At CeBIT 2013 SAP conducted a panel discussion with experts from SAP, Ariba, an SAP company, and SAP customer Fleurop to showcase what this year’s CeBIT theme, “Shareconomy,” means for running a successful business.
Networks Can Boost a Company’s Performance Significantly
Sameer Patel, general manager and global vice president for Enterprise Social and Collaborative Software Business at, started the panel discussion. He explained the relevance of a shareconomy and social networks for enterprises: “We all know social networks from our private life, but now the crucial point is, how can networks drive a company’s performance.”
According to the SAP expert, the last six years were an experimental phase, with Facebook and Twitter serving as role models for social enterprise tools. But these tools cannot meet companies’ needs. In the long run, an enterprise cannot do social business in a vacuum, removed from the core business context.
In today’s economic environment doing business via networks that have a “social character” is just as relevant for business-to-business as for business-to-consumer relationships. For example, through dedicated business networks companies have access to real insights (rather than marketing information) about the external parties they want to engage with, such as customers or suppliers. Another benefit of business networks: a company can bring together all their suppliers who are involved in the manufacturing of a product in one place and discuss possible product changes easier.
According to Patel, innovative business networks should not only connect the company and its employees or the company and its customers – they should link every party in the company’s business environment. It is no longer about tools – it is about moving your own business forward and concentrating on business-to-business-to-consumer relationships.
Previously, enterprises did not have the possibility to know what their prospects are thinking. With this type of data now available at any time through business networks, this makes research and development processes much more efficient. Business networks also reduce the risk of introducing products to the market. A company can bring together potential customers and suppliers right from the start, before investing in the development of a product. Via business networks enterprises are not only able to search for employees with the relevant expertise to help solve a customer’s problem, but can also search for external experts.
Ariba Delivers a Comprehensive Business Network
Alexander Saric, director of marketing EMEA for Ariba, stated that companies are currently going through the same transformation as individuals did with the rise of public social networks. For him, the impact of business networks on a company’s productivity can be compared to the introduction of the personal computer –significantly enhanced productivity of individuals. According to the Ariba expert, the enterprise itself must become a “network” to be able to find customers, employees, suppliers, and business partners. Ariba wants to empower this.
Nearly 1 million companies in 201 countries use the Ariba Network to discover, connect and collaborate with a global network of partners. Each year, these companies transact more than US$450 billion in business, process 20 million purchase orders and 60 million invoices, and send and receive access to 15 million new leads.
The many-to-many principle is, according to Saric, crucial for finding new business partners in an easy, quick, and affordable way. The Ariba Network is the world’s leading and largest open trading platform. It connects potential business partners that previously may not have found each other. Ariba also offers different solutions for the buying and the selling part, covering not only the supply chain but also the CRM side.
“The network effect multiplies the value for everyone and the economies of scale are huge. Companies clearly see the benefits and understand the concept of Ariba Network. Currently, there are 20,000 enterprises in Germany participating in our network. It is a tool for embracing globalization and with which companies can truly live the motto of shareconomy.”
Business Blooms at Fleurop Through Ariba
The international flower delivery service Fleurop is based in Berlin, Germany, and has more than 7,000 stores in Germany. Today, about 50,000 partner florists in 150 countries around the world make up the global Fleurop network. Worldwide, Fleurop partners handle over 25 million Fleurop greetings a year.
Achim Oberhauser, head of Corporate Business and Business Development at Fleurop, explained why the company decided to join the Ariba Network and implement Ariba PunchOut catalogs: “Our decision to use Ariba was totally customer-driven. Previously, we did business point-by-point with our corporate customers. With the Ariba Network, we gained access to a huge potential base of clients.”
In the past, it was expensive for Fleurop to build its own solutions und make their catalogues available, as customers often use many different platforms. Via the Ariba Network, Fleurop has one single platform. “For us, the Ariba Network is like a hub to address existent and find new customers,” said Oberhauser
Moreover, the Fleurop manager sees that online shopping is not just for consumers anymore. Businesses want to be able to buy things in the same fast and easy manner. The way enterprises do business with each other has definitely changed. With Ariba, companies can automate all the processes to find business partners and build relationships.
“Through Ariba, we have created a new consumer-like shopping experience for our corporate customers with a fully automated process that is consistent with their purchasing policies. At the same time, it offers the full flexibility and bespoke service of real stores.”
As a result of the automated process, Fleurop has greater transparency into orders and the resulting invoices. Purchase order data are transferred to the system at the Fleurop head offices without any integration gaps, and sent to the relevant partner store for processing. Invoicing is executed centrally and automatically as a one-off electronic bill. Orders and invoices have fewer errors, and the cost and time required to fulfill and process them have been dramatically reduced. Fleurop’s customers benefit from the streamlined process as well: They, on average, save EUR 35 in administrative costs per order.