Software Aids In Spend Control

With companies facing the prospect of a second year of dwindling IT budgets, Ariba, Verticalnet and PeopleSoft are rolling out software to help their customers better manage spending.

With companies facing the prospect of a second year of dwindling IT budgets, software vendors Ariba Inc., Verticalnet Software LLC and PeopleSoft Inc. are rolling out software that they say will enable their customers to better manage spending.

Ariba, of Sunnyvale, Calif., will host an event in Italy next week to unveil the latest iteration of its Spend Management Suite, which has been in beta testing since fall.

The upgraded suite has new and enhanced modules for analysis, sourcing and procurement to help companies manage their spend before, during and after the procurement process – stages that Ariba officials refer to as find it, get it and keep it.

In the find it category, the new Ariba Analysis module gathers procurement information, which typically resides in the Ariba Buyer platform, accounts payable and enterprise resource planning systems. It then generates reports to help companies find potential savings.

The second new module, called Ariba Contracts, falls into the get it and keep it category by focusing on the administration of contracts – which ones are being used and which ones require renegotiation. Integrated with Ariba Buyer and Enterprise Sourcing, the module helps companies track and mange contract lifecycles, from accruing balances to monitoring supplier and user compliance of negotiated contracts.

Ariba Invoice, the third new module, automates every stage in the invoicing process to help companies reduce reconciliation cycle times. Invoice also lets suppliers upload invoices into the Ariba Supplier Network and transmit them back to buyers. For suppliers that amounts to a single point for managing invoices. Buyers who are using Version 7.0 or later of Buyer are able to receive electronic purchase orders directly into their procurement application, according to Ariba officials.

As for enhancements, Ariba Buyer has been upgraded to Version 7.1, which enables integration with the Contracts module. Ariba Workforce has been upgraded to Version 4.0, which expands the softwares ability to capture and manage a broader spectrum of work force procurement.

Separately, Verticalnet on March 31 will release an enhanced spend management module as well as the next version of its collaborative planning and order management suite.

Spend Management 1.2 incorporates new technology from Verticalnet, while NetAprise 3.3 provides collaborative planning and order management functionality that comes from the companys acquisition of Atlas Commerce Inc. in January. Atlas provides private exchange technology and sourcing applications.

Verticalnet is in what Chairman and founder CEO Mike Hagan calls the final stages of its redirection from an e-marketplace provider to a collaborative supply chain software maker.

As a result the company will sell off its 59 e-marketplaces and concentrate solely on integrating technology from Atlas into its current software offering. A fully integrated suite will be available at the end of March, according to officials.

To help sharpen its focus, Verticalnet, of Malvern, Pa., earlier this week named a new CEO, former SAP America chief executive Kevin McKay, who took over for Hagan.

Mark Shaver, manager of sales, products and services at Joy Mining Machinery, is encouraged by the naming of a new CEO and by Verticalnets focus on spend management and collaboration.

"They took an honest look and said we need a person for this direct need in the company," said Shaver, in Warrendale, Pa. "They needed coaching, tenacity and enthusiasm to take them to the next level. That encouraged me more than anything."

An Atlas customer since early 2000, Shaver is looking for Verticalnet to complete several initiatives as they grow.

"Im looking to see that we finish what we started with source-to-settlement, even though were going to begin those activities in March – well begin electronic invoicing with two customers and the same time we finish up our ability to send purchase orders outbound to our suppliers," said Shaver, who is also manager of Joys private exchange, eMinePortal.

Shaver is also expecting Verticalnet to provide the next steps for electronic funds transfer.

"Strategic sourcing is very, very important to us," said Shaver. "The links we built between our Atlas system and SAP ERP system; we will be driving Verticalnet to leverage this and drive this."

Meanwhile, PeopleSoft, of Pleasanton, Calif., plans to announce in March the general availability of its strategic sourcing suite.

PeopleSoft will debut PeopleSoft Strategic Sourcing as a collaborative solution that will help companies manage the complex bidding and negotiation process in the procurement of direct goods, services and large capital expenditures, according to officials.