An OB10 Update: More than Just an E-Invoicing Network (Part 3 — OB10’s New Portal)

Please click here for the first and second posts in this series.

OB10 shared that one of the central tenants of the new portal framework is to create value for multiple stakeholders that may interact on the buy-side beyond just AP-focused team members (including those not engaged in e-invoicing activity). While it does not yet feature full-fledged supplier enablement and management capability from a supplier information management (SIM) perspective beyond the types of information that AP is interested in like an Aravo, Hiperos, HICX, Rollstream/GXS, CVM Solutions, etc. it does include some of the basics (even if it does not have, for example, flexible cascading workflows on the supplier side).

Where the new portal shines is in the basics -- enabling suppliers to access information that would preclude their having to make a phone call to an AP organization.. In one case, using OB10's previous portal release, GSK was able to reduce its AP call center volume by 60%. When suppliers login, they are greeted with a screen that provides a snapshot of current activity in a widget-based framework environment that allows rapid customization. For OB10, a widget is very similar to a widget that one would use on WordPress as a plug-in (albeit with P2P in mind) to customize a given area of a screen. For example, one widget could be a report to show POs that have been received. Another show invoices in error or a complete listing of recent invoices. The key here is flexibility, and the ability to move around and configure a screen based on what a particular supplier wants to see. The concept is not remarkable in the least, but the execution is straightforward and simple in this case.

Front and center for most suppliers seeking to check in via the portal is invoice status, which they previously may have had to call or email their AP contact to find out more about. With the new portal, suppliers can quickly drill down to see invoice information and status including invoices that have been delivered, delivered and confirmed as received, those flagged for an exception, those accepted and paid -- over whatever period of time a supplier opts to select (e.g., past 60 days). OB10 provides a single portal for suppliers even if multiple buyers are on the system (similar to Ariba).

Invoice Status Page

The ability to query an invoice by number or buyer is a snap. Suppliers can see, with one click into a view into recent activity, invoice amounts, submission dates, the most recent activity updates, status (as above). Accessing detailed line-level detail is a single further click away. The entire concept in this regard is to "minimize support tickets," according to OB10. The portal also makes it easier to carry out other activities including invoice creation and PO flips -- all with an eye to enabling fewer clicks, questions, errors/exceptions and steps in the process (whatever the process may be, including additional capabilities coming down the pike).

OB10's portal environment for suppliers is particularly adept at supporting line level detail including the ability to pre-populate fields and leverage information from product catalogs. Support for different units of measure (UOM) is a component of this capability. In fact, with the new portal release, OB10 allows for over 600 different units of measure, including a number of industry-specific measures (pharmaceutical, oil and gas, etc.) Contrast this with the original product launch of OB10 nearly a decade ago when the product supported only 50 units of measure. Today, OB10 is among the leaders in supporting a wide range of units of measure.

As one would expect, with the majority of its invoice volume in the UK and Europe, VAT compliance and choice is also another embedded component. In this regard, when creating an invoice, a supplier is able to select from company specific tax options. OB10 shared the examples of Spain having 20 tax options (because of the Canary Islands) and Italy having 60 (because of various 0-rated options). Other examples based on tax jurisdiction may include 20%, 8% zero-rated good, sales to EC customers, import/export to non-EC customers, Jersey at various rates, Guernsey rates, outside VAT). Whether it is VAT related or another area, help and support are embedded in the application in the same environment -- a switch from the previous portal.

There are still some holes in OB10's functional network, chief among them historically being the type of broad-based financing options available to suppliers via Ariba's portal environment (although OB10's recently introduced Express Payments offering could quickly change this). We expect OB10 to focus on this shortcoming sooner rather than later by significant investments around Express Payments. Yet overall, the portal vision and execution, especially for a provider focused first on open network connectivity and signing up suppliers effectively (more on this in our concluding analysis), is commendable.

Express Payments

We'll conclude our analysis of OB10 on Spend Matters PRO in the coming week including our final prospect/customer analysis as well as a relatively high-level comparative analysis looking at Ariba and TradeShift (as well as SAP partners Hubwoo and IBX/Capgemini). Subscribe to Spend Matters PRO to avoid missing out on Spend Matters analysis and research.

See other related PRO research:

SAP and Ariba Procurement Customers: Hints at a Directional Solution Focus and Recommendations to Take Advantage of Acquisition and Post-Merger Uncertainty

Ariba and SAP...Exploring the Network Elephant in the Cloudy Room

SAP and Ariba: Customer and Prospect Implications – E-Invoicing (Part 1)

SAP and Ariba: Customer and Prospect Implications – E-Invoicing (Part 2)

Taulia: Prospect/Customer Recommendations and Summary Analysis

- Jason Busch

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