I apologize if this post is dry and reads more like a laundry list than an Esquire column, but I know that many Ariba users, partners, and consultants will find it useful to learn more about the vendor's solution roadmap. I tried to take verbatim notes from a keynote discussing this subject, and I will attempt to string them together here. So if you're curious about the facts (with no analysis), read on. If not, I would recommend skipping this entry entirely.
To begin, Ariba is moving to 2-year update cycles for their installed applications. The next installed release, which will come in the summer of 2007, will be renamed Ariba 9r1. Don't ask about the crazy naming convention. What matters is that customers will receive fewer CD releases, but will effectively gain significantly more functionality per release. For installed customers, this should result in fewer upgrades, less disruption, and a reduced TCO. The On-Demand release schedule is a different story. Customers can expect new releases (which will be free, per the subscription model) every 3-4 months.
The 9r1 installed release will include significant new enhancements and features including improved supplier management capability, digital signatures, advanced total cost formulas, complex category support, content management, supplier preview capability, statistical classification, opportunity search, Level 3 P-card reconciliation, catalog and search, easier navigation, travel provider features, greater configurability, simpler administration, and improved integration
In the meantime, customers will have to make do with the H206 capabilities which will include a Netweaver adapter (more on this next week from Sapphire), advanced supplier support, organic account creation, enablement tracking, new account management features, and invoice conversion services. By early next year, On-Demand (include ASN) customers will have access to supplier financing, supplier web invoicing, supplier order management, invoicing integration, supplier account management enhancements, and enhanced supplier enablement exception management.
From a consulting / professional services perspective, customers now have access to new capabilities including sourcing project mastery (think knowledge transfer), new category assessment services, event setup and administration capabilities, and a new application / infrastructure management offering. By H206, customers will be able to use new services for invoice conversion, T&E receipt management, and customer success benchmarking (I wonder if Hackett is involved in this!). Things get more interesting in H107 when Ariba will offer pre-enabled supplier contracts (turning Ariba into a quasi-GPO, in my book), advanced best practices and templates, and an extension of its shared services offerings
What is one of the most exciting areas coming down the pike? Ariba is releasing a cash optimizer for suppliers, enabling early payments and discounting (more on this in a separate entry later). As part of this, Ariba is also planning to work with banks to offer early payment financing for its customers through the ASN.