How Does Ariba Supplier Information Management Stack Up (Part 1)?

At LIVE in San Francisco last week, Ariba announced a new supplier information management (SIM) platform that competes against the likes of Aravo and others. In the above-linked post, I covered some of the basic elements of the solution noting, among other capabilities, that it provides "exception-based management when querying suppliers, supplier self-service, allows suppliers to divide surveys and tasks internally between parties, supplier profile management (e.g., information, certifications, financial/banking details, etc.), reporting, vendor master integration (push/pull), etc." I had the chance to spend sometime walking through a webex demo of the solution a few days ago, and in this two-part series, I'll share what I learned, saw and how I think it stacks up in the market.

Starting first with my initial impressions of the solution, it would appear that much of what Ariba claims it can do is real. It does not appear to be an existing Ariba tool that's been respun as a SIM solution -- it's a stand alone solution unto itself, however it will be most effective when integrated with Ariba supplier performance management and spend visibility as well. Companies looking for just a SIM toolset who are not already Ariba shops (or considering deploying other Ariba solutions as part of a SIM deployment) would be well advised to consider other best-of-breed solutions in addition to this Spend Management suite extension.

Still, the solution fulfills many of the basic elements of a SIM platform as Aravo and others have defined the market. For example, Ariba SIM provides significant integration with backend systems, providing a single source of input, or "supplier truth" if you will, that allows users to push/pull information between environments. It also offers all of the basic capabilities needed to manage supplier profiles, registration details, background information (certifications, banking details, quality certificates), etc. Users can also search their supplier database in a highly granular manner (e.g., not just by supplier name, but for specific contracts). In addition, Ariba SIM also enables companies to manage suppliers and supplier information by exception, using a centralized customizable and drillable roll-based dashboard that highlights the detail that individual users want and need to see.

But the real power of Ariba SIM is not in the individual components (I suspect a good share of prospects would be more impressed in these areas by competing products). No, the real power is in how Ariba integrates disparate types of information together in a single interface and toolset, providing a true real-time "360 degree view" into all types of supplier and related category and supply markets information -- spend analysis details, commodity markets analyses, supplier performance, risk management, contract management, sourcing performance, etc. No other solution in the market I've seen has anything quite like this. Now, all of this assumes that you're using Ariba for these other areas. But for those that do, it's a powerful level of visibility that is a potential game changer. At the very least, it will force others to respond with similar offerings if they want to offer the same level of visibility across a complete spend or supply management toolset.

In Part 2 of this post next week, I'll provide a few more details about the solution. I will also offer some thoughts on how it compares in the market to other SIM providers and under which circumstances companies should prioritize which elements and features (which will dictate which providers they should shortlist for their SIM needs). Stay tuned!

Jason Busch

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