as well. Partnering with customers to achieve mutual goals helps you build trust and strengthen relationships, enabling you to grow sales by 40+ percent and increase customer retention as much as 48 percent. And that’s only the beginning.


What Is B2B Collaboration?

Accepting your customer’s request to join the Ariba® Network is a key first step towards B2B collaboration, which is enabled when buyers and sellers fully automate their orders and invoices to allow straight-through electronic processing of the order-to-cash cycle. Supported by back-end integration, direct connectivity, or touchless processing, B2B collaboration provides the information and control you need to accelerate processes, improve strategic decision-making, sell better, and deliver more of the personalized attention buyers want—including a highly customizable, consumerized purchasing experience—without adding staff. This makes your life easier in many ways, helping you to:


  • Reduce stress in your day-to-day interactions with customers
  • Eliminate repetitive manual tasks, like rekeying orders and invoices
  • Get paid faster and lower DSO by an average of 22 days
  • Shorten the order-to-cash cycle 65 percent
  • Shrink order and invoice processing costs as much as 75 percent
  • Cut order and invoice error rates 50 percent or more


Yet despite these heady-sounding benefits, plenty of sellers still hang back, wanting to take advantage of B2B collaboration but daunted by the challenges of implementation. If you’re one of them, take heart. New cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions are making B2B collaboration more accessible than ever, offering resources and support that let almost any business participate.


In the Next Blog We'll Tackle B2B Collaboration Hurdle #1 - Lack of Infrastructure or Resources


If you don't want to wait until tomorrow to learn more, then go to the Supply Lines group to read the full article.

Though fear of negative content causes some sellers to avoid using social media, that's the worst possible approach to take! Instead, active engagement is the key—enabling you to harness the positive power of the social sphere even when criticism comes your way. Check out sure-fire tactics for turning social horror stories into fairy tales for your business. Read more.


To find more articles, customer success stories, and video testimonials on key topics such as social media, order and catalog management, eInvoicing, cash management, sales and marketing, etc. visit Supply Lines group at

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