Bob Calderoni gave the last keynote before lunch today and focused the end of his presentation on the future of the Ariba Supplier Network. Bob talked about the network by hitting on four themes. First, he suggested the network will continue to take shape as a type of "eBay"-like marketplace with continued focus on supplier enablement. But also in this regard, suppliers will soon be able to advertise and hawk their goods and services in a more open environment, enabling buyers to locate new suppliers. Ariba will do this through extending their public RFX capabilities. Given this, what Bob should have said rather than "eBay" in reference was "MFG.com" as it appears Ariba is doing a complete copy of their business model (including and beyond manufacturing) with where they want to take the Supplier Network.
Second, Bob suggested that Ariba wants to become the "PayPal for Spend Management" by continuing to build out their EIPP (electronic invoice payment presentment) investments in the supplier network. Here, I'd suggest that the proof will be in the usage / adoption pudding (rather than any more significant product enhancements).
Third, Bob talked about Ariba's plans to use the Supplier Network to drive unique information insights. In his words, this will mean content and solution offerings around "information services from network activities, category expertise, changes in market dynamics, actions plans for capitalizing on changes," etc. In addition, the network will be a place to find out highly specific information about supply markets as well as broader overall trends, serving as a "Bloomberg" for Spend Management in his words. Fourth, Bob talked about Ariba's commitment to building out a "community for Spend Management" with the Supplier Network. This was probably the least developed of the four concepts from a product standpoint, but I'd suggest this community might very well look more like a social media / social networking type of concept than a purely commercial one (though there are obvious ways of monetizing this type of traffic and content).
Overall, I commend Ariba and Bob for finally putting the Supplier Network front and center from a strategy perspective. They should have done this many years ago. Execution, however, will be everything -- not to mention building tighter linkages and partnerships with the ERP and SI ecosystems who will increasingly find their focuses turning to SRM implementations that require outside supplier enablement, content and commerce.
- Jason Busch