Ariba is SAP's business-to-business (B2B) sourcing and procurement software and buying network. Each day, the cloud-based platform handles billions of dollars' worth of transactions as enterprises stock up on supplies, buy new equipment, or seek suppliers for new projects.
Eric Self, global vice president of seller account management at SAP Ariba, readily admits that Ariba is squarely aimed at large enterprises. Just some of the industry giants that use the platform include Bank of America, Exxon Mobil, and UPS. Even SAP uses its own Ariba platform. "We help large enterprise buyers buy more efficiently, source more efficiently," he told Small Business Computing.
In addition to helping enterprises find new sources of goods and services that they need to run and grow their own businesses, the Ariba Network speeds transactions with electronic purchase orders, invoices, and payment processing. "At the end of the day, companies and vendors want to get paid."
So, what does it all mean for the small business seller?
Stepping Stone to B2B Selling
Chances are that no matter what audience you cater to, a large enterprise is looking for what your company or startup has to offer, says Self.
Ariba's open network allows a small business owner to register as a supplier and to establish a profile page at no charge. This simple act can open the door to a major B2B marketplace and potentially lucrative new opportunities from large organizations looking for specialized goods and services.
At present, you'll find more than 2 million trading partners on Ariba. Each day these organizations exchange more than 224,000 invoices and 71,000 purchase orders. They also use the platform's collaboration features to negotiate early-payment discounts on $30 million worth of invoices.
All told, people transact $2.5 billion worth of business on the platform every day. Ariba customers end up saving an estimated $82 million in supply costs daily.
For small business owners interested in expanding or securing desirable clients, Ariba is the answer to some of their more pressing concerns, according to Self. "How do I find more leads? How do I get a piece of that action?"
By establishing an SAP Ariba profile, small businesses can "be found by large enterprise buyers," said Self. "They get an at-bat with one of these large customers." Small business can also benefit from what Self called Ariba's "network effect."
When you create a business profile "all the other buyers on the network can access you as a supplier on the network," thus expanding the pool of potential customers, said Self.
And while the mere mention of SAP conjures thoughts of big, expensive enterprise applications, the software giant is committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed, said Self. "SAP Ariba has solutions for small business," he said. "There's no harm being in the game."
Acquire More Customers Through Ariba Spot Buy
Ariba also helps small businesses land big customers with its new Spot Buy service. According to Self, the Spot Buy marketplace acts as a sorely needed "Internet filter for large enterprise customers."
In large organizations with tens of thousands of employees, expensed purchases can not only spiral out of control, they can also run afoul of a company's procurement guidelines. "The procurement group is not involved in expenses at all," said Self, adding that "finance and procurement teams lose visibility."
To resolve this, SAP created Ariba Spot Buy, which lets small sellers and suppliers offer their products directly to enterprise customers via company-approved catalogs and eBay stores. Enterprise procurement organizations establish control over their employees' spending, while small businesses get a relatively low-maintenance way to sell to larger companies.
One early supplier—Ergo Works, a small, woman-owned company founded in 1995—specializes in ergonomic furniture, computer peripherals, and accessories.
"It gives us another window into these large corporations to offer our products," said Anne Kramer, president and CEO of Ergo Works. "Once we upload our products, it's sort of residual business, if you will. We don't have to market."
Kramer and her team also spend less time waiting for invoices to get paid. "All orders are paid with a credit card; we get paid immediately," she added.
Ariba Spot Buy is currently available as part of an invitation-only pilot program. SAP plans to roll out the new procurement option soon, said Self.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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