Ariba emphasizes buy side

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Ariba Inc. last week unveiled the latest version of its software that helps companies do their buying over the Internet.

The software--renamed Buyer 7.0 from its former, more awkward moniker of ORMS--is in many ways the platform on which Ariba built its b-to-b fortunes.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is now in a multitude of businesses, including building mega-industry exchanges. But its core buy-side platform remains a key cog in all its b-to-b efforts, said Ramin Tabanfar, Ariba product marketing manager.

‘‘We view the buyer platform as the global on-ramp,’’ Tabanfar said. ‘‘Our emphasis on the buy product has not shifted away to our other product lines.’’

Indeed, analysts note that since there is a buyer driving every b-to-b transaction, meeting those needs with ever-more-sophisticated buy-side tools remains an important business for Ariba.

Procurement is ‘‘becoming much more strategic and a more value-added set of processes within an organization,’’ said Kip Martin, analyst with Meta Group Inc.

Ariba Buyer is meeting those needs today, and with planned improvements will continue to do so in the future, Tabanfar said.

Among the highlights of the new version are support for eight languages and multiple currencies, and better integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and e-marketplaces via so-called Integration Packs.

Ariba also has added asset tracking and quality inspection of goods, and has enabled split accounting, which will be able to distribute cost around various departments by percentage, monetary value or units of measurement.

Tighter integration

Also featured is tighter integration with the Ariba Commerce Services Network (CSN), which provides services such as payment, sourcing, logistics support and content management. In the future, Ariba will constantly walk a fine-line between offering such services via its Buyer software or as a service on CSN, Tabanfar said.

The face of the e-procurement marketplace has shifted as more and more attention is paid to e-marketplaces. Ariba competitor Commerce One Inc. continues to offer basic procurement functionality via its BuySite platform, though its emphasis is clearly on building global e-marketplaces.

Other players, such as Clarus Technology Corp. and Intelisys Electronic Commerce Inc., both strong in e-procurement, have increasingly been positioning themselves in the potentially more lucrative e-marketplace arena.

And, interestingly, even some new players are emerging to fill the void as pioneering e-procurement vendors move up-market.

For instance, Vsource Inc., Ventura, Calif., in recent weeks landed $11 million in financing and partnerships with tech giants IBM Corp. and Qwest Communications International Inc. to launch a totally out-sourced e-procurement solution.

And another vendor, Living Systems AG, headquartered in Germany with a new U.S. office in Newton, Mass., is making the jump over the pond to test its e-procurement fortunes in the U.S. in the coming months.

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