Procurement Bill of Rights – Addressing Your “Freedoms” With Ariba/SAP and Other Basic Rights

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In the previous installment of this Bill of Rights series, I addressed the fundamental need to have choice around application deployment for procurement tools in what is all-too-often procurement and IT environments with heterogeneous systems and mixed deployment environments with architectures and topologies that must deal with an increasing mishmash of hybrid deployment models up and down the stack and across the business application layer.

This is no small feat, especially in a procurement world categorized by a fundamental movement towards front-line software as a service (SaaS) tools that must interoperate seamlessly with existing systems of record. For companies with SAP procurement environments, things are messier still, if you want anything outside of what the ERP giant would like to sell you (in contrast to Oracle – see the previous installment in this series).

As a start, you basically have to ignore SAP’s party line that Ariba is SAP’s sole cloud procurement application. It’s doing this to force companies to move to Ariba, which is a “component” in the Ariba Network – and all that goes with it (e.g., supplier fees based on transaction value).  If you want non-Ariba SAP applications – i.e., the bolted triad of SAP ERP (ECC), SAP SRM, and SAP Sourcing (we’ll keep SPM out of it) to not live in the cloud in addition to working together, you’ll need to go to a partner like Infosys or CapGemini (we’ll cover these types of providers’ offerings in greater detail in future posts).

As a side note, if you want to “surround” or “re-skin” an on-premise SAP deployment, you can always use providers like Hubwoo, IBX (CapGemini), SimplifyingIT (which Hubwoo OEM’s), Wallmedien, Simeno, etc. SAP’s own UI Add-On product is also a possibility, but is still not yet quite ready for primetime based on what we’re hearing in the field – even 18 months after Spend Matters first saw the prototypes (and wrote about here).

Anyway, the bottom line here is that buyers like choice in terms of technology that solves the business problem (i.e., pick the best application), as well as supports the needs of IT (i.e., pick the best way to deploy/support/fund it – and to connect it to existing applications and data stores).

Of course, there are some other things you’d also hope to see:

  • Integration of on-premise applications to cloud-based ones, especially as the applications transition and as hybrid/dual environments exist. The right to de-couple application choice and application delivery method is also applicable to integration software. As such, there should be choice and coherence in transitioning from on-premise integration adapters to hosted integration capabilities.
  • Clear direction for the timelines for development and support of the on-premise applications and their supporting technology before being forced to move to a new cloud-based environment.
  • Promised product release dates that bear some resemblance to reality so you can do some basic technology planning.
  • A promised support and upgrade path regardless of which platform I chose (to be supported at the same level as other solutions offered by my provider both on paper, but also in the field – demonstrations, services/deployment ecosystems, etc.)

These rights are so basic, yet so often and repeatedly violated, that they are not procurement-specific and actually tie back to the first technology bill of rights I cited back from my AMR Research days.  Also keep in mind that this whole series pertains to all providers, not just the big ERP providers, and is meant to advocate for the buyers of such technology not just for themselves as the users, but also for the broader enterprise.

We want to make sure this wasn’t just a wish list or grievance list. There are lots of other things that are important too: open standards, browser independence, commercial simplification, standardization of terminology, and on and on. But it will take time. We will also need to be honest with ourselves and work together to be part of the solution.

For example, one of the ways that technology providers will be able to help themselves and their customers will be take a more “platform centric” approach to where and how they will compete not against feature-function lists, but against a broader Procurement PaaS market backdrop that itself ties to a larger Procurement service market. Said another way, don’t show us just what your application or module does as a first order of business – show us how it coexists and talks to a broader world and universe of businesses, systems, and data.

We will continue to strive to be on the vanguard of such major transitions, and we look forward to your support in working together with us to help the market be more efficient and effective. As always, we welcome your feedback on any rights we missed, or any other perspectives you’d like to share.

And last, we will leave you with the thought that while some rights may seem inalienable, unless you are willing to stick up for you basic liberties, nothing is certain in procurement (and broader technology) life. Always selectively pick your issues and battles, but be willing to stand your ground for those fundamental rights that should never be taken away.

Voices (4)

  1. Pierre Mitchell:

    Ronald, YOU are the wrapper, along with all the other great providers similar to you. SAP SRM (back to C1 days), and SAP Sourcing, and SAP SPM are not wrappers. They were ‘gene therapy’ to expand the DNA / data model and functional footprint of core SAP ECC.

    Of course, many may call the end result Frankenstein with now an extra head bolted on called Ariba (the apps – not the network – although they don’t want these concepts separated… see my bill of rights post). But let’s ignore the Ariba issue. Putting a new face on Frankie is not easy, especially as you’re teaching him to dance more complex routines (the ‘putting on the Ritz’ scene from Young Frankenstein keeps coming to mind). Even SAP has struggled with this with its new UI product as I mentioned in the post above.

    We definitely applaud getting more returns on existing investments, and we’ve written a ton of research on that area (in the research library – which is hard to find – but we’re working on that). As my crazy brilliant mentor Richard Tabor Greene once said: “use the things that are dead in your life as fertilizer to feed something living and good”, so if you view ERP as that pile of fertilizer, you should indeed use it to create some good ROI.
    Thanks for writing in.

  2. Ronald Duncan:

    Hi Pierre,

    We have been integrated with SAP since R3, and since that is the core of the system it does not matter what wrapper goes round the system we are still able to integrate with the core.

    I think there are multiple ways and solutions for integrating with established systems like SAP, and SAP customers know that the SAP recommended solution may not be the best on the market.

    There is a big conflict here because Ariba always sold itself as a replacement for the ERP procurement system, whereas we took the approach of either working with the ERP procurement solution, another solution, or providing our own solution since our concern was tp protect customers existing investment and just make things work well.

    Best regards
    Ronald Duncan
    CloudBuy

  3. Jason busch:

    Pierre,

    Great end to a great series. We must all stand up to make these rights fundamental. But what issue are you going to rally around next: “Save SAP SRM?” … I can see the pins at Sapphire now.

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