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Applications

Ariba hones business services tools

The software maker plans to release an updated package of business applications that promise to save companies money and effort when they buy business services.

Software maker Ariba plans to release updates next month to a suite of applications aimed at helping companies save money on business services.

The new versions of Ariba Buyer, Ariba Enterprise Sourcing and other business applications will assist with the purchasing of advertising, travel and similar services, the company said Monday. The software lets companies assess and select providers, measure their performance, reconcile invoices for services rendered and ensure that discounts or other special contractual terms are applied, according to Ariba.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, founded in 1996, specializes in purchasing systems with applications that are designed to automate the day-to-day procurement of office supplies and to ensure that employees buy from preferred suppliers. In the past several years, the company has branched out of this specialty with additional applications to help handle services and contract labor. Ariba claims that companies spend one-third of their budgets on business services, on average.

One particularly distinctive feature in the updated product, according to Alex Gonzalez, an Ariba product manager, is its "collaborative invoicing" component. This feature gives business service providers direct access to their customer's Ariba system in order to create an electronic invoice. The invoice automatically refers to specific terms of their contract, which is also stored in the system. The collaborative invoicing product reduces data entry tasks for the Ariba customers and also ensures that services rendered are within the terms of a contract, Gonzalez said.

Another component of the system, called "supplier performance management," periodically asks employees to provide feedback on business service providers. The feedback can be used by purchasing managers in negotiating new contracts with suppliers, Gonzalez said.

The set of Ariba applications starts at about $1 million, according to Gonzalez. The software maker competes with SAP, Commerce One, Oracle and Niku in the procurement program niche.