Ariba Supplier Network Alternatives: OB10 (Solution Approach and Integration — Part 2)

For the first installment of this series, which provides a general overview examining OB10, please click here.

In addition to providing document/invoice exchange and related capabilities, OB10 also provides, in their words, "a comprehensive set of supplier management services" which includes "supplier enrollment" as a core component. In addition, OB10 also offers supplier data cleansing services, returning vetted and validated data to accounts payable. From a connectivity and data exchange perspective, OB10 is format independent. In their words, "Trading partners exchange data with OB10 via flat files that are formatted to the client's specification. Suppliers upload invoices using the native export format of their billing system. A/P clients download invoices using the native import formats of their ERP and/or workflow system. The OB10 Any-to-Any Data Formatting(sm) capability is utilized in the exchange of all transactional information including purchase orders, purchase order acknowledgments, invoices, invoice status and remittance advices."

This approach enables OB10 to integrate with any combination of eProcurement and P2P systems that support, in their words, a defined "layout and format for importing or exporting data." This includes Ariba systems, and as noted in the previous post, "OB10 and Ariba share several common clients who use Ariba Buyer or Ariba P2P in concert with the OB10 e-Invoicing network." It is a misconception among some Ariba users that they cannot use OB10 along with their Ariba systems, as no technical barrier prevents "the exchange of data between the Ariba Buyer or Ariba P2P system and the OB10 e-Invoicing network."

Because OB10 is an on-demand service and not enterprise software that processes transactions, it can work in tandem with other back-end capabilities. For example, OB10 is capable of delivering purchase orders generated by Ariba to suppliers or can upload the purchase orders to enable PO Flip and PO validation. In addition, OB10 can deliver files of purchase order acknowledgments to Ariba. The same is also true of SAP or Oracle environments (and other SRM/P2P systems). In addition, "OB10 can receive invoice status information and remittance advices from the client's P2P environment."

When it comes to enabling visibility and self-service (e.g., checking on the status of an invoice), OB10 users can upload their internal invoice processing and payment status to the OB10 network, which becomes available to suppliers via self-service portal. From a validation and matching perspective, OB10 recommends that users perform invoice validation prior to accepting a supplier's invoice for delivery to their customer. Specifically, "A/P clients define specific business rules, on a field-by-field basis, and can upload tables of data that OB10 uses to ensure that the supplier's data is accurate." As part of this process, "OB10 does not impose a limited set of pre-defined validations on A/P clients" because "this approach rarely, if ever, successfully addresses the client's validation requirements."

In addition, OB10 can perform a two way matching between an invoice and an underlying purchase order at either the header level or at the line level. Users can establish tolerances for each type of validation performed. OB10 can also, as they put it, "normalize common data elements of a supplier's invoice to conform to the A/P client's internal conventions [e.g.,] units of measure and tax codes," resulting in the elimination of manual processes and intervention.

In terms of discounting, OB10 provides both ad-hoc supplier-initiated discounting capability (which puts buyers in control over accepting -- or not -- the offer) and the capability for buying organizations to have their own discount terms reflected in supplier-submitted invoices. In addition, for OB10 customers using SAP, there is an additional "dynamic discounting module that enables AP to offer the supplier a discount for early payment." In turn, "Suppliers are notified via their OB10 Portal account of the offer ... [and] can review the proposed discount based on the payment time frame (e.g. 10 days early, 11 days early, etc.) and can either accept or ignore an offer."

Stay tuned for the final post in this series, where we'll offer summary commentary and analysis on OB10's capability as an alternative to the Ariba supplier network.

Jason Busch

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