Supplier and Catalog Enablement: Preparing for Your Ariba Deployment 

Supplier and Catalog enablement are two of the most challenging aspects of deployment, yet they’re also the most misunderstood. That can cause major issues for supplier and catalog adoption. It can also cause unexpected headaches for your stakeholders who may not understand the involvement required from them. We see this problem so often that we have created this comprehensive guide to give a better understanding of the topic and to provide some insight and guidance for what to expect when you’re deploying – enablement edition. It’s long, but it reflects the level of complexity in these areas and why it’s important to get it right.

Preparation is the Key to Success in Supplier and Catalog Management 

Is your organization is embarking on an Ariba deployment? If so, it’s essential to understand what to expect during the supplier and catalog enablement phase.

As we wrote in our blog series on Ariba Pre-Deployment Readiness, your supplier strategy is a complex and critical part of your Ariba deployment.  Effectively onboarding and transacting with your suppliers is a core value of your SAP Ariba solution. Understanding the required preparation, commitment, and support is crucial to the success of your catalog and supplier enablement execution

Supplier and Catalog Enablement Overview

What is it? 

Supplier enablement is the process of electronically connecting with your suppliers over the SAP Business Network (formerly the Ariba Network). This is primarily done in order to transact electronically with your suppliers for their orders, invoices, and payments. However, catalogs are often a part of your overall SAP Ariba supplier strategy.  

Catalogs allow buyers at your company to access and purchase items from approved suppliers. It also provides a platform for suppliers to showcase their products to potential customers.  

What Does it Mean? 

Supplier enablement involves getting your suppliers to register and adopt SAP Ariba’s platform. This ensures they can receive purchase orders, process order confirmations, send Advanced Shipping Notifications (ASNs), and submit invoices electronically.  

Catalog enablement is about integrating supplier catalogs into Ariba, making their products available for easy purchasing through the system.  

The job of supplier and catalog enablement encompasses not just the onboarding and enabling of your suppliers on the SAP Business Network, but also the process of educating and supporting them to maximize adoption and foster improved relationships.  

Modules Involved

The supplier enablement process begins with supplier onboarding. This may happen in SAP Ariba Supplier Lifecycle and Performance Management (SLP). Or it could be an external process and then interfaced or uploaded in to SAP Ariba.

Then, you need to determine what suppliers are going to be targeted for enablement. Some suppliers may only need a Standard SAP Business Network account, while others may require full enablement. This should be part of your strategy during the planning phase of your supplier enablement project.

If you are enabling catalogs, determine which suppliers to target for PunchOut and Level I and II hosted catalogs. All of this will interface with a combination of SAP Buying and Invoicing and SAP Business Network. These modules work together to streamline your procurement processes and promote supplier collaboration.

Activities Included in Supplier and Catalog Enablement

Successful supplier and catalog enablement requires careful planning and execution. Here are the key steps involved in the implementation process:

Needs Assessment  

Begin by identifying the specific needs and goals of your organization. What are the pain points in your procurement process that you intend to address with your enablement process? This insures you create a clear implementation strategy. 

Data Integration 

It’s important to have a plan in place to integrate Ariba with your ERP and financial systems to ensure seamless data flow.  

This step is critical for automating transactions and minimizing manual data entry between systems. If you intend to integrate, you will first complete your overall systems integration. Then you can begin your supplier integration. Plan to target a few key suppliers for testing before go-live. Then create a plan to complete the integration over time with your targeted or in-scope suppliers.  

One thing to note is that your suppliers must be enabled before any integration work can begin. They don’t have to be “live”, but they must be enabled. 

Supplier Segmentation 

Categorize your suppliers based on factors such as volume, strategic importance, and transaction frequency. This segmentation will help prioritize supplier enablement efforts.  

Data cleansing can also be a key part of this effort. That ensures you work with active suppliers and don’t create or perpetuate any duplication in your vendor master. 

