The expansion of the global alliance, as it was termed, between Accenture and Ariba, an SAP company, was announced in early April. It was described as the first deal of its kind "to offer a new" cloud-based solution that was designed to transform the delivery of procurement and finance and accounting (F&A) business services to its customers. But has the hype around the cloud signalled a wider shift in the market?
The first solution to be delivered is expected to provide electronic invoicing capabilities through the Ariba Network and the two companies hope that it will "redefine business process outsourcing (BPO)", help cut costs and improve efficiencies within processing.
It is clear from this move that there is a definite effort by such service providers to continue to shift their offerings to the cloud - how that translates in terms of interface, efficiency, functionality, etc., remains to be seen - though there’s little shortage of enthusiasm on the providers side to push the benefits of the cloud.
Still, while many businesses and their procurement functions are now using applications based in the cloud, inhibitions remain with regard to certain aspects of it, particularly around security - aspects the solution providers have been quick to attempt to address.
"This isn’t the first foray into cloud-based services for the majority of our clients. One of the benefits of cloud-based services is often that the provider’s security practices are even more rigorous than the client’s," Liv Sandbaek, chief technology officer, business process outsourcing at Accenture told Procurement Leaders.
"This system is also more secure and will help improve the quality of invoices, reduce the time spent handling them, and enable customers to clearly track online what is happening with them."
But despite the soothing words on security it may well be that procurement has to accept a wider move towards the cloud as Ariba and Accenture as well as other businesses move their solutions towards the cloud.
There are also those who’ve been skeptical of the power of a solution to upgrade P2P, if the governance and data management processes aren’t in place in the first instance. Likewise, the business case may be straightforward in some sense, but procurement teams have to contend with legacy systems and often a jumble of solutions and different processes that stand between them and efficient invoice management, to pick on one area of focus. The cloud has lots of technical potential, but larger questions remain about function’s ability to harness that and convince the business of its value.
It was confirmed to Procurement Leaders that other Ariba cloud solutions and future technology innovations around solutions would be based on client demand. If then this solution is well received then there will almost certainly be more moves towards the cloud - underlining how important the coming months are for the market in terms of technology adoption.
Procurement may not yet be totally comfortable with the cloud but increasingly there is a willingness to embrace a technology that is fast becoming mainstream in consumer technology offerings. With hindsight, the deals of early 2014 could prove a bridging point as cloud adoption takes the next step.