If your company uses SAP Ariba or you’re thinking about adopting it, there’s no way to avoid the Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway.
SAP has been hard at work making sure that it’s easier than ever to integrate their software solutions both with each other, and with 3rd party solutions – modern and legacy. When looking at the integration of supply chain and procurement processes, the application that comes up time and again is the SAP Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway (CIG).
Potential and existing SAP clients should know a few key facts about the Ariba CIG if they are to get the most out of it. Any preparation you can do in advance of your first planning meetings with your software vendor will help shorten deployment time and make sure your systems are integrated in the best possible way.
Getting the most out of this highly configurable piece of software involves knowing something about its architecture and requirements, in-depth knowledge of your company’s systems and procedures, and choosing the right software vendor and team of experts to install your SAP solution.
Who needs to use the SAP Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway?
Essentially, if you are using SAP Ariba, Ariba Snap, or need to integrate any supply chain or procurement processes with or within a cloud SAP application or service, you will probably need to use the Ariba CIG to do so. While the Cloud Integration Gateway makes it easy to connect back-end procurement processes within and around the Ariba framework, its also designed to help connect SAP software with third-party software and services of almost any sort.
It’s not so much a question of “who needs the CIG”; if you’re using any part of Ariba you’d be foolish not to use this powerful bit of software. Its capabilities are only really limited by the expertise of the team that configures and deploys it.
What is the Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway, and how does it work?
The SAP Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway is built on top of SAP’s Cloud Platform Integration Suite(CPI). It comes ready to stitch together systems like the back end of S/4 HANA and Ariba’s sourcing and procurement functions. SAP’s cloud integration solutions are very powerful, to the extent that the CPI can be used to integrate non-SAP software with other 3rd-party applications without any other SAP solutions being deployed.
The Ariba CIG uses a combination of wizards and pre-configured tools with the addition of a wide variety of developer tools, customisation options, and easy-to-use extensions that make it possible to integrate SAP Ariba and its functions with almost any buyer or seller system. This is regardless of whether you as the Ariba customer are buying, selling, or both. The other vital function that the Ariba CIG serves is the excellent testing platform it offers, so your integrations can be thoroughly tested in the environment where they will be deployed.
The key to getting the most out of both the Ariba CIG, and your SAP ERP and procurement solution as a whole is knowing more than just the ‘physical’ architecture of the Cloud Integration Gateway (which you can see simplified in the diagram above). It’s a question of knowing the core purpose it has within your business.
SAP Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway (CIG) Architecture – Image courtesy of SAP
On the face of things, the purpose of the Ariba CIG is obvious – to integrate all of the backend services and applications that interact with SAP Ariba and the rest of SAP’s procurement and supply chain services. However, the things that the Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway can do with the right experts in charge of its configuration reach beyond just linking applications together.
In the right hands, the Cloud Integration Gateway offers a framework for your SAP software specialists to use to choose how to reconfigure your back-end applications and services as a whole, including operations and procedures that interact with supply chain and procurement in any way. Because of this, it’s vital to use software experts who are experienced in change management, not just software deployment.
In fact, choosing the right experts to help you with an upgrade or new deployment of SAP procurement software these days means you need experts who are adept at change management on both the technical and operational side of things.
Getting the most out of your expert Ariba deployment
The Cloud Integration Gateway is simple, but with the potential to become highly complex once deployed. The simplest buyer-side core functions such as connecting Ariba services to the back ends of various SAP software packages like S/4 HANA and others are easily set up with the built-in wizards. There are plenty of testing options to help make sure everything is working correctly, and so long as nothing else needs adding to the system it’s all relatively easy to set up.
At the other end of things, connecting the Ariba CIG to suppliers is also fairly straightforward using a range of pre-built extensions. Of course, when in the real world are systems ever 100% simple and straightforward? This is where an expert deployment team becomes essential.
Whether they’re configuring the system to work with or replicate real-world operations procedures within a client organisation, or they’re making sure everything works with legacy software at either end of the supply chain, it’s vital the system is configured by experts with extensive procurement industry knowledge.
Ideally these experts will also have a change management background, and will have industry-specific knowledge that helps them create a solution that gives the most possible benefit to their clients.
Customised integration and testing with the Ariba CIG
The level of customisation possible with the Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway makes it an extremely powerful tool in the hands of the right expert team. The depth and breadth of knowledge held by those team members makes innovation using the CIG open up a whole range of possibilities.
Previous methods of integrating the various SAP procurement solutions left teams spending a lot of time on setting up and testing their solutions at various levels, often to find small but potentially disastrous glitches to have crept in. The bult-in testing platform in today’s modern CIG makes much of this a thing of the past, letting your deployment team get on with building the customised procurement system your company deserves.
Getting the most out of the Ariba CIG
There are a few things your company can do early in the assessment and deployment process to make sure you get the most out of what the CIG can do. Your deployment consultancy will thank you when you come to them having prepared for their input so well.
First of all, you need to assess your existing systems, if any and how they are integrated with internal and external systems. The most important first steps include:
- Have a think about what business goals and objectives you hope the new deployment will achieve.
- Make a list of all stakeholders, internal and external, that will be affected by the new deployment
- Assess existing systems, whether software or paper-based, and decide which of them are indispensable and which will be replaced by the new or updated source-to-pay (S2P) or procure-to-pay (P2P) solution
- Make a list of where your systems will need to interact with your existing supplier’s systems
- List any existing pain points affecting your procurement systems and supply chain, including any worries about potential issues
There are a also a number of specific user roles designated by the Ariba software that your deployment team will need to assign people to, but they should help you decide who needs assigning to which role. However, the minimum that you as a client will need to provide is the Project Manager, Project Sponsor, Functional Lead, and Subject Matter Experts.
A good software vendor will take the time to get to know your organisation and how it operates to help you decide how and where your existing systems will end and the new SAP systems begin. This is where it’s hugely beneficial to use a vendor with the right technical knowledge and experience.
While it’s all very well to base your CIG configuration on the powerful built-in set-up wizards, with the right deployment team and preparation you’ll end up with reduced employee training times, better process automation and tracking, and shorter initial deployment times.
If you’re going to invest in SAP Ariba, you’ll need to integrate it with your existing systems so don’t be surprised when your vendor starts talking about the Cloud Integration Gateway. In fact, much of the work that goes into deploying or upgrading your procurement software to the latest SAP Ariba Cloud involves how the software integrates with your other systems.
As soon as you start planning a new Ariba deployment or upgrade, you should start thinking about how it will integrate with your current and planned systems. Luckily, with the power of the Cloud Integration Gateway you and your deployment team will be able to create and test the best way to integrate any number of SAP and 3rd-party systems quickly and easily.
If you’re looking for an experienced SAP procurement software consultant with years of change management and software integration experience, look no further. SapeinceS2P’s technical consultants are ready to talk to you about upgrading your existing digital supply chain solution or installing a whole new system.