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When a company adopts a digital procurement solution, it’s essential that their suppliers are able to keep up with the requirements of their new supply chain software. This applies to every size and type of supplier, and in the case of larger and more established firms the supplier list can run into the thousands.   
So, how to go about orchestrating your list of suppliers to work well within your new procure-to-pay or source-to-pay framework? It’s to everyone’s benefit that your procurement partners are capable of working within the new paradigm, but actually organising this, onboarding each supplier in the appropriate manner, and making sure everything is running smoothly? That’s another matter.  

Luckily, SAP runs a Supplier Enablement Program for just this purpose. Run by a team of world-class enablement specialists, the program works with suppliers of every type to develop and follow working methods that integrate seamlessly with SAP’s procurement solutions.

What does supplier enablement entail? 

Supplier enablement isn’t just about technology. The system makes sure every aspect of your suppliers’ business works effectively with your SAP solution. While digital integration is important, many suppliers need more support than a few software tools. This is where SAP really stands out.  

The SAP supplier enablement team has over 700 experts, fluent in over 20 languages and located in 9 locations across the globe. These experts have worked in all types of business across the world, giving them the insight needed to help your suppliers get the most out of your transition to SAP.  

While sometimes supplier enablement can be quite intricate, you can also use the Quick Enablement setting in the Ariba Network to set up simple and quick Ariba Network accounts that let suppliers interact with you via Ariba. You can also let suppliers contact you via phone, email and fax by generating a customer code for them to use.  

Both of these methods let you access suppliers who aren’t yet fully digitised, including many smaller suppliers that some companies fear losing if they go digital.  

The full vendor enablement process is worthwhile to those suppliers that are willing to go through it, because they will end up fully embedded in the Ariba Network – something that has the potential to bring them more custom from other buyers on the network.  

However, the full set of activities necessary to fully enable a supplier is quite involved, so many smaller vendors may not want to bother with it if they don’t sell to you often. You should encourage every size of vendor to go through the whole in-depth Supplier Enablement program if possible, since it has the potential to benefit them outside of your own buyer-seller relationship.  

Supplier Enablement isn’t just about what your vendors do to integrate with Ariba Network 

Ultimately, it’s you that assigns your suppliers to an active supplier group in your Ariba Network profile. To appear on the list of suppliers you can enable, the vendor needs to have done certain tasks such as read and approve the terms and conditions, complete their profile, and other tasks. However, the Supplier Enablement tab in your administration panel is all about you assigning these suppliers to an active, enabled group.  

Only then will they appear when you search for their products. The effects of this will vary depending on the rest of your configuration. If you have strict Guided Buying preferences, then your procurement users may have trouble sourcing products that are only allowed to be provided by one of the approved vendors you brought with you to the Network.  

If your system is more lenient, you may simply find that your procurement staff only see products from other similar suppliers, with your preferred original supplier omitted because you haven’t finished the enablement process at your end.  

Who is responsible for getting your vendors though the enablement process? 

You are. While the SAP Supplier Enablement Program offers suppliers lots of guided pathways to become ‘enabled’ suppliers, you’re the entity that’s responsible for monitoring and updating the enablement status of the managed suppliers you’ve brought to the Ariba Network.  

Luckily there’s the Supplier Enablement Dashboard, making it easy to see what’s happening and what needs doing for each managed supplier. Ultimately, if you start the enablement process for one of your vendors, they will appear in the dashboard so you can monitor their enablement status progress.  

There are several key points in the enablement process that call for you to approve the vendor’s actions. Again, all of this is clearly documented.

Important points to remember about Supplier Enablement 

  • “Supplier Enablement” consists of two main stages – onboarding, when your suppliers are guided through the process of becoming the right type of Ariba Network vendor so they can continue to supply you with the products they would be offering you outside the network, and approval, where SAP and your own administrator need to approve the supplier’s status and assign them to an active list of vendors for your Ariba Network account.  If you don’t do both of these stages, the vendor won’t turn up in searches, and won’t get any orders from you. Ultimately, it is up to you to usher your vendors through the guided Supplier Enablement process, though you have access to SAP specialists if you get stuck.  
  • For one-off, smaller suppliers, Quick Vendor Enablement can sidestep a lot of the drudge work involved in the full process, but it also sidesteps many of the benefits your existing vendors can gain from becoming full members of the Ariba Network.  
  • Almost all sizes and types of vendor can benefit from going through the full Supplier Enablement process and joining the Ariba Network. Not only will it make dealing with your company easier in the future now that you have adopted digital procurement, your fully enabled suppliers will be able to easily access new buyers around the world via the Ariba system. 
  • The self-service framework for onboarding vendors is backed up by a wealth of support, information and training materials from SAP. We’re also here to help you through the process, from preparing to approach vendors about the onboarding process through to assigning them to the relevant group once they are fully enabled, this is just a small part of what we can help you with post-deployment. 
  • It’s ok to use “Quick Enablement” in the short term with any supplier until you have the chance to get them through the onboarding process. You don’t have to wait to use your new digital procurement system because some of your regular vendors haven’t been fully enabled yet (though ideally this won’t be an issue).  

What happens during Supplier Enablement, and how can you prepare for it?  

So, just what are the basic steps of the Supplier Enablement process, and how can you prepare your company to get through them? 

  1. Identify and list your existing suppliers by type, frequency and spend volume. This should be fairly easy to do. Include information on how often you use that vendor, amounts of money and quantities of items sourced from them each month and year. This will give an idea of which suppliers need to be approached first, and which are less important. It will also make it easier to work out which of them can stay on Quick Enablement for the time being. This listing and segmentation process is a vital first step, especially if you need to manage a list of suppliers that’s several thousand strong or more.  It’s important to make sure you are starting with a clear, accurate list at this stage. One that includes contact details, names, average spend, order quantities and types, and anything else that may have a bearing on who or how you contact them regarding Ariba. Remember, this list forms the basis of how you will be reaching out to your suppliers, and also of the data you will be sharing with the SAP Ariba Supplier Enablement team if you need their input later on.  
  2. Start contacting your suppliers, offering as much information as possible. The more your vendors know about the Ariba Network and its advantages, the more effort they will make to get through the onboarding process quickly. This will save you a lot of time and effort later on, since much of the self-service model consists of providing suppliers with information and guidance and then making sure It’s been followed. 
  3. Buy process assignment will identify the best way for you to deal with each supplier. The next step uses the knowledge the Ariba Network has on your vendors to determine the best way for your business to interact with them on the Network. The SAP Supplier Enablement team will help you with this if necessary. In some cases your supplier will already be a part of the Ariba Network, but in other cases they’ll be new to the system. 
  4. More complex instances, dealing with suppliers that have catalogs or other complex components in their order stream will need more help from either SapienceS2P or SAP to help get them fully tested and integrated. Each of these cases will be slightly different, so the key is to identify them early on so the enablement process can get started as soon as possible. 


Preparation is key when it comes to dealing with the Supplier Enablement process. As long as you have the right data to hand, there’s plenty of specialist help out there, both from us at SapienceS2P and from the SAP Ariba Supplier Enablement Team. 

If you want to know more about this or any other aspect of the Ariba deployment process, please contact us or follow us on LinkedIn