If you dig into the functional promises of the SAP network that combines Hubwoo and Crossgate, the similarities between the ASN become even more clear -- and even go beyond, to some extent, what Ariba has integrated today as part of core network functionality rather than in an application area. Consider that SAP is bundling a supplier self-registration capability into the network that allows buying organizations to "manage campaigns, find and invite suppliers and monitor" the status of suppliers. Suppliers have the ability to register, providing detailed profile information as well as interface with ongoing transactional requirements and status updates.
On the Order to Invoice side, the network offering lets buyers "enforce process rules" through a similar workflow configuration to Ariba and other network tools plus the ability for suppliers to manage transactions in a single hub from order to invoice. For event management, the network offering includes a range of capabilities including alerting, document tracking and dispute management/remediation. Underlying the event management framework and architecture are browser-based and email alerting capabilities, document tracking and additional workflow/process definitions that users can configure or customize.
By bringing Hubwoo and Crossgate together, SAP is no doubt creating a network offering that balances market-parity functional network capability and a level of integration into native back-end systems with a broad supplier reach that is designed to directly challenge Ariba for network supremacy in the P2P market. However, if SAP were really interested in taking the thunder away from Ariba, they'd make basic network transactional connectivity free -- or almost free -- rather than simply under-pricing Ariba for similar capabilities.
But looked at from another vantage point, it's clear SAP is in fast follower rather than challenging mode around network innovation. And there are a number of things missing as well. For example, where is SAP's network integration for supplier search and discovery -- not to mention tying this capability into their sourcing (both e-sourcing and supplier management) platform capabilities? Where are advanced dynamic discounting and bank/third-party financing relationships built in to the network (Taulia seems a natural fit here, though is likely too wet behind the ears for comfort at this early stage of its life)?
At the end of the day, the Hubwoo/Crossgate alliance should allow SAP to challenge a company that's only slightly ahead on the innovation curve. It's our belief that both SAP and Ariba, not to mention Oracle, Basware, and others will need to look at ways to more tightly link basic functional network capability like many-to-many supplier registration/management (including profile data such as TIN numbers, compliance/process certification, insurance certs, etc.) with transactional connectivity. Still, let's hope this latest volley from SAP drives Ariba to innovate and push this market ahead.