20 Questions To Ask Before Writing an EDI, Supplier Network, or E-Invoicing RFP

We’re excited to announce the availability of a new Spend Matters research brief: 20 Questions to Ask Before Writing an EDI, Supplier Network, or e-Invoicing RFP. This brief contains excerpts from the first installation of OB10/Tungsten, Ariba/SAP, and GXS: 20 Questions On Supplier Network Selection, originally published on Spend Matters PRO for our subscription members. Nipendo, a technology provider, is underwriting temporary public access to this research through the remainder of 2013.

We frame the 20 questions by noting the complexity of the overall EDI, supplier network, and P2P landscape:

The space that exists between companies and trading partners is about to get much more attention than it ever has. But the competitive environment is complicated – made even more so by Tungsten announcement and combination. Tungsten and its backers are making the general argument that by combining OB10 with a bank and real-time analytics capability, the physical and financial supply chains will be more closely linked than they are today, conferring significant advantage – and that by combining these two distinct areas into one, significant new areas of value will be created for both buyers and suppliers.

This makes sense on the surface. But so do other arguments that competitors make, often with a slightly (or very) different twist on the role of the network or connectivity intermediary. For example, Ariba/SAP are beginning to argue the core value of a network sits with delivering enhanced connectivity and linkages with suppliers that sits on top of buyer-centric applications (ERP/ECC, eProcurement, e-invoicing, etc.) for all spend types beyond just indirect and catalog-based connectivity.

This new – and from what we are hearing, aggressive – move by Ariba/SAP into direct spend now pits it squarely against direct connectivity specialists such as GXS, with whom the ERP providers have worked on a complementary and partnering basis with in the past. No more. The separate worlds of business applications and connectivity for manufacturing environments is now about to crash together – and the supplier network market will never be the same again.

The Spend Matters team authored this research brief in response to the significant confusion we hear almost daily from our subscribers and clients on what they should expect when working with supplier network providers and how different networks compare. One of the challenges we see is that certain providers make claims that sound like they are the two-ton global in the space (and the de facto standard)— when in fact there is not a single network which has achieved critical global mass as an enabler for eProcurement and e-invoicing (direct materials is another matter) with differentiated capability.

Indeed, it is much easier to be a consumer of SaaS/cloud applications than of supplier enablement, connectivity, and e-invoicing tools that sit between organizations.  But perhaps the even greater challenge is that many customers have a difficult time differentiating between what functionality and capability (e.g., matching, pre-validation, workflow, search, analytics, etc.) occur in an application, as opposed to the network. This confusion is well founded, as different networks (and application providers) have different capabilities and approaches, and in certain cases, network capability is inseparable from the application itself.

If there’s good news within this complexity, it’s that procurement, supply chain, manufacturing, A/P, and technology buyers of connectivity solutions no longer need to be in the dark about their options before writing an RFP that is ideally suited to their requirements. Until the end of 2013, Spend Matters readers can download 20 Questions to Ask Before Writing an EDI, Supplier Network, or e-Invoicing RFP free of charge. This extract from Spend Matters’ subscription research on the topic contains detailed excerpts from our subscriber-only content. Nipendo, a next generation upstart in the area, has underwritten temporary public access to this research. Don’t delay. Download your copy!

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