Flight Planning and Communication Plans  

Flight planning helps organize the onboarding of suppliers and catalog integration into manageable phases. This reduces disruptions and helps efficiently manage resources. Developing and executing communication plans is also critical to ensure that suppliers are informed and aware of the expectations and timelines as it relates to their resource involvement.  

The rule should always be to communicate early and often for the greatest adoption success.  This is where a partner with deep expertise in Change Management can be a valuable resource to create a comprehensive plan to drive supplier adoption efforts. 

Supplier Onboarding  

Develop a structured onboarding process to facilitate supplier registration and data submission, whether through SAP Ariba SLP or through registration on the SAP Business Network. Ensure that suppliers have been notified of the need to transact through the SAP Business Network and understand the benefits of Ariba Supplier Enablement. 

Catalog Integration 

Determine which suppliers you intend to enable catalogs for and create a specific plan for catalog enablement in conjunction with your supplier enablement effort. This may include both punchout and hosted catalogs.  

A dedicated integration and testing process is also necessary to ensure their products are accurately represented within the system, prices are correct, and the ordering process is seamless and integrated. 

Testing and Validation 

Testing of integration needs to happen all the way to the user level for integrated suppliers. Thorough testing ensures the system functions as intended and all scenarios are accounted for and tested for each supplier. Validate the accuracy of electronic transactions and data exchanged. 

Training and Support 

Provide training to both internal teams and suppliers on using SAP Ariba and the different solutions included in Ariba Supplier Management, Ariba Buying and Invoicing, and the SAP Business Network. Your SAP Ariba enablement team will help create your customized supplier facing training and will support initial supplier training.

Create and publish internal training guides and offer ongoing support to address any issues or questions that may arise.

Load all the training and guidance for your suppliers to the SAP Business Network’s Supplier Information Portal for easy access and to provide a point of contact for your suppliers who may have issues and need to reach out directly to your organization. 

Monitoring and Improvement 

Continuously monitor supplier performance and system effectiveness. Use the insights gained to make improvements and refine your supplier and catalog enablement strategy.

Typical Level of Effort and Staffing Requirements

The level of effort required for supplier and catalog enablement varies depending on the size and complexity of your organization and the number of suppliers and catalogs to be onboarded.

However, regardless of the size of your deployment, there is a heavy lift required by the enablement team on your organization’s side. You should expect, at a minimum, to dedicate one full-time person throughout the duration of the initial enablement effort. This person needs to act as a project lead and to be responsible for executing the enablement project. 

After you have completed your planned enablement waves, you need to continue to have a person dedicated to this effort for a few hours per week or month, depending on how many new suppliers you create each month.

If you are tackling supplier and catalog enablement at the same time, you will typically need both a catalog and a supplier enablement lead. Additionally, you will need to provide your own internal technical lead to help complete supplier integrations, working with both the Ariba and supplier technical teams.

We find that this is the main area where companies fall short during deployment planning. Since SAP offers support for the enablement efforts, organizations often believe that SAP will do the majority of the lifting and they can have one person help on a part-time basis in addition to their other job duties. That strategy will almost always fail.

You need to have a dedicated team for your enablement efforts to manage the items that SAP does not cover, such as detailed flight planning, ongoing supplier communications, customized testing plans, SLP onboarding efforts, and integration.

What Does SAP Ariba Support?

SAP Ariba provides some tools to support your engagement efforts, but an SAP Ariba Supplier Enablement engagement is not a full-service solution.

As SAP outlines in their supplier enablement workstream documentation, “The supplier enablement service for SAP Ariba solutions supports your program with a system of reporting that delivers the most relevant and recent information you need. As a buyer of SAP Ariba solutions, the supplier enablement service gives you an intuitive, at-a-glance overview of your enablement program.”

Ariba will help support your supplier enablement efforts, but their focus is on giving some input to initial analysis and flight planning efforts, and then supporting your enablement team with ongoing status monitoring. However, Ariba support can only go so far without a dedicated team on the client side.

Ariba’s Three Workstreams

Ariba breaks down the enablement support provided by their team into a series of workstreams. In each workstream, they provide a dashboard and status reporting to give you a view of where you are in the enablement process. There are three work streams, each of which produces a defined outcome for the buyer and the supplier:

  • The “onboarding” work stream. The outcome of this work stream is supplier registration, configuration, and education. Note: in the case of this workstream – onboarding/supplier registration does not mean registration through SLP, but rather registration on the SAP Business Network. This is often referred to as the ‘enablement’ work stream.
  • The “integration” work stream. The outcome of this work stream is the completion of a supplier’s integration into SAP Business Network, with documents flowing successfully through SAP Business Network to client via selected integration method (CIG, EDI, cXML).
  • The “catalog” work stream. The outcome of this work stream is the completed implementation of a supplier catalog.

The Ariba supplier enablement service team tracks the progress of each work stream with a clear set of statuses and corresponding actions to help buyers understand, track, and facilitate the enablement progress of their suppliers.

However, most of the action needs to be undertaken by your organization’s supplier enablement support team to move your suppliers through the variety of statuses to ultimate enablement.

Other Ariba-Provided Resources

Standardized Training Materials

Ariba offers comprehensive training materials for both buyers and suppliers, helping them understand the platform and its capabilities. This is not supplier or organization specific, so if you want to provide more detailed training, you can use Ariba’s information as a starting point to build your own documentation.

Customer Support

Ariba’s customer support team is available during deployment to address any technical or operational issues that may arise during the enablement process.

Best Practices

Ariba shares best practices and guidelines during deployment to ensure that the enablement process runs smoothly and efficiently.

When to Engage a Third Party Ariba Expert

The benefits of third-party support during your supplier and catalog enablement can be significant.

Firms that focus almost exclusively on SAP and Ariba have expertise in all facets of Ariba deployment and supplier and catalog enablement. They can assist with targeted supplier onboarding through your supplier management solutions (Ariba SLP or external systems), data cleansing, detailed flight, communication, and testing plans, supplier and catalog integration, and even ongoing supplier relationship management.

If you do not have the full-time resources to dedicate to the enablement project, you should plan to bring in dedicated internal or external enablement and integration resources to support for the duration of the engagement.

We recommend bringing on your partner support team as early in the process as possible, preferably at the beginning of your planning phases. That enables them to appropriately support and staff your engagement from the beginning. and help you to build a realistic plan that works with your organization’s maturity and goals.

Many organizations don’t realize they need help until they are already underway with enablement efforts. That can delay the project as the partner needs time for knowledge transfer and replanning activities before they can get your enablement efforts moving down the right path. You will save time and money by doing it right from the start and doing it early.

Supplier Catalog Enablement Efforts

SAP Ariba does not provide a dedicated support team to suppliers who are asked to enable catalogs into their customer’s sites. This service is only offered to organizations that have deployed Ariba Buying.

CCP Global has many clients that we provide end-to-end supplier-side support to. These support services include catalog enablement efforts, creating integration decision trees, developing customized enablement plans, testing plans, and ongoing outreach and support to the customer base.

If you are a supplier struggling to meet the demands of your customers’ catalog integration requests or have challenges in any other aspect of Ariba Network Enablement for suppliers, reach out to us for a customized support plan.

Why CCP Global?

Ariba is a powerful tool to streamline your procurement processes, enhance supplier collaboration, and drive efficiency and cost savings for your organization. Working with the right partner helps ensure the short- and long-term success of your Ariba solution.

Typical roles CCP Global can bring to your project include supplier enablement leads, catalog enablement leads, technical integration architects, training and change management functional leads, and even enablement program managers, depending on the scope and size of your enablement project.

With 25 years as a certfied SAP Ariba partner, CCP Global offers the additional planning, expertise, and support that Ariba expects the client to provide. Contact us for customized quote for your organization’s enablement programs.