Ins and Outs of Integrating SAP Ariba Network and NetSuite – Register2020-09-21T23:21:14+00:00

Ins and Outs of Integrating SAP Ariba Network and NetSuite

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Chris Bidleman Chris Bidleman Director, Integration Solutions
Ebru Saglam Ebru Saglam Sr. Product Marketing Manager

While SAP Ariba Network has been a popular choice for managing trade related interactions for buyers and suppliers, NetSuite has been the go-to solution for managing ERP and accounting. When these systems are not connected, finance and operations teams have to manually transfer data between the systems to update purchase orders, shipment notices, invoices, payments, etc. Manual processes can often result in operational delays, accounting errors, poor visibility into order statuses and cash flows.

Procure-to-pay and order-to-cash processes between these two systems can be streamlined through integration. Join us in this on demand webinar, as experts from Celigo discuss the best practices for integrating SAP Ariba Network and NetSuite.

Topics discussed include:

  • Challenges with procure-to-pay and order-to-cash processes
  • Benefits of automating key business processes with integration
  • Best practices for SAP Ariba Network and NetSuite Integration

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Full Webinar Transcript
Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining our webinar today. My name is Ebru, and I work for product marketing at Celigo. So today, we will talk about best practices for SAP Ariba Network and NetSuite integration. So we will cover both supplier and buyer scenarios, and we will learn how integration can help further streamline processing of purchase orders, invoices, payments, ship notices, and so on. And our presenter today is Chris Bidleman. So Chris is the director of solutions integration at Celigo, and he heads up our solution-architects team. So he has been with the company for more than nine years. And before that, Chris worked for different consulting and software companies, and he focused on solution-driven results in healthcare IT and supply-chain management. And he has more than 20 years of experience in e-procurement and e-commerce. And he also has, actually, hands-on experience in the SAP Ariba Network ecosystem with integrations, with more than 10 years. So before I move on with our webinar, I would just like to remind you of a few things. So if you have any questions during the presentation, you can actually type them into the questions window, and we will be taking them at the end of the session. So before I hand it off to Chris, I would like to give you some background on Celigo. So Celigo is an integration platform as a service, IPaaS, company. So what that means is, basically, on the platform, any application can be connected to any other application to automate key business processes. And today, we will talk about how connecting NetSuite with SAP Ariba Networks can help automate procure-to-pay and order-to-cash business processes. And we are also the largest NetSuite partner, so we have been serving NetSuite customers for more than 10 years. And today, we have actually more than 3,000 joint customers with them. So a lot of them are in the manufacturing space. We also have customers in the e-commerce and retail spaces, so you can see some example logos here. So our company is also in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. And some of the other interesting integrations we have related to today’s topic are SAP Concur and then Salesforce, 3PL, EDI. So we actually support many different business processes, and you can find more about these on our website or just contact us after today’s webinar. And one last thing I would like to mention is that our solution for the SAP Ariba Network NetSuite integration is SAP-certified. And now, having said that, I will hand out to Chris, our presenter for today. Thank you, Ebru. Good afternoon, everyone. Good morning, depending on your time zones. As Ebru mentioned, I’ve actually been working and familiar with Ariba since their founding in 1996. They were born out of that .com era, and we’re actually one of the first business-to-business e-procurement companies that was dawned during that whole e-market and .com boom. And I was a young consultant back then, trying to understand what the heck e-procurement was and what e-markets was all about. And so Ariba had kind of developed a unique ability to connect buyers and suppliers together. And of course, back then, it was a lot of client server back ends. Even the Internet Explorer had only been released in 1995, so we’re still in the early days of the internet and just this whole idea of being able to take manual processes and be able to take– or paper-based procurement processes and actually start working over the internet. And so that’s really what was happening back then. And flash forward to 2012, SAP purchased Ariba, who had also done a lot of acquisitions along the way of different e-marketplaces and really expanded their footprint and different services that they provided. So for me – and I’ve been doing this for a long time – it’s kind of fun to see that this is a survivor of that .com era and still be able to provide services like this. So it’s [laughter] great that me as a social architect can still be talking about Ariba and because the business process really hasn’t changed at all. And what I want to do is just kind of go over just what this business process looks like and where the automation can actually make an advantage. So we have the ability to be able to do both scenarios be it you as a buyer of procurement from your supplier network or maybe your supplier providing goods to a buyer. And so what happens is, just overall, purchase order. Somebody has requisition and purchase