Supplier Adoption and Enablement: Best Practices

One of the most useful aspects of Ariba procurement solutions is the insight it gives companies in the procurement process and their spending. However, full transparency relies on getting your suppliers enabled on the Ariba Network and that is one of the biggest challenges we find that companies face when trying to fully implement their Ariba solutions.

What is the SAP Business Network?

Editor's note: Since this post was written, SAP changed the name of the Ariba Network to the SAP Business Network. You can read more about SAP Ariba's several name changes here. 

The Ariba Network is a digital marketplace where buyers and suppliers connect, collaborate, and transact business.

Two types of accounts are available.

Standard Account 

Free to all parties. According to SAP Ariba, it “allows suppliers to transact an unlimited number of documents such as orders; full and partial order confirmation; ship notices; and service entry sheets.”

However, there are limits on how much collaboration is allowed. It also doesn’t allow companies to use their SAP Ariba solution to its full capabilities, so some processes will not be automated.

You can read more about the SAP Business Network Standard Account, including its capabilities and limitations, on SAP’s website.

Enterprise Account 

Offers all the benefits of a standard account, along with additional functionality such as catalogs, a centralized supplier dashboard, unlimited documents, and priority support from Ariba, among other things.

Companies also can set rules for suppliers and upload training materials to help suppliers onboard. The benefits of this type of account are that most transactions are fully automated, and there’s full transparency in the supply chain. This helps companies track spending, save money and find new procurement sources.

You can read more about the capabilites of an Enterprise account, including a cost calculator, here.

Which Account Should I Choose?

There is a cost to the supplier for registering as an enterprise account. That’s where companies sometimes run into pushback from the supplier. It’s inevitable that some suppliers don’t want to start paying to send an invoice if they can do so for free via email – especially if they’ve always done it that way.

Working with your supplier to strategize your partnership with a focus on reporting and transparency can go a long way to enabling them. That’s particularly true if they know more spend will come their way if they’re one of your preferred suppliers on the Network.

And once they have an account, they can find other customers and transact business with them as well. If you’re a supplier, you’ll want to read our article about customer management on the Ariba Network.

Best Practices for Suppler Adoption and Enablement

As we’ve discussed extensively in our series on Post-Deployment Success, it’s important to have the right team on board to successfully convince suppliers of the benefits of becoming an enterprise partner on the Ariba Network.

That’s where Ariba Managed Support (AMS) can help. A professional consulting partner has the experience and tools to convince suppliers of the benefits of joining. Here are some of the steps the expert consultants at CCP Global use for successful supplier enablement:

1. Strategize with the client.

Our first step is to sit down with the company and determine exactly which suppliers they want or need to enable. If you have 600 suppliers, do you want all of them enabled? That may not be feasible, but there are ways to narrow that down to just the suppliers that are crucial to your operations.

2. Create a wave plan.

This is a technique used to group vendors to prioritize adoption based upon specific criteria. For example, some of your suppliers may already be on the Ariba Network. If so, all you need is to create a relationship with them on the Network.

That’s an easy first wave of enablement. Included in that important first wave could be those suppliers that you do the most business with and thereforevhave the greatest potential for coming on board because they’ll want to keep that lucrative relationship going. Subsequent waves could include suppliers that aren’t as crucial or that you do business with less frequently.

3. Organize a communications campaign.

It’s important to prepare suppliers for the changes that are coming to your relationship. This is change management at its most basic. Because it’s such an important part of the process, we’ve written an entire series on the importance of an integrative Change Management strategy.

Presenting change in a positive light often overcomes supplier resistance to joining the network. And this isn’t just a one-time thing, supplier enablement is an ongoing process. Our clients frequently call us back to help them with continued outreach to both established and new suppliers because it’s a lot of work.

4. Collaborate to overcome objections.

Again, change is hard. And from the supplier’s perspective, there may be a lot of fear of how much this technological change will affect their business.

They may not have the right people in place themselves to ensure that the technical aspects of being on the network are doable for them. They may have other customers on other procurement platforms that also want them to change (and to pay for) how they are doing business.

A professional consulting partner is experienced in helping the supplier figure out how to make it work for them and overcome those doubts.

5. Help configure the supplier in the network.

Once the supplier has agreed to join the Ariba Network, they need to be enabled. The trend is toward just inviting the supplier and expecting them t figure it out. The problem there is that the supplier, especially if they are a small- to mid-sized concern, may not have the technical knowledge to know what needs to be done, which makes them even more reluctant to change. (CCP Global has a thriving client set of bewildered suppliers that found us via this article.)

Offering that service, at least initially, to the supplier to help them become enabled on the network indicates to the supplier that they are valued, which makes them more amenable to change.

If you’re a larger company that is constantly adding suppliers, having an experienced partner to do those configurations to make sure everything is working as it should is a win/win for both parties. 

Supplier enablement and adoption is a complex, continuous process that requires a lot of work. However, for the full functionality of your Ariba solution, it’s worth investing the time and money to get all your suppliers on board. These strengthened relationships potentially increase spend to yield better cost savings opportunities. They also add transparency to your transactions.

Want to learn more?

This is the third article in our AMS series, we invite you to read part one, Maximizing Your SAP Ariba Investment, and part two, Choosing the Right AMS Partner. If you’re a supplier that has been asked to start engaging with your customer on the Ariba Network, check out our post on How to Become an Ariba Network Supplier.

Need help with supplier management?

We’re the experts on that.

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