An interview with Drew Hofler, Ariba
Towards the tail end of summer, Ariba announced a new release with expanded capabilities that the company suggested will set a new standard for the way invoicing is done. The Ariba Network is the world’s largest business-to-business trading platform and is used by nearly 2 million enabled buyers and sellers to exchange over 70 million invoices per year. With the new features embedded in the network, the aim is for these companies to drive an end-to-end invoicing process that is more global, intelligent and simple than ever. So APN caught up with Drew Hofler, Ariba's Senior Marketing Director to find out a bit more about it.
APN: So, Drew -the press release mentions a new standard for invoicing” what does that new standard look like?
DH: The new standard is a recognition that invoicing for global businesses is too complex to simply have a portal for the generic submission of invoices and status updates back to suppliers. That is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is far from the full story of what is needed. Invoicing for global companies is deeply complex, with different supplier jurisdictions having different invoice tax and compliance rules, for example. Add to that the complexities of certiain industries that need to manage not only single line item invoices, but large, complex invoices that may not be based directly off a PO, but rather need to be compliant to a contract or blanket PO, or whose contents are not determined until a service provider gets to the field and determines exactly what needs to be done to fullfill that service.
In cases like this, there needs to be deep connections and communication between the buyer and supplier and to their source documents and contracts. Bottom line, invoicing for global companies can be deeply complex, and the new standard of invoicing recongnises that and builds solutions to manage these complexities in as simple a way as possible. That is, building into the solutions the abilities, sturctures and features needed to manage in this complex an environment.
APN: What would you say the main benefits are of being a network based solution?
DH: The key benefits of network based solutions revolve around community and connections. The network provides a community of close to two million companies transacting business worldwide, so when you are a buyer looking to do business with your supplier (or the other way around), this community makes it very easy to find your partner. In fact, chances are your business partner is already doing business with others on the network, so connecting with them to transact becomes a much simpler process.
As to the connection side, a network - by nature a network like Ariba views the invoice process not as a standalone, but as one more link in a connected and choreographed P2P process. What I mean is that a network allows businesses to use a single platform to seamlessly connect their entire process…invoices to POs or invoices to contracts, for example, to ensure that what is being paid is compliant to negotiated terms and that it is as efficient as possible. By invoicing via a network, exceptions become the exception because they can automatically be flagged and approved because they are connectd to the source doucments and rules. That is smart invoicing.
APN: I see that one of the new features makes it easier to manage large volumes of line items – what kind of organisations would typically benefit from the new enhancements?
DH: The particular enhancement here is geared towards services providers where an invoice is created from blanket POs and service sheets. The reality is that these companies provide services in the field and have to detail out very speicifcally what they need to do, which is often determined after they get there and do it. So it is very itemised and often requires very many line items as you might imagine. So this is designed to simplify that very complex and necessary business process.
APN: The word “global” is mentioned a lot when people talk about Ariba – how important is it for you to be global? And would you say that you now are?
DH: Very important..and it has been for quite some time. We have long had VAT compliance in our einvoicing in dozens of countries throughout Europe and a customer base that spans every continent (save maybe Antartica)! Given our customer base as Ariba and now even more as SAP, we know that our customers are large multinational, global companies with supply chains that span the globe as well. So this is firmly in our view.
What I think you see in our latest release is more evidence of that and of the fact that “global” does not just mean European - this realease focused on key Latin American jurisdictions because our customers are there too, and that is where much has been happening regarding invoice regulations and so we want to ensure our customers are kept in compliance automatically without them having to worry about it.