order, they need to buy something. In the old days, you had to log into the Ariba network, enter that order, and shop around it. And they have a technology called PunchOut, which allowed you to go out to different supplier catalogs, actually shop their catalog for your pricing and negotiated pricing goods, and then bring that into your own cart. So you can actually buy from different suppliers within that same user experience within the SAP portal as a buyer. And then, once that order is actually placed, if you’re the one that they place an order with, you get a sales order. And then, for buyers or suppliers, what they had to do was log in the SAP, get the order entered into their ERP, and in our case, we’re showing Oracle NetSuite. But back then, it was PeopleSoft, JD Edwards. SAP has been around. So it didn’t really matter what the ERP system was. Everyone was still doing this very manual. Now, once that supplier ships it, they also had to log into the Ariba, let them know it shipped. Here’s your tracking information, and then the buyer confirms that it’s there, and it’s shipped out. And then, once they actually receive the goods, they let them know, Ariba, that they received them, and then the supplier can invoice you. And then, once the buyer actually gets the invoice [laughter]– which again could be mailed, now, at least, could be emailed and also automatically electronically transferred. And I should mention sort of in the background, EDI, which many of you might be familiar with, has been around for over 30 years. And so think of this as sort of the electronic version of EDI. And Ariba was actually one of the founders of a data format called cXML. I think they call it commerce XML, which was sort of a standard that’s still used today by other e-procurement platforms that essentially took that EDI flat file document and turned it into a XML document, which is a lot easier to consume. You don’t have that mainframe like EDI and some of the other ones [inaudible] having to process back then. And so this really did kind of be a game-changer and still is. And of course, the last step would be a payment that eventually gets to the buyer or that payment conciliation. So what we actually had a customer recently present in one of our webinars where before they had actually used our integration platform to be able to automate some of these processes. They were spending up to 20 hours a week doing these different processes manually, logging in and out different systems. And obviously there’s some problems that can occur with that. And so beyond just the costs associated with doing these manual processes, there’s a lot of other challenges that you got to face. For the suppliers, there’s obviously the manual entry of those orders into your system to fulfill them. Not always having visibility into your cash flows kind of waiting for the buyer to actually pay you or process your invoice, acknowledge they got it, and then just all the other delays that can occur. And on the buying side, it’s also very slow. Obviously, if you have a small procurement department, the accounts payable department, that they’re going to be having to go through this man do this manually and takes a long time to actually get your order if you’re out, say, “I came from a supply chain and manufacturing background, so it took forever to get an order from requisition I had placed.” So it was very slow. No real-time visibility and then of course it was very inefficient. So flash forward to Celigo and what we have to offer for automating this process. I’m actually going to sort of start from the bottom and work my way up is Celigo offers a better integration platform as a service or also called iPaaS. And everything’s built upon that platform itself. We offer a lot of different tools [inaudible] UI to be able to build out different integrations and essentially connect anything to anything and also transform that data to whatever it needs to be. So, in this case, we’re transforming communication between a ERP system, be it SAP IDocs or NetSuite through their– We actually use arrest integration and so do their SOAP Web services and any other ones and then be able to do that. Or if you’re using NetSuite and you want to send out a EDI doc, yeah, we can transform those two. So what happens is with these we actually have what’s called pre-built integrations. Well, it’s a quick start bundle, so it’s a template that is very customizable to your own business needs of which I’ll show you here live in a second. And this allows you to be able to have these pre-built business processes we just talked about because it’s pretty much the same for everyone. And we understand FC XML data structure that Ariba will be sending. And also, Ariba does have a flexibility to also use other data formats as well as EDI-2, but XML is our preference because they are able to use web services to be able to transport that rather than through FTP or email attachments and other mechanisms. So again, the advantage of what SAP Ariba provides is a lot of different ways to integrate depending on the sophistication of a buyer or supplier in their back-end systems here. So what we have is an ability to be able to quickly deploy these and customize these to meet your needs. And we also have some very robust error management. So when there is something wrong – they’ve ordered something that you don’t have in your catalog or other things – we can actually notify you in virtual real time that there’s a problem with that order, be you a buyer or supplier, and then be able to process that. So as I mentioned before we have two different bundles of quick start templates associated with that. So if you’re a buyer, there’s a lot of other integrations that are required between working between Oracle NetSuite and SAP Ariba. And it’s a lot of acquisitions