Ariba Exchange: Social Media Meets P2P Expertise Meets Category Knowledge

I’ve been trolling around the Ariba Exchange quite a bit in the past couple of weeks. The site, along with Ariba SupplyWatch provides some of the best free content I’ve seen out there in the market. Ariba Exchange is a relatively new site, one that JP Massin, a relatively recent Ariba employee, provides further detail on over on his blog. According to JP, “The goal [of Ariba Exchange] is to create an engaging platform where Spend Management professionals can share point of views (POV), question marks, best practices, trends, risks and mitigation plans, opportunities and issues related to spend management, technology enablement and Ariba’s solutions of course. It’s a unique public knowledge-hub, segmented by communities of interest.”

While Ariba’s plans are clearly to have customers and prospects participate and lead discussions, much of the content for Ariba Exchange is still generated by Ariba’s own employees. Moreover, there's less interaction than you might expect given the potential size of the active user community. Still, the concept of a social network which is tightly integrated with a user community, solution expertise and support -- not to mention category knowledge -- is one that I have no doubt will prove a winner in the market. I also like the site's use of video as well, though I’m afraid Ariba is a couple years ahead of the market’s willingness to embrace the medium as a communication and information exchange forum. Moreover, with Ariba Exchange, you’ve got to log-in to get to the good stuff. But if the experiment pays off, it should prove more effective than Ariba’s site Supply Excellence -- which Tim Minahan originally pioneered when he was at Procuri where today Ariba's category experts appears to be publishing less frequently on -- at pulling the extended Ariba community closer together.

Ariba has always had some of the best category intelligence in the market thanks to its FreeMarkets acquisition. I suspect they could charge for the types of details they give away in Supply Watch if they went just a bit deeper, but for some reason, they continue to publish and distribute it on a free basis. Personally, I will find it quite interesting to watch how Ariba attempts to integrate this category knowledge into a more community-driven approach to information sharing and collaboration, joining BravoSolution, Iasta and other providers who’ve embraced a community-driven expertise, support and social networking model within their user bases. I also hope that Ariba begins to generate derivative on-demand content products and enabling services from this category expertise (while potentially providing a platform for Ariba customers and partners to even resell expertise and content as well).

What do you think? Is Ariba on-track with Ariba Exchange and SupplyWatch? And what of Supply Excellence? Is it time to bury Ariba's final ode to supply management as they double-down in other marketing and category-rich content areas? As a final aside, in the latest Q1 2010 version of SupplyWatch for you "Spend Management" watchers, Ariba continues to use the term to describe their sector, despite how the phrase was noticeably absent from their recent earnings call.

Jason Busch

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