The hype may have lost some of its gloss, but opportunity still knocks for the channel to engage in a promised B2B bonanza, the Australian CEO for e-procurement solutions vendor Ariba claimed yesterday.
Speaking to ARN at Ariba Live 2001, the vendor's world roadshow, local head Allan Smith said the channel "has a role" in its vision of Internet-connected global trade and supply chains. However, he also warned that the window of opportunity is finite. External forces are eyeing off seats on the B2B solutions bandwagon and Smith feels the channel runs the risk of losing its claim to being the major technology solutions provider for small business.
As Australia's traditional SME technology partners, Smith said channel players such as systems integrators, VARs and the newly arrived ASP channels need to embrace the online trade vision or risk losing the high ground to newcomers on the scene.
With financial institutions and other services companies now hovering over the technology solutions space -- motivated by the efficiency gains they can achieve by doing business online -- Smith said for the channel the time is now before the opportunity is lost. The Ariba partner showcase at Live 2001 involved the big five accounting firms, banks and logistics consultants.
"Banks and insurance companies are already dealing with them [SME users] and they are looking for new revenue streams and value add opportunities," he said. "What they [channel companies] have that the banks don't is experience in implementing technology.
"But if they don't get into the B2B vision and start delivering solutions, they risk being disintermediated from the whole equation."
Typical of Australian markets, the real challenge for B2B vendors is to take its solutions to the vast communities of small and medium enterprises. For the big companies to reap the full benefits of online procurement and trading, they need all the companies they deal with to also be enabled.
With insufficient resources to attack the market directly, Smith said Ariba needs channels and partners to get to this market. He added that even the very largest of direct customers for Ariba were serviced with the aid of partners.
"One hundred per cent of our business will be associated with indirect channels," according to Smith. "There is no situation where Ariba would do the full solution without the support of third parties."
Ariba has been one of the Nasdaq's roller coaster stocks, soaring as high as $183 in the bubble days before taking a few ups and downs since April 2000. It closed on Tuesday trading at an all-time low of $18. Revenues for the quarter ending December 31 were $US170.2 million.
Its software comes in two separate categories which enable enterprise online trade through either its sourcing and buying procurement solutions or online market places. It claims to be a leader in the online trade market and in Australia boasts customers such as NRMA, Orica, Origin Energy, Resources Trading, OneZone and the Commonwealth Bank.
Partners include such luminaries as IBM, HP, Arthur Andersen, Deloitte Consulting, EDS, Accenture and WebMethods.
The company plans to announce "within two weeks" the first appointment of an Australian ASP to host its procurement and market place software which Smith said will be one way for channels to start offering affordable access.
Smith is adamant there is a "role to play" for the channel in delivering on the B2B promise of productivity gains. He cited intimate customer knowledge and existing relationships involving technology solutions as being a strong foundation from which they can develop.
In other Ariba news from Live 2001, the vendor announced it had gone live with a B2B supplier transaction platform for insurance and financial service giant NRMA, an implementation completed in four months.
Also, four new commerce services partners were announced for Australia: American Express, eSign Australia, MasterCard and QSI Payments while over 100 local suppliers have now joined the global Ariba Commerce Services Network.
A press statement on the announcement said: "By linking the Ariba CSN with leading service providers such as American Express, eSign Australia, MasterCard and QSI Payments, Ariba streamlines the integration of those services into transactions generated by Ariba and non-Ariba applications."
Ariba Live 2001 concludes today at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, rounding off three days of B2B think tanking and expression. The convention included keynote presentations from chairman and CEO Keith Krach as well as former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating and US Olympic track superstar Michael Johnson.
Photograph: Ariba Australia/New Zealand CEO Allan Smith