Ariba's Unleashes 9s5 — Is its On Demand Transformation Complete?

We've all known for some time that Ariba takes this on-demand thing seriously. In fact, they've bet the entire company on an on-demand transformation that includes software, services and information. Earlier today, Ariba announced the latest on-demand solution enhancements they've brought to market. These include new or enhanced capabilities in the contract management, contract management, supply chain finance, services procurement, content management / compliance and T&E areas, among other general enhancements. I had the chance to catch up with Ariba's Tim Minahan around the time of the announcement and he shared his thoughts on the enhancements (which I'll share in this post). In the next week or so, I'll offer up my analysis about what this means for the market.

According to Tim, Ariba is quickly moving to embrace all aspects of on-demand, going beyond just software in their approach. This includes being able to integrate content and intelligence from both inside an organization's systems as well as integrating external supplier information as well. Ariba also reiterated that they are committed to providing their entire on-demand platform in digestible chunks for those companies that do not want to license its end-to-end capabilities.

Regarding the specific 9s5 release which has been in production for over a week, there are a number of primary enhancements. Tim told me that Ariba has achieved functional parity with 9s5 compared with its installed releases and his in fact "built additional innovation" into the on-demand version. 9s5 will also enable Ariba to "extend into new markets" through providing services procurement capabilities, enhanced EIPP (electronic invoice payment presentment), improved sell-side contract management capabilities and a new approach to catalog enablement and management.

In other words, these capabilities combine, as Tim notes, to "break Ariba out of the procurement box". In addition, all of these Ariba on-demand capabilities are intended to help companies complement existing ERP deployments -- rather than replace existing ERP procurement investments (no surprise there -- this is the same message every single other best of breed vendor is pushing as well). But what is distinct when it comes to Ariba's positioning is that at least in some cases, the users and customers for these products might not even be procurement (e.g., contract management or services procurement).

I'm chomping at the RSS bit to provide some more analysis behind this news. In many ways, there are a lot of very positive things that I admire about this entire on-demand migration. But I also know that there will be growing pains along the way, but most important, by focusing on the platform migration rather than new product innovation in emerging areas, Ariba has ceded some opportunities to other providers in the sector. So stay tuned for additional perspectives in the coming days -- and what it all means for Ariba, its competitors, and most important, its customers. In addition, I'll share some thoughts that Tim and I traded on the future of the Spend Management sector and what will separate out top performers from the rest of the pack in the years to come.

- Jason Busch

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