going on here. So what I’ll do is I’ll actually show these to you. It’ll make a little more sense of which way the data flows are going. And then, if you’re on the supplier side, there’s a few less data flows that are associated with that, but we’ve deployed these for several of our customers within this. So let me go ahead and just get out of the presentation mode here and switch over to what is. So as I mentioned we have a marketplace with an that has a lot of pre-built templates. And as you can see, there’s just, literally, dozens and dozens of different applications that we can connect to. And we have these pre-built connections. And for SAP Ariba, right now, we have the buyer bundle or quick start templates. Actually, the suppliers one will be released very shortly. So we’ll actually have two different bundles. I don’t have the ability to install on this account, but I actually have these already installed. So this is something that you as a user of can actually install. And what it will look like is, actually, you end up with what we call integration tiles. And within those tiles, we have the set of different data flows that are associated with that. So then we sort these in the right order. So let me just kind of step you through how this works within the integration itself. So we, again, built a very intuitive user interface that allows you to be able to– any business analyst can do this. You don’t need a programmer to be able to do that, because we’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting here. So, for example, if an order is placed within Ariba of– so say you’re a buyer, you go into the Ariba buyer portal and do your shopping and you create a cart for going– punch out to the different suppliers that you need, and you’re going to create a purchase order based on that. Once that order is completed within Ariba we’re able to import that purchase order directly into NetSuite. And we actually have what’s called a listener or a web hook that is waiting for that to be pushed out of SAP Ariba and will come directly to NetSuite and create the purchase order. So there really isn’t a schedule on this it is virtual real time, once the Ariba network actually sends out those notifications to the different suppliers and buyers and lets us know that we’ve subscribed to this service to be able to get any new purchase orders that are created within SAP. And so we do actually create the purchase order within that. So there’s no manual entering of those purchase orders. We’re able to drop it in. As you can see there’s just some basic mappings that are in there. We also have the ability to be able to change the approval status. So right now, we have it set to approve, but maybe you want to set the approval of a pending approval, because maybe you have an internal workflow that you want somebody to review that purchase order before it’s actually released and be able to review it. So again, there’s a lot of flexibility within our platform to adjust to your own business rules. And if there’s some additional fields, we actually can map to your NetSuite instance as far as all the different custom fields you may have, other things that you may want to do with that purchase order to be able to enter it into your system the same way you would if you were manually doing that. Within the different layouts, say everything is based on a source, so what is the data that’s coming out and then where it’s getting imported into. We also have some very sophisticated tools to also do some additional data transformations, as I was mentioning, and also maybe some other options that you may want to have associated with that. So as we said, we have seven different data flows that are already setup similar to what we talked about within these data flows here. So there are already, as I say, quick start templates. They should be pretty close to the basic mappings that you would be expecting. And we’re able to step through. So, for example, once a purchase order is also maybe created in NetSuite, and you want to upload that to Ariba, we also have the ability to be able to support that use case. So if you already have the catalog within your NetSuite environment and somebody is going to place a purchase order, then we can actually upload that into the Ariba network. And then we get an acknowledgment back from Ariba that it was received. And so we’re able to update that with the Ariba network code that was generated for that order. And it’s basically like the acknowledgment that you would get that says, “Yep. I received that order.” And there you go. We market it as it was sent in and what the Ariba the version was. Some of the other data flows we have is also cancellations, the ship notices. So when it’s actually shipped from your suppliers, we’re able to get that notification and update the– again, this is a real-time flow that is imported in. So you know it’s being received, the item receipts. So once your warehouse receives the PO, it does inspection. Then it actually lets the Ariba network know that you’ve actually received the goods and then able to process it. You can also then do the invoicing associated with this and then notifications of any payment remittances that would be occurring within your NetSuite system to the Ariba network. So again, we do have the ability to actually automate everything so your accounts payable folks would not necessarily have to log in at all to Ariba. Or if you are doing a lot of different shopping within Ariba network to the different suppliers that you have, again, you log into their portal and be able to do the punch-out catalogs that are available through your negotiated contracts with your different suppliers to be able to find those goods within that. That isn’t something you can do within NetSuite itself. You actually do have to log in. So, at