So You're an SAP Shop — What Are Your Options? (Part 1)

The head of marketing for an SAP competitor (Emptoris) in the Spend Management arena recently pointed out in a comment that I did not do a fair job highlighting that other options exist besides waiting for SAP's next core SRM product release (or going with an SAP hosted option that uses legacy technology today). You know what? He's probably right. In my focus on getting quite a bit of news and analysis out around SAP Sapphire because there was such an information void for the past six months in the market, I did overlook offering up pragmatic advice on who else to consider in the market. So to clear this up -- and to be more explicitly clear about my recommendations for SAP users today -- I'll offer up suggestions for companies to consider multiple options. Today, I'll focus on core procurement specifically. In future posts on the topic, I'll examine spend analysis/visibility, contract management and sourcing.

You probably already read much of my coverage on SAP SRM 7.0 -- the long-awaited replacement for SRM 5.0. But besides waiting for a referenceable platform to become available sometime in 2009 -- if all goes as planned -- what can companies do? One option is to work with an SAP BPO partner to move to a hosted SRM 5.0 version from and SAP today. This is perhaps the most conservative path companies can take (but not necessarily the least expensive or the best, depending on the situation). But if you want to stay on SAP in the near-term, this might be your best option. If so, Accenture, Infosys, IBM, Hubwoo, and Quadrem are all SAP partners to consider. For those on an earlier version fighting the usual adoption and supplier enablement challenges, it's also worth considering hosted procure-to-pay options as a stop-gap measure from a number of best of breed providers (and who knows, you might stick with these solutions longer than you think).

Ariba, Ketera, ePlus and Coupa are all worthy of consideration from a short-list perspective in the best of breed camp -- as are industry exchanges if they serve the market you're in (provided they have a ready-made solution already available). The reason I have not listed Oracle and Peoplesoft in the equation is because it's unlikely an SAP shop would ever consider alternatives from these providers -- even though they could most likely deliver in a pinch as well. Workday, another option, will probably lack at least some of the more operationally-driven capabilities in its current form compared with other alternative solutions I've listed (but they will be a vendor to watch in the near future).

How do these alternatives stack up? I'd argue that Ariba and Ketera probably have the two most mature products from a hosted perspective (Ketera gets the edge in experience here given their longer-term On Demand track record). Both should absolutely be on the shortlist of any company considering an alternative procure-to-pay platform. And since implementation/configuration times aren't what they used to be, it could make sense to move to either solution if a SAP upgrade is more than 18-24 months away. I've listed Coupa as well -- even though they are targeting a smaller a market -- because for some companies, the solution might be capable enough and available at a shockingly low price point. ePlus is the product I'm least familiar with from a hosted perspective, although it's another provider to consider given that they field a competitive solution that covers much of the procure-to-pay environment.

Disclosure: I do not directly hold stock in any of the companies listed in this post. Of the companies discussed, Ariba, Infosys, Ketera and SAP are current or past clients or current or past sponsors of this blog.

- Jason Busch

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