E-Sourcing Apps Lead to Time Well-Spent

Verticalnet, PeopleSoft, Ariba software helps companies rein in spending.

With purchasing managers facing the prospect of a second year of tighter corporate budgets, developers Verticalnet Inc., PeopleSoft Inc. and Ariba Inc. are each readying software that they said will enable their customers to better manage spending.

The goal is to enable companies to more closely tie the process of finding sources of raw goods, negotiating the price for those products and closing the loop with electronic settlement.

Verticalnet at the end of this month will release an enhanced Spend Management module as well as the next version of its Metaprise collaborative planning and order management suite.

Spend Management 1.2 introduces a supplier score card and enhanced reporting and analytics, which will let suppliers through a Web browser see how they are serving buyer and performance metrics, such as actual costs vs. standard spend. New functionality in Metaprise 3.3, which comes from the companys acquisition of Atlas Commerce Inc. in December, facilitates the process of improving requisitions and managing purchase orders. Enhanced logistics functionality integrates shipping updates with third-party logistics providers.

To help develop its collaborative supply chain software business, Verticalnet, of Malvern, Pa., last month named a new CEO, Kevin McKay.

An Atlas customer since early 2000, Mark Shaver is counting on Verticalnet to complete several initiatives as it makes this transition. "Im looking to see that we finish what we started with source-to-settlement," said Shaver, manager of sales, products and services at Joy Technologies Inc., in Warrendale, Pa. "Well begin electronic invoicing with two customers. At the same time, we have finished up our ability to send purchase orders outbound to our suppliers."

Shaver also expects Verticalnet to provide the next steps for electronic funds transfer. "Strategic sourcing is very, very important to us," he said. "We built links between our Atlas system and an SAP ERP [enterprise resource planning] system; we will be driving Verticalnet to leverage this and drive this."

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

The company will unveil 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.

Separately, Ariba, of Sunnyvale, Calif., last week officially unveiled its Spend Management Suite, which has been in beta testing since fall. The suite consists of new and enhanced software modules for analysis, sourcing and procurement to help companies manage their spending before, during and after the procurement process—stages that Ariba refers 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 ERP 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 categories by focusing on the administration of contracts—those being used successfully and those requiring renegotiation. Integrated with Ariba Buyer and Enterprise Sourcing, the module helps companies track and manage contract life cycles. Ariba Invoice, the third new module, automates every stage in the invoicing process to help companies reduce reconciliation cycle times and lets suppliers upload invoices into Ariba Supplier Network and transmit them back to buyers.

As for enhancements, Ariba Buyer 7.1 has new integration with the Contracts module. Version 4.0 of Ariba Workforce features an expanded capability to capture and manage a broader spectrum of work force procurement, officials said.