Twenty years ago, procurement was a manual function driven largely by phone calls, faxes and handshakes. Then along came the Internet. And a company named Ariba. And everything changed.

It all started with the idea that buying and selling among businesses didn’t need to be so hard. That with the right technology, companies could automate the process and interact in totally new ways that enhanced their top and bottom lines.

For SAP Ariba, it all started with the idea that buying and selling among businesses didn’t need to be so hard

“What Ariba was talking about in 1996 was a revolutionary concept,” said Shelley Stewart, vice president and chief procurement officer at DuPont Company. “We took a big chance in embracing it at the time, but it has clearly paid off. Technology and networks have completely changed the way business is done and helped to move procurement from a tactical function to a strategic driver of business value.”

A Focus on Innovation

SAP Ariba paved the way for this transition through innovations that over the last two decades have completely changed the way buyers and suppliers connect and get business done. The company has:

  • Launched the first online catalog for procurement.
  • Developed the first software to conduct reverse auctions.
  • Created the Ariba Network, the first business network that today is the largest, most global on the planet, with more than 2 million companies transacting nearly $1 trillion in commerce on an annual basis.
  • Delivered a comprehensive suite of cloud-based procurement applications that ranks first among all vendors.
  • Went live with Ariba Discovery, the first business matching service that like Tinder or Match.com, connects buyers with needs to sellers who can fulfill them.
  • Rolled out Ariba Spot Buy, the first solution to combine the technology, content and expertise needed to gain visibility into unplanned buys with workflow capabilities to get them under control.
  • Released AribaPay, an electronic payment solution identified as the most Disruptive and Best B2B innovation that has been used to process over $80 billion in corporate payments to date.

“You are just warming up,” SAP CEO Bill McDermott said during a town hall meeting at SAP Ariba in Pittsburgh. “And I urge you to keep innovating and rethinking because you have the chance to do things that no other company has.”

Procurement is no doubt a different function than it was two decades ago. But the transformation has only begun.

“No longer just about managing spend and delivering savings, procurement today is about creating opportunities for both buyers and sellers to connect and collaborate across the entire source to settle process in totally new ways that create commerce and drive business advantage,” SAP Ariba President Alex Atzberger said.

This not only requires a new approach, but innovative tools to support it. And SAP Ariba is committed to delivering them.

“We want to digitize B2B commerce for companies around the world and create value for every participant in our network,” Atzberger said. “And to do this, we will create new business models based on the rich data and capabilities that the Ariba Network provides that shake up the way business is done and extend the capabilities of what our customers ever thought possible.”

Good companies learn from the past and use this knowledge to better manage the present. Great companies see and plan for the future. So what does the future look like for SAP Ariba?

What does the future look like for SAP Ariba? Best-in-class cloud procurement

“We want to be the best-in-class cloud procurement provider. It’s as simple as that,” Atzberger said.

It’s a typically ambitious SAP Ariba goal. But one that industry analysts see as well within reach. According to IDC, “The forward-looking road map has never been more exciting. SAP Ariba is clearly on the right road to achieving its stated goal.”

Atzberger and his team have put the pedal to the metal.