An OB10 Update: More than Just an E-Invoicing Network (Part 2 — Sector Trends and Product Roadmap)

Please click here for the first post in this series.

In a briefing earlier this summer, OB10 shared its latest customer and product developments. In considering OB10's overall approach to enabling e-invoicing connectivity (and the relative time this can take), it's important for readers to remember how the company goes to market. On one hand, it must sell large corporate accounts. On the other, it must sell to individual suppliers as well (OB10 is paid by both groups, typically, although one large buyer does pay certain supplier fees (but not all). In general, OB10 users have found that offering pre-paid invoices to suppliers does not impact adoption rates.

Looking within the sector, OB10 is close to dominating in terms of overall customers in high-tech. We would pronounce them "the indirect e-invoicing winner!" at this stage of the game based on customer names and some volume numbers we've heard about. Yet, OB10 is also strong in CPG/retail, pharmaceutical and regional (often large regional) banking/financial and media/telecommunications markets with multiple big name clients in each. Traction in diversified manufacturing inclusive of A&D and general industry as well as basic industries is quite limited (automotive has higher penetration). Outside of high-tech and pharmaceutical, comparatively speaking, Ariba has materially more volume and traction at this stage.

For overall product development and strategy, OB10 has focused significant effort in recent quarters on delivering more than just network connectivity, especially in supplier self service and automation. They've also made some continuing underlying investments in internal platform/architecture to drive scalability, PDF extraction and a new supply chain finance service , OB10 Express Payments (which is live, having processed its first invoice in early July – but more on this in a separate review). OB10 has also made it a major focus to increase the number of suppliers that are network enabled at key accounts -- what they refer to as "supplier releases."

Looking forward, OB10 has centered much of its product road on the supplier experience, basing current and future developments on both buyer and vendor interviews. These developments call for new capabilities in the e-billings area, an overall supplier directory, greater capability around notifications/acknowledgements (e.g., PO), increase self-service visibility for suppliers and additional country-specific capabilities (e.g., Brazil, Chile, Russia). Currently OB10 is compliant in 39 countries (and this will expand based on "customer requests" OB10 told Spend Matters).

A significant portion of these developments will center on building out from a new portal framework that OB10 recently released as well a new vendor master data offering. Even before this re-release, suppliers could use OB10's portal to create invoices (in the case where a direct integration/connection does not exist), receive and convert POs, check on POs and perform other basic activities. On the buy-side, activities have historically been limited to receiving/processing invoices, checking on invoice status and exchanging documents with suppliers.

OB10's Homepage

Invoice Status Page

Invoice Status Summary Page

The system was never intended to serve as a replacement for specialized portals that are part of e-invoicing or supplier management toolsets. Yet even in providing basic interchange and visibility on both the buy and supply sides, OB10's previous portal framework was quite limited relative to what Ariba provides via its network as well as others. Moreover, it was completely e-invoicing centric.

A number of quarters ago, OB10 set up to completely redefine its portal capability and user interface to, in their words, create a solution that was "easier to use, supported future developments [i.e., new capabilities] and featured new services." The result, that Spend Matters recently got to peep at, provides a tidy package. While not yet at the Ariba's level for enabling a range of supplier-facing activities (e.g., managing multiple discounting options), it is likely some suppliers (and their customers) will actually prefer how OB10 has opted to redesign the core interface.

Stay tuned as we investigate the new OB10 portal experience in more detail in the next post in this series.

- Jason Busch

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