least, at first step, it’s something that your expectation is you’ll still log in Ariba just, at least, to do the buying experience because there’s some fairly sophisticated tools that they provide as well as approval processes even within their the Ariba buyer portal itself. So that’s the buyer side. So let’s take a look at the supplier side. As I mentioned that– for us, Celigo, this is probably the most common thing we’ve done for customers easily the last five years, I do believe. We’ve been doing different integrations to Ariba for different suppliers and distributors that would be getting orders from their buyers or different customers that place orders with them. And so, in this case, resort these so they’re in purchase orders. So, again, it works the same way. We call these webhooks. These are endpoints that we have within integrator IO that sets up a URL that you load into the Ariba network. And that will actually send that cXML message to the integrator IO will transform that and be able to import that order as a sales order into your NetSuite system. So you can actually reference the PO. If it has to be a drop-ship– oops, sorry about that we have a lot of mappings that are already associated with that particular document. But if there’s any others specific to your NetSuite account – I’m not logged into NetSuite – but you would actually see the NetSuite form that you have for your sales order would show up here and be able to provide the ability to kind of click and point. Again, you don’t have any programming that you necessarily need to do behind the scenes, so your business analyst or even your accounting folks could actually do a lot of these mappings because they’re very familiar with those forms. So it would just be a matter of clicking into those forms and be able to do the additional mappings you might need. Don’t know if there’s any date. Okay. Sometimes some of the date formats change. One system has them in one format, so we also do provide a large library of different date changes. So again, we’re trying to make this as easy as possible for a non-technical person to be able to do these types of mappings, support them. The other data flows associated with the supplier side is also once you as a supplier ship those orders we’ll actually then update the– once the fulfillment is created from that sales order, that will send out the ship notice to the Ariba network. And so now the buyers know that the order’s on its way, has the tracking information, where to carrier if it’s something large that is being shipped. All that information would be sent to them as well as the anticipated arrival date, any other information you want to share with that. And then of course probably the best part is getting paid. So once you within NetSuite go through your billing process, any time the vendor invoice is created for that particular buyers that are part of the Ariba network that we would then send that out as a XML document and be able to transform that. And in case you’re wanting to see what that looks like, again, we’ve taken a lot of the sophistication– or the trouble out of this, already done the mappings for you. But as you can see, XML is just like any other XML except it’s a preset format describing what the layout of that particular document, in this case an invoice, is. And so we’ve already done that within the template. This isn’t something that you have to even mess with, but it is available for any additional things you may want to do with those and be able to do other integrations too within the platform itself. And then finally, as I mentioned, within you have the ability to be able to subscribe to any of these for notifications. So if I wanted to say, “Okay. I want to know when there’s an error on a particular purchase order confirmation,” then I’m going to get emailed that. And anyone can sign up for a free io account within your organization, and then you can actually assign them. So maybe accounts payable will want to know about any purchase order problems, but if there’s a problem about the ship notification or receipts maybe it’s somebody in the warehouse or your supply chain management or operations needs to know about that. So everyone can subscribe to the data flows that they want. And then of course if somebody in IT wants to know, and one of the connections goes down, we can also subscribe to those types of things. So again, it gives you a lot of control and ability to allocate to the right people and the business owners when there is a problem associated with a particular order and/or a data flow. So in a nutshell, that’s how works as far as the different data flows to handle both the buyer experience as well as the supplier experience. So Ebru, I guess I’m going to hand it back to you and see if there’s any questions. Yeah. Thank you. Okay. That was a great presentation. So as Chris mentioned you can actually go on our website and you can sign up for a free Celigo iPaaS account. So just visit and then you can get your free account and you can start playing around with our integrations. And if you have any questions, now is actually a good time to submit your questions. Okay. Let’s see. So one question we have is how long does it take to do this integration? Do I need to maintain technical staff? The advantage of having the Quickstart templates that we have available is a very fast implementation. So this just takes a supplier, there were three data flows there. Our rule of thumb is about a week per data flow just to set up test, exchange, and of course, Ariba does have a sort of a testing plan that they also recommend before you actually go live within their network. So again at about a week of data flow so three weeks and then I think we had seven for that. We could probably do a little bit faster than that but that’s if you were going to allocate your time. This is something you could self-deploy within Celigo. We have what’s called Celigo University and you can actually become certified to be able to take on different data flows yourselves and be able to do that. And of course, we also have partners that could also deploy these very, very fast for you. So no, you don’t really need technical folks on your staff if you are a small organization and maybe only have one or two people that’s taking care of your IT. I wouldn’t see you need to hire anybody to be able to support these data flows. And in fact, we would like to think that you’re actually going to free up some time for some full-time equivalent folks that can offset and actually have a little bit of ROI here for you. Great. Thank you. Another question is, is it possible to customize these flows further or add new flows to support my business-specific use cases? Yeah. Absolutely. As you saw a lot of the mappings you’re able to adjust for your NetSuite account. As I mentioned, the way our connector works for NetSuite is it’s self-discoverable. So any custom records and objects that you have within your environment or custom fields you’ve added to forms are actually discoverable and you can actually map to those. So it allows you to be able to adjust these data flows to exactly how you need to. And then yes, if you have others perhaps maybe you have a third-party logistics company that actually will fulfill those orders for you, say if you’re a supplier. Once the sales orders come in, you could actually set up another data flow to send that order to that 3PL warehouse to do the dropship order for you. So yeah, again it’s a very flexible solution that can provide you a lot of capabilities. Okay, so do you have any recommendation on where to start with integrations? It’s a valuation of your volume, and also what your manual processes might be, to see what makes sense to start in integration. As we said we have seven different data flows available for you to say if you’re a buyer. You don’t have to deploy all those. Maybe all you need to do is get the order into the system, and maybe send out the invoice. So gives you a lot of flexibility as far as– based on order volume and what you may need. So you don’t have to do this as a big bang. You could do an iterative process but most folks– they’d rather automate as much as they can in the back office business process, especially with what this is going on. This is a little bit different than, say, what you’re doing on your e-commerce sites because this is more B2B so the volume’s not as high and speed is not as critical, necessarily. But on the flip side is– best use of your resources shouldn’t be manually entering in orders into different systems. So that’s the valuation you have to make, but, at least for Celigo, we’d love to think that there’s always– never a bad time to start doing integrations. Okay. Great. And, Chris, another question is– is it easy to manage these integrations? Yeah, absolutely. As you saw we have a very intuitive user interface. We are always making upgrades to that to make it even more user friendly. We actually just released a new user interface very recently, upgraded to a new platform to make it even more sophisticated and user friendly so you don’t need to be technical. And as I mentioned, you can have anyone in your organization sign up for integrator io account and be able to manage their data flows or be notified when there is. So, yeah, we’d like to think it’s very intuitive and easy to use and always looking for improvements too, if people have suggestions. Thank you, Chris. So are there any more questions? Okay. There is one last question here. So why wouldn’t someone develop these integrations with script think? You certainly could. It does give you a lot of capabilities, but also means that you have to maintain those scripts and data flows. So, as I mentioned before, NetSuite does provide a SOAP API that you can connect to and do these integrations yourselves. Also Ariba does provide the ability to be able to consume and do their different– these documents. Again, it’s just XML. So the one thing I should mention is– because, as Ebru mentioned before, Celigo is a certified partner for both Ariba networks as well as NetSuite. So part of being a NetSuite– built for NetSuite application whose what Integrator IO is– we have to maintain that, keep it upgraded all the time for the biannual releases that NetSuite does. So like most cloud companies, and just like on your smartphones, is whenever a new operating system comes out we have to test that ahead of time and push those updates out to our different users so nothing breaks when new releases are done. And we do the same thing for both Ariba as being a certified partner there, and also on NetSuites. So it’s important that we’re doing that maintenance for you, behind the scenes, to make sure that nothing breaks when the systems are upgraded. If you build those yourselves, you would have to make sure and do the regression testing and all that on your own. So it’s really up to you. It’s not that you can’t, it’s just something to consider. Is that really the best use of your resources? So that’s part of the [laughter] advantage of working with a partner such as a Celigo. Right. Thank you very much, Chris. So it looks like there are no more questions. So this brings us to the end of this webinar. So if you have any questions after this session, please feel free to email us at [email protected] You can also visit our website and find more resources, and also use the contact form to submit any questions you have. So our teams– they’re always interested in hearing about your integration solutions. And we look forward to hearing from you. So thank you again for attending. And thank you, Chris, for the great presentation. Bye.