Over the years, SAP has vastly improved its strategic sourcing capability through the introduction and enhancement of a separate sourcing product outside of SRM. Now labeled simply "SAP Sourcing" -- not E-Sourcing anymore -- the solution often compares favorably to third-party solutions in today's market. In the early days of this separate solution, which came courtesy of the Frictionless acquisition, SAP continued to focus on selling its native SRM sourcing capabilities within Germany, although today, for SAP customers wanting to stay within the SAP product portfolio for sourcing on a global basis SAP now positions its separate Sourcing product globally as it strategic solution, including in its native home market. Yet tactical sourcing is alive and well within SRM, as the latest EHP1 service package enhancement shows. In fact, we'd argue that the tactical execution of Sourcing within SRM is one of the better in the market for those types of scenarios where a non strategic-sourcing type is simply looking to get a handful of bids and compare them.
As one of the enhancements in SRM 7.0 EHP1, SAP now includes the ability to build and configure a basic RFP, including the set-up of event parameters that go beyond the elementary. These include setting target prices, choosing from multiple currencies, tying bids to additional documentation (e.g., POs, contracts, etc.) and enabling suppliers to bid (or not) multiple times in the context of an RFX process. Users can also configure the latest SRM release from a sourcing standpoint to allow offline bidding for suppliers (see below) and enable suppliers to change responses. Without question, the most elegant component of the sourcing capability with the latest SRM service pack release is the ability to allow suppliers to respond to an RFP published through Adobe Interactive Forms (a smart PDF, in practice). Rather than respond via a web browser, Excel, etc., a supplier can now open a document that looks exactly like a PDF and respond within it with information that then populates the underlying application. The response template is smarter than the basic forms embedded in PDFs that can be locked and require a respondent to fill out (e.g., a W9 withholding form).
For example, smart bidding forms include the ability for the system to automatically validate data and error handling based on a supplier response (and require subsequent follow-up steps or re-entry if required). Moreover, there's no need to upload or email forms back and forth. Once a supplier fills in a response, they simply click a button on the form itself to submit it. Then SRM automatically pulls the data into its RFX data collection area and shows the supplier responses as if they filled out the information online in the first place (or within Excel). Buyers can configure the system to notify them via an alerting system (e.g., email) when new bids come in. In our view, it's probably one of the slickest supplier interfaces to get the proverbial "3 bids in a box" that we've ever seen.
Additional enhancements within the latest SAP SRM service pack release include a more flexible user portal with flexible navigation frames that do not require deploying NetWeaver portal technology. In addition, new embedded contract analytics provide enhanced reporting capabilities, even for those organizations which do not have a separate BI deployment through Business Objects or another toolset tied into SRM. This native reporting capability is now displayed in the context of actual workflow and use (rather than requiring a separate log-on), allowing users to contextually see, query and drill-down on information such as the lifecycle usage of contracts and historic compliance rates. Flexible charting capability is standard and users can always opt to export information to an offline toolset for manual reporting.
With EHP1, SAP is on the move. The mobile move, that its. Keeping pace with some of the other best of breed providers that have already made the mobile plunge, SAP now includes support for both Blackberry and iPhone users (they told Spend Matters that Android support is on their radar). When using a Blackberry, for example, users can launch a specific SAP SRM app to see the approval status of a given requisition request. It's a relatively rich graphical interface which displays items (including graphics) and additional shopping cart status details.
Stay tuned as our analysis of the latest in SAP SRM continues. Our final installment of this series will conclude with an overview of additional, smaller enhancements as well as our cursory analysis of how the latest capabilities stack up in the market.