SAP Ariba Sourcing: How It Compares Today and What’s Coming Tomorrow (Part 1: Benchmark Performance, Product Roadmap)


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The strategic sourcing or e-sourcing technology market — we simply call it “Sourcing” in SolutionMap — has undergone significant transformation and bifurcation in recent years. On the one hand, disruption has come from simplicity and ease of use (e.g., Bonfire, Keelvar, Market Dojo, Scout RFP, etc.). And on the other hand, it has come from significant advances in functional capabilities in various areas (e.g., Coupa, GEP, Ivalua, Jaggaer, SynerTrade and Wax Digital, among others).

SAP Ariba, one of the stalwarts of the Sourcing world for over two decades (if you count the acquisition of FreeMarkets), remains a frequent competitor on a global basis today. But how does SAP Ariba compare to others in the market on a functional basis based on its current offering? And what is coming for SAP Ariba Sourcing tomorrow?

Part 1 of this Spend Matters PRO analysis provides insight into SAP’s relative strengths and weaknesses today (based on our Q1 2019 SolutionMap release) and shares what we learned from the SAP Ariba Live event this month on an overall roadmap basis. Part 2 will provide additional insight into the new SAP Ariba Sourcing user experience as well as analysis, commentary and customer recommendations based on SAP Ariba’s Sourcing roadmap overall.

SAP Ariba Sourcing SolutionMap Performance: Q1 2019

On the whole, SAP Ariba’s current Sourcing capabilities are above the Sourcing functional benchmark based on the latest SolutionMap release. But on a field basis (based on benchmarking the solution against 150 individual functional requirements against more than a dozen companies*), SAP Ariba’s capabilities performance shows material variability. This is, of course, expected among most solutions we analyze.

On an aggregate basis (averaging the scoring for each sub-section), here’s how SAP Ariba Sourcing performed in the latest SolutionMap:

  • Opportunity Analysis: Middle Tier
  • Project Management: Bottom Tier
  • Supplier Portal: Top Tier
  • Spend Analysis Lite: Middle Tier
  • RFX Creation, Configuration and Management: Bottom Tier
  • Auction Creation, Configuration and Management: Top Tier
  • Contract Management Lite: Middle Tier
  • Optimization: Middle Tier
  • Performance Management: Top Tier
  • Risk Management Lite: Top Tier
  • Corrective Management Lite: Middle Tier
  • Technology: Top Tier
  • Configurability: Middle Tier
  • Services: Top Tier

On an overall basis, for all SolutionMap personas except Nimble and Optimizer (which includes a highly specific field of specialized providers), SAP Ariba scores materially above the benchmark average on a functional basis. This includes besting the competitive average for the Deep, Configurator, Turn-Key and CIO-Friendly personas.

In summary, SAP Ariba sourcing provides often robust capability that will be of the highest value to customers using SAP Ariba on a broader source-to-pay basis. From a usability perspective, SAP Ariba is aware of the solution’s current deficiencies compared with more recently introduced products, and has extensive plans to remake — not just “re-skin” — the application from the inside out based on an entirely new user experience with major innovations starting in 2020 in this regard.

For additional insight and tiered rankings, including SAP Ariba customer satisfaction (e.g., recommend this provider, ROI, TCO, innovation, etc.) for Sourcing, see the latest Sourcing SolutionMap Insider report. Procurement organizations and consultants can also access affordable one-to-one market intelligence for all scored fields in SolutionMap based on creating a one-to-one map between sourcing business requirements and SolutionMap functional performance. Reference: SolutionMap Accelerator.

* The companies compared in SolutionMap’s Q1 2019 Sourcing category are Allocation, Bonfire, Coupa, Determine, EC Sourcing, GEP, Ivalua, Jaggaer Advantage, Jaggaer Direct, Jaggaer Indirect, Keelvar, Market Dojo, SAP Ariba, Scanmarket, Scout RFP, SynerTrade, Wax Digital and Zycus.

SAP Ariba Sourcing Roadmap

SAP Ariba’s top priorities in its Sourcing roadmap center on:

  • A dramatic “rethink” of the user experience — masking complexity and providing a walk-up, consumer-like UI. (Note: Our early views of the planned UI would take it from a legacy experience today, to best-in-class from a usability perspective based on current market offerings).
  • Offering persona-driven user experiences for different users (e.g., buyers, category managers, etc.).
  • Incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) recommendations and decision guidance.

At SAP Ariba Live, the provider shared recent as well as planned innovations for the Sourcing product line. For 2019, these include:

  • Adding an operational reporting API four sourcing and support for additional reportable fields.
  • Simplified Excel upload templates for event creation.
  • Modification of existing events based on updated Excel uploads/downloads.
  • Optimization enhancements (e.g., ability to create constraints limiting the number of winners based on any item within an event.
  • Support for “two-envelop” bidding procedures — a requirement for specific, target markets (e.g., public sector).

SAP Ariba’s future direction for Sourcing (also shared at Ariba Live) focuses on:

  • An entirely new user interface/experience, including new dashboard, collaboration and activity interfaces.
  • Enhancements to RFX bidding capability (e.g., multi-round).
  • Intelligent, AI/ML-driven dashboard intelligence as well as project/event-based recommendations.
  • Integration with SAP Analytics Cloud.
  • The additional “near” real-time data loading.
  • Continued innovation in direct materials centered on bill-of-material sourcing, integrated clean sheeting, integrated supplier risk/management and related capabilities. (Note: This will be covered separately in a deep-dive Spend Matters PRO series.)

Double Clicking on Key Roadmap Items

SAP Ariba’s AI/ML learning vision incorporates a range of elements, including automated event creation (“intelligence to create events from unstructured data, reducing time spent on non-value-added activities and reducing training so that end users no longer need to access and Ariba system to create a sourcing event”), Intelligent Insights (“intelligently curated newsletter feeds for each user, intelligent monitoring of inflight events with alerts and capability so users can stay on task and avoid hunting for information in third-party systems”) and Decision Support (“category specific automated award scenario creation, recommendations on additional sources of supply to increase bid competitiveness and chatbot integration for smart guidance”).

Of note:

  • Intelligent newsfeed capabilities will include third-party data sources in dashboard context “driven by commodities and suppliers” as well as “contextual news related to sourcing events).
  • “Ariba insights and recommendations” will be based on news alerts (e.g., alternative suppliers based on natural disasters/other risk indicators, contract/quote impact based on supplier M&A/consolidation, etc.).
  • From a forecasting perspective, SAP Ariba will add integrated commodity and related forecast and provide “proactive notifications” and “sourcing activity recommendations” spanning indirect, direct and services categories.
  • Automated event creation capabilities from unstructured data (as noted above), such as Excel, email and messaging will be incorporated as a central component of event (RFX/auction) design.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Spend Matters PRO series when we turn our attention to analyzing SAP Ariba’s planned Sourcing UI/UX and provide key recommendations, analysis and takeaways for current and potential SAP Ariba Sourcing customers.

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