SAP Ariba President Barry Padgett welcomed a capacity crowd of procurement innovators to SAP Ariba Live in Las Vegas by urging them to reimagine the world and their role in the way it ought to be, take a pledge to end forced labor in their supply chains, and build a legacy for future generations.

His stirring keynote kicked off with some serious rock band jamming and ended with a challenge to becomes champions of change, weaving in the themes of innovation, transformation, and resilience.

“Systems are getting smarter at home and work, delivering intelligent experiences that are contextual and hyper-relevant to us,” said Padgett. “It’s not just making things easier or faster. It should be about making a difference and making a change, and not just for us but our companies and the world at-large. It’s incumbent on us ‒ now that we’re the largest conference of its kind worldwide ‒ to dream, to imagine, and to think about constraints being lifted. It’s not just an obligation to our customers. Do it for the rest of the industry and all the folks not here. Let’s give ourselves permission to dream. It’s a journey, not a destination.”

At #SAPAribaLive, Barry Padgett encouraged a capacity crowd of procurement innovators to dream. It’s a journey, not a destination.

Small Idea Has Huge Impact on Families

One of the inspirational highlights of opening day was when Kate Swingle came on stage with Val Blatt, global vice president of Services at SAP Ariba, to share her family’s personal story using Step Up For Students. This non-profit scholarship organization has partnered with SAP Ariba to create an online marketplace where parents with students that are disadvantaged or have special needs can easily search for and purchase school tuition, educational services, and supplies with just a few clicks. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Swingle, who was at times overcome by emotion, described her odyssey as an advocate for her son.

“My oldest son has autism, and we’ve had to take a road not many people want to travel,” said Swingle. “Step Up for Students paid for the second semester of my son’s private school. His trajectory has been amazing. He learned to read and write, and it’s exploded from there. They saved my child’s life. I’ve used my scholarship money to pay for tuition, tutoring, occupational therapy, and behavior analysis therapy.”

Kate Swingle (middle), described her family’s journey using Step Up For Students. Left, Val Blatt, global vice president of Services at SAP Ariba; right, Jonathan Beckham, vice president of Technology Strategy and Innovation at Step Up For Students.

Swingle emphasized that while she was able to obtain reimbursement for his scholarship and other services from Step Up For Students, many parents cannot afford to pay up front for these expenses, which is where the Ariba Network comes in.

“Parents will be able to go online and put the educational services they need in their basket and check out, automatically charging the cost against their [scholarship fund] accounts,” she said. “This has changed the game for thousands of Florida parents like me.”

She summarized her thoughts with this passionate challenge to the audience. “SAP Ariba created a platform for corporations that’s helping a stay-at-home mom in Central Florida – this is huge. Continue to do your job, but think outside the box and don’t be afraid to think small because the smallest things grow big.”

Chief Collaborator Role Emerges

Calling procurement a totally different game today, Padgett excited the audience with a new vision for practitioners in a global, digital, and fast-paced world. As the world’s largest global business network transacting over $1.6 trillion in commerce each year, Padgett said SAP Ariba is committed to delivering tools and technologies that procurement can use to collaborate across the organization to create ethical, sustainable supply chains providing value to the world.

“Your role used to be defined by your ability to generate cost-savings and process efficiencies. Now it’s also about collaboration,” said Padgett. “Businesses know that to meet revenue and cash flow goals everyone in their business has to be connected. Whether you’re in procurement, finance, IT, sales, or marketing, you now have an opportunity to become the chief collaboration officers, the CCOs of your company, because we finally have the tools available for cognitive insights to get ahead of problems.”

SAP and… Seamlessly

Rob Enslin, president of the Cloud Business Group and member of the Executive Board at SAP, joined Padgett on stage to share the company’s cloud business transformation story. He talked about Africa Code Week, which provides opportunities to disadvantaged youth in that country, and SAP’s partnership with ERP (Elephants, Rhinos and People), a non-profit using SAP HANA and machine learning to save elephants from poachers.

“SAP’s heritage is in designing integrated business processes for 26 industries, so we have a deep understanding of the supply chain,” he said. “Our transformation is massively about people and how they understand the future, and how they can dream about using software to benefit their business.”

Enslin told the audience that SAP is building solutions aligned to people’s needs for simplicity in a dynamic digital world.

“We need to move to a world where if you want to use our solutions, it’s not Ariba, Concur, or Fieldglass. We will move to having a seamless experience across all our products,” he said. “You don’t have to know multiple systems. We will change the way you experience all of our cloud products to ensure you get what you expect.”

Making Procurement Intelligent

Alexandra Lopez, chief procurement officer and vice president of Global Procurement at Cisco, picked up the dream big theme as she talked about her company’s partnership with SAP to transform procurement with an intelligent, consumer-like experience that delivers greater business value.

“The dream I have that will come to life with our SAP partnership is to deliver strategic, proactive, insightful procurement information at scale at the fingertips of the decision-makers without us having to be directly involved. We can have conversations around why speed, quality, and cost don’t need to be a trade-off in negotiations. Or how are we going to accelerate the value that sales, engineering, and services delivers to the market.”

Lopez said digitized procurement ecosystems will be a great equalizer: “Outward bias disappears when people sitting side by side building digital intelligence. What’s good for the world is good for business. Because we can do so much more in procurement, we must do so much more.”

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