While SAP Ariba Live was not the originally planned in-person extravaganza this year, the virtual event — held Wednesday, March 18, and available on demand — gave procurement and supply chain professionals a bold vision for the future of intelligent spend and a practical path forward.

In a series of compelling video conversations, recognized industry experts, customers, and SAP executives shared especially timely and no-nonsense insights into the business value of procurement agility, reliability, and transparency. The agenda featured thought-provoking geopolitical trend talks, lessons learned from customers, solution strategy updates, and product demonstrations. This is the first in a series summarizing the virtual event replays.

New Procurement Experience: Agile, Reliable, Transparent

First up was Chris Haydon, president of SAP Procurement Solutions, who assured listeners that “together, we will get through all these challenging times.” Acknowledging COVID-19, he said that its increasing impact mirrored our growing realization of how connected and dependent we are on each other.

“The pace of the world is demanding changes, and SAP is uniquely positioned to help you manage those changes with intelligent spend management,” Haydon said. “Intelligent spend management is the reinvention of the procurement experience. It’s a thoughtful and deliberate realization that we need to move beyond only focusing on creating simple screens and user interfaces, and instead empower procurement to succeed amid today’s known disruptions and the unknown disruptions of tomorrow.”

As an example of SAP’s procurement commitment, he mentioned the company’s decision to open access to SAP Ariba Discovery, allowing buyers worldwide to post their immediate sourcing needs to which any of the 4 million suppliers on Ariba Network can respond with no fees through June 30, 2020.

“SAP is deeply committed to help you manage the complexities and mitigate the risks that disruption and accelerated change is inevitably bringing,” he said. “We’re hard at work with customers to help them understand how to use Ariba Network to identify supplies at risk, review supply chain data, and rapidly develop contingency plans.”

Unlock Insights with Community of Intelligence

Haydon said that it was time for procurement to become the epicenter of ideas and collaboration, owning the intersection of innovation and commerce between organizations. He called this “a profound and forward-looking change” in how people look at procurement, using the technