Connecting efficiently with customers can make or break your success as  a seller. But in today’s global economy, that’s not always so easy. Managing  orders, invoices, and other processes across diverse systems, data formats, and  geographies can be very challenging, especially if you’re a small or midsized  seller. Sure, the right technologies can help solve the problem—but which  strategies will work best for your company?

 

Automating your back end is an obvious first step, one most small  sellers can afford. And joining open, global B2B platforms like the Ariba®  Network gives you a many-to-many way to transact with multiple customers and  grow your business.

 

Yet the best results come from integrating the two—helping you supercharge your e-commerce efficiency with touchless  transacting so you can compete effectively with even much larger organizations.  And thanks to a recent collaborative effort spearheaded by a small seller, now there’s  a great new integration option available. Here’s how it happened and what it  means for you.


 

 

The First Step: Automating for Efficiency

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For TIPS, a small company based in  Austria that develops highly reliable, customized microchip testing solutions  for corporate customers worldwide, the adoption of SAP  Business One™ has proven vital in supporting the company’s rapid  growth.  A complete ERP system designed to help small to midsized companies maximize  back-end efficiency, SAP Business One offers a cost-effective way to automate  management of sales, warehousing and production, inventory, purchasing, financials,  customer service, human resources, and other core business functions (see  sidebar).

 

After more than a decade of use, TIPS had streamlined its processes  significantly through SAP Business One. For example, the company was able to quickly  generate accurate orders, goods receipts, and paper invoices by “flipping” them  directly from sales quotes—which, due to the non-standard, specialized nature  of TIPS products, were extremely detailed and complex—and easily comply with  the diverse tax and legal requirements involved in billing and shipping to an  international client base.

 

 

 

Meeting Challenge with Innovation

 

So when one of its largest customers decided to move to paperless accounting  and requested that TIPS start billing them through the Ariba Network, the  company was in a quandary. The options initially presented for TIPS—to submit the  customer’s 100+ invoices per month through the Ariba Network web portal, or  upload them to the Ariba Network in batches via CSV or cXML—all required manual  data conversion or even re-entry of invoice data, a time-consuming task that TIPS  was understandably reluctant to take on. While this would reduce costs and add  payment efficiency for the customer, it seemed a step backwards for TIPS, adding  an extra layer of work to their current paper-based process supported by SAP Business  One.

 

Determined to find a better approach, TIPS approached  SAP and Ariba and asked: Could we integrate our SAP Business One application to  the Ariba Network directly, enabling straight-through electronic processing of  invoices for our customer? The answer was yes—if they were willing to help pioneer  a unique pilot project to make integration possible not only for TIPS, but other  sellers as well. Eager to meet its customer’s needs, TIPS agreed, and the team  effort began.

 

 

Collaborating for Mutual Benefit

 

The  strong commitment to success shared by TIPS, its customer, SAP, and Ariba proved  instrumental in making the integration work. Biweekly meetings hosted by Ariba  kept all players in touch and on track.

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    The keys to success: Collaboration, communication, and well-defined commitments


 

A task list of clear responsibilities and deadlines helped the team  achieve specific milestones, including:

 

  1. Upgrading TIPS to a more current version of SAP Business  One
  2. Enabling the SAP Integration Framework to  connect the TIPS instance of SAP Business One to the customer’s ERP system  through the Ariba Network
  3. Helping the customer define and update their  invoicing requirements and processes in Ariba, then mapping them to the SAP Integration  Framework
  4. Creating a playsheet to capture the necessary inputs  and requirements, making the process easily repeatable for future sellers  wishing to integrate
  5. Leveraging lessons learned by exchanging wins  and best practices with participants in a concurrent SAP Business One/Ariba  integration pilot

 

After final testing and installation, go-live was successfully achieved  in December 2013.


 

Reaping the Benefits: Efficiency, Transparency, and Speedy Payment

 

The integration has transformed efficiency for both TIPS and their  customer, making previously manual processes truly touchless. “During the sales  process, we can now automatically check our delivery notes against the  customer´s purchase orders to ensure that the ship-to address, shipment terms,  tax requirements, payment terms, and similar details are accurate,” says Michael  Hrobath, general manager of purchasing for TIPS. “After that, the invoice is a  simple ‘copy-to’ job—only one checkbox has to be activated for transmission to  Ariba.” Invoices go directly from SAP Business One to the customer’s ERP  through the Ariba Network, eliminating the effort and expense required to print  and mail paper bills or track down lost invoices. The need to double-check  delivery notes and POs is gone as well, saving TIPS about five hours a week.

 

The overall ease and speed of the process have led TIPS to shift from  weekly invoicing to immediate invoicing, sometimes only seconds after  generating delivery notes. And since the customer’s three-point invoice  validation process also occurs electronically, cycle times have plummeted,  resulting in significantly faster payments for TIPS.

 

Just as important, clear visibility into invoice status via the Ariba  Network portal tells TIPS what’s happening with each invoice—whether it’s been received,  approved, or is still in process—and exactly when they’ll get paid. This not  only lessens dunning work, but dramatically improves the company’s ability to monitor  and manage working capital. The result? A smoother, steadier income stream that  helps TIPS better allocate its budget and organize projects more efficiently.

 

Because of these good experiences, TIPS has extended invoicing over the  Ariba Network to other entities and customers. “We now manage about 60% of our  invoices over Ariba,” says Michael, noting that this has boosted savings and  efficiency even higher.

 

 

The Mouse that Roars: Helping Small Sellers Deliver World-Class E-Commerce

 

The new integration package makes it simple for any seller using SAP Business  One to integrate with customers through the Ariba Network—enabling the  touchless transacting that can take your collaborative commerce capabilities to  a world-class level. In addition to invoicing, invoice status, remittance  advice, and credit notes, the integration package supports fully automatic  processing for purchase orders, order confirmations, and advance ship notices,  with support for RFQs and quotes currently being developed.

 

 

 

Learn More


For additional information on how SAP Business One works and the  benefits it provides, go to the SAP  Business One website. For questions about the  new integration package, check out this overview or contact Domnic Savio Benedict at SAP SE (domnic.savio.benedict@sap.com).