Supply LinesdadsVolume 21  • Subscribe


Want to rake in all the benefits eCommerce has to offer? Then consider using cXML to integrate with your customers. In addition to driving major efficiency gains and cost savings, cXML integration significantly increases the stickiness of your client relationships, positioning you as a strategic partner closely aligned with your customers’ business processes. And by enabling you to drive faster, more accurate commerce, cXML integration benefits both you and your customers—making it a true win-win solution.


In this article, part III of our eCommerce best practice series, we describe what cXML can do for your business and offer guidelines to help you decide if it’s right for you.


What is cXML?


cXML (commerce eXtensible markup language) is a streamlined, open protocol designed to accurately communicate business documents between systems, eCommerce hubs, and organizations in real time. As the most widely adopted B2B protocol, cXML lets you integrate your back-end systems—such as order processing and shipping, accounts payable/receivable, product or customer databases, ERP, or sales forecasting—directly with those of your customers. In addition to electronic purchase orders, order confirmations, ship notices, invoices, and other documents, cXML supports Internet-based transactions like order status changes, discount management, and PunchOut.


How can cXML benefit my company?


Integrating with your customers through cXML is a best practice that maximizes your ability to drive value through eCommerce, enabling you to:


  • Significantly increase customer traction. By seamlessly connecting your systems to those of your customers, cXML transforms you from a commodity vendor who can be swapped out at any time to a trusted business partner who’s integrally involved with their day-to-day needs and issues—which translates to better traction and higher sales.
  • Reduce data errors 45 to 60 percent. cXML eliminates the need for retyping and manual data entry, minimizing the chance for human interpretation and cutting down mistakes by as much as 60 percent. Real-time visibility into document and transaction status ensures that you and your customers have access to accurate, up-to-date information at all times.
  • Deploy staff more strategically. While it’s tempting to think of email as an eCommerce tool, it lacks true data intelligence and requires substantial human effort to make it work. After a successful cXML integration, however, documents are managed by exception—so rather than handling every purchase order, for example, staff members need only get involved when problems arise. This frees them up to spend time on relationship nurturing and other strategic activities that drive higher value for your business.
  • Improve productivity up to 75 percent. The computer-to-computer communication enabled by cXML replaces the phone calls, faxes, and email messages formerly required to conduct daily business, improving productivity by 60 to 75 percent and driving significant reductions in operational expense.
  • Differentiate yourself from competitors. A growing number of buying organizations recognize the value cXML integration provides, making sellers who offer this capability more attractive than ever before. And with the vast majority of sellers still using fax or email to manage transactions, having cXML expertise puts you into an elite group with a definite market edge.
  • Lessen DSO 15 to 20 percent. The exceptional accuracy of cXML-based invoicing means fewer errors to resolve, while high visibility into invoice and payment status enables rapid resolution of any problems that do occur. This allows you to shave anywhere from six to twenty-five days off the payment cycle and realize a 15 to 20 percent reduction in DSO.
  • Capitalize on the benefits of the Ariba Network. While there are many ways to connect with customers using cXML, integrating through the Ariba® Network offers multiple advantages, including:

    • One-to-many scalability across multiple accounts. Once you successfully complete your first cXML integration with an Ariba customer, you can easily leverage the same infrastructure across a limitless number of Ariba accounts, greatly increasing your ROI. And because cXML integration typically requires little effort on the part of your Ariba customers, they’re likely to agree to it once they understand the benefits they’ll gain.
    • A shared view of the truth through online tracking capabilities helps to resolve customer disputes, since you and your customer can view the same information at the same time. For example, if a customer reports a missing order, you can both log on to the Ariba Network and see the entire document history as well as its current status. Time stamping on every transaction helps eliminate conflicts that often arise from memory- or paper-based assessments of what happened when.
    • Testing and debugging tools expedite the implementation process and ensure that you resolve all problems before going live with customer integrations.
    • A complete range of electronic business documents enables you to cover every transaction formerly handled with paper, from catalogs to invoices to payment.
    • Ariba support and service provide extra expertise and assistance that allow you to complete integrations as quickly and easily as possible.


How do I know if cXML is right for my business?


If you want to maximize efficiency and cost savings, you can benefit from implementing cXML with even one customer. Depending on your business needs, you may choose to integrate multiple systems through cXML or start with a single system and add more over time. The online cXML course mentioned below can give you a good idea of the resources you’ll require.


Where can I learn more?


You can obtain detailed information about cXML by sending an email to or attending Ariba’s live online cXML course. In addition to describing benefits and tips, the course outlines the technical requirements for implementing cXML and provides a comprehensive overview of the integration process.