"A lot of suppliers have paper catalogs and legacy inventory software systems. It takes a lot of work to bring this data into the Internet world," said Lisa Williams, an analyst at the Yankee Group.
The new program, called the Ariba Supplier Hub Program, teams up eight supplier hubs that will connect their customer bases with the Ariba Commerce Services Network, a network of buyers, suppliers, marketplaces and commerce services.
Other supplier hubs, like ones assisting minority- and women-owned supplier companies, are expected to join the program in coming months, said Cindy Elkins, vice president of global supplier and content systems at Ariba.
Analysts said the move couldn't come sooner for suppliers left out of the business-to-business party because of outdated systems or lack of technology.
By connecting to the Ariba network, suppliers will be able to access hundreds of marketplaces and online procurement sites that use the Ariba business-to-business e-commerce software product.
"Programs like this are important for suppliers," Williams said. "When they bring those legacy systems online, they're not only integrating marketplaces, they've gotten to a place where they can do other business on the Internet as well."
The Supplier Hub program divides supplier hubs into two groups, aggregators and enablers. Aggregator hubs have an industry focus that targets suppliers in such markets as aerospace, media, or information technology. Enabler hubs are not focused on a specific market, but assist suppliers of marketplaces that use Ariba Buyer and Ariba Marketplace to integrate with those systems.
Ariba also announced several other supplier initiatives, including supplier marketing programs and supplier technology integration support.
In related news, Ariba said it has teamed with Jenkintown, Penn.-based ICG Commerce to provide group purchasing and content services to its customers. ICG will also use Ariba e-commerce software to power its yet-to-be launched RealExchange, a group-purchasing marketplace.
The partnership, announced Monday, will allow Ariba customers to pool their buying power to purchase goods and services at a discount. ICG Commerce will manage the supplier contracts for the service. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.