Supply LinesdadsVolume 19  • Subscribe


Following a best-practice approach to managing your catalogs can greatly increase the accuracy and sales potential they deliver. The good news is that Ariba is now offering a series of comprehensive, live online courses designed to help you do exactly that. In this article—the first of a three-part series drawn from highlights of the course materials—we’ll describe best practices for working with electronic CIF (catalog interchange format) catalogs. Future articles will cover best practices for managing Ariba PunchOut™ catalogs as well as cXML integration.


Best Practice #1: Take advantage of existing catalog templates. Be sure to ask your customers whether they have customized Excel templates for the CIF catalogs they accept, and if so, use them when you create catalogs for those clients. This can greatly simplify and accelerate the validation process, since the customer’s preferences will be built into the template. If your customers do not provide templates, you can instead use the template available online at to set up your CIF catalogs. You can find this file, which is titled “CIF 3.0 Excel Template,” on the Help page of under “Catalog Documentation.”


Best Practice #2: Check your customer’s catalog approval rules prior to creating your catalog. Before you create a CIF catalog, it’s important to first review the approval rules set by your customer, which are available on the Ariba® Network. Buying organizations can currently set preferences for four different criteria:


  1. The UNSPSC (United Nations Standard Products and Services Code) version your customer uses, which you should also adopt when coding their catalog. (If your customer uses a different coding system than UNSPSC, this option will be disabled.)
  2. Whether or not your customer checks commodity codes.
  3. Whether or not your customer checks UOM (unit of measure) codes.
  4. Whether or not your customer allows catalogs that include zero price items, typically used for more customized goods or services that require buyers to communicate directly with you to discuss unique parameters, criteria, or specifications they need you to fulfill.


It’s also a good idea to review each customer’s catalog approval rules from time to time to make sure they haven’t changed.


Best Practice #3: Use correct UOMs (units of measure). The most common UOM standards are UNUOM (United Nations units of measure), which is used worldwide, and ANSI (American National Standards Institute), which is more often used by North American businesses. Find out your customer’s preferred UOM system and whether they have conversion capabilities. If not, be sure to use the customer’s preferred system when you create their catalog. You can find a complete list of UOM standards and codes on the Help page at by going to the “Catalog Standards” section under “Catalog Documentation” and opening the file titled “United Nations Units of Measure (UOM).”


If you sell services, it can be difficult to discern the best UOM abbreviations to use for increments of time. Ariba suggests the following guidelines: use HUR if you sell services by the hour; DAY if you sell services at a day rate; and M4 if you sell services by the total project (M4 is the UNUOM for “per monetary value”).


Best Practice #4: Make your item descriptions user-friendly. The more clearly you describe products and services in your catalog, the more easily customers can make the right purchases—which helps boost sales while reducing errors and returns. When writing your descriptions, follow these rules of thumb:


  1. Write descriptions anyone can understand. Those looking at your catalog may have widely varying levels of knowledge about your product area, so item descriptions should be as simple and straightforward as possible. A conversational tone is usually the best.
  2. Avoid writing in capital letters. All-capital writing is very difficult to read and tends to slow down and irritate customers. Use a regular capital/lowercase style instead.
  3. Don’t use undecipherable abbreviations. Abbreviations that make sense to you can be confusing to your customers (e.g., “blk,” which could mean “black,” “bulk,” “block,” etc.). Writing out the words in your descriptions will help your customers know exactly what they’re buying. Complete words are also more search-friendly, increasing the likelihood that users can quickly find what they’re looking for.
  4. Don’t “stuff” item descriptions. Resist the temptation to include long strings of irrelevant keywords in your item descriptions in order to increase hit rates in product searches. This will only delay legitimate searches and annoy users, ultimately reducing your sales.



To read the second part of this article please click here.



This article 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