SAP offers two main solutions for Self-Service procurement, SAP SRM UI Add-on (User Interface Add-on) and Ariba’s APC (Ariba Procurement Content). Together with a colleague I have been working since beginning this year with Ariba and next to that Compera implemented the SRM UI at a customer and at our demo environment. While the main features of both applications are more or less the same, there are still quite some differences you will have to take into account from an end user point of view. Keep in mind that Ariba’s APC is strongly focused on catalog buying, SRM is focused on Self-Service Procurement. SRM UI offers most of the catalog features you would expect from a catalog tool, and more. Today I’ll give you a glance of what I think are the most important differences.
1. Look & Feel – how does it look like?
Both interfaces are obviously tailor made for internet usage. The UI interface a little more modern, as it uses HTML5 which is also suitable for mobile devices. If you use mobile technology, this will be more aligned with the desktop version. Nevertheless both interfaces feel quite intuitive, APC focusing more on the web shopping experience. It simply feels like you are on an external web shop, whereas SRM UI feels more like a corporate internal web shop.
2. Getting there
Shopping in the SRM UI environment can be reached via your SRM menu. But you can also setup a standalone link to it. This is of course a very handy feature, as you can directly start shopping from your desktop or mobile device. Ariba’s APC is a catalog platform, so you always need to go via your system and punch into APC.
3. Search options
Both interfaces use a single search field as the base for your search. Wildcards are not needed anymore. Next to this field there is always a list of product categories where you can choose from. APC also offers an alternative Browse by product category/subcategory and browse by supplier view.
You can simply add whatever items you want to your favorites list. APC also adds a little extra to this, which is the option to group your favorites and even add the same product to two different favorite groups.
5. Punch-out catalogs
Both SRM UI and APC support punch-out catalogs.
6. Cross catalog search
SRM UI supports cross-catalog search via OCI 5.0. This basically means you don’t need to punch out to the external web shop of the supplier, but search and select the products within the SRM UI interface. So no extra process steps are necessary. We can expect that Ariba’s APC will have this important feature in future releases too. The only question is when.
7. Suppliers / catalogs
In Ariba’s APC you can directly select the supplier and search within his products. In SRM UI you first have to search for an item or select a category, and then you can refine on supplier. On the other hand, you can easily group catalogs and search within a specific catalog in SRM UI. As you generically have one catalog per supplier, these features are comparable, although slightly different.
8. Shop on behalf
A prominent feature that SRM UI supports, based on SAP SRM standard functionality, is shop on behalf of other requesters. APC does not support this. Of course, when you implement this feature in your procurement system before going to Ariba’s APC, it is still possible to order for others.
9. Free text requests
Free text items (“Can’t find?” in SRM UI and “non-catalog item” in APC) are supported. The main difference here is that you can also order an item as a service in SRM by default.
10. Shopping cart templates
Both solutions provide the options to save shopping carts and then make copies of them to quickly order frequently ordered items. In APC it’s called saved shopping carts, in SRM there is a separate tab called templates.
11. Default values
In the SRM UI you can set loads of data as default data, such as goods recipient, product category, plant, storage location, account assignment, ship-to address and internal note. As Ariba’s APC is strictly a catalog tool, these features are not available here and need to be maintained in your ERP system.
Some fun features in SRM only: Give rating and reviews to products, confirm receipt, ordered shopping cart overviews, customizable menus.
Some fun features in APC only: Recently viewed suppliers, recently viewed products, categories with most items.
In the end, it is clear that both SRM UI and APC offer a very fit for purpose solution for catalog buying. Apart from the different architecture and the on premise versus cloud strategy, there is no real reason to favor one solution over another. It is mainly a choice of flavor and, of course, whether the solution fits your specific procurement processes.
But what also is very clear is that SRM UI is a clear extension of SAP SRM, and a fully integrated solution within your SAP landscape. Ariba’s APC is a very good cloud catalog solution including a perfectly fine user interface, although it does still have its own integration issues with SAP. And you always need to punch into APC from your own ERP or procurement system if you don’t use the whole Ariba suite.