Ariba bought b-process. Is this the start of the e-invoicing land grab in Europe?

Ariba bought b-process. Is this the start of the e-invoicing land grab in Europe?

I was taken aback. I really hadn’t seen that one coming. It wasn’t the acquisition by Ariba of b-process that surprised me though – it was the fuss that was made about it.

Purchasing Insight logoYou could be forgiven for not knowing of b-process. They’re a French organisation with some track record within the French market. More recently they’ve made a play at being global and have been successful in catching the attention of the analysts – Gartner in particular. I don’t want to downplay their significance. Revenues of $11m and a valuation of $35 million according makes this deal newsworthy, but compared to Ariba’s revenue of over $400 million (as at 2nd quarter of 2011) b-process is a minnow on the global stage.

So what is the real significance of this deal that’s caught everyone attention?

I agree with with Duncan Jones from Forrester who wrote about the cultural dimension of this acquisition in Procurement Leaders’ blog where he makes the point that “French enterprises … often pick suppliers like b-process that wouldn’t qualify for the long list if they weren’t also French”. The French are parochial and penetrating this market from outside can be a challenge. It’s a smart move for Ariba who are certainly eyeing the European market closely as e-invoicing regulations become more streamlined.

Who say size doesn’t matter?

For the vendors and e-invoicing is is a numbers game. Interoperability is fine if everyone plays the same game but going forward it will be the size of your network that counts and we’ll see more and more consolidation over the coming months and I think a few surprises too as the e-invoicing land grab steps up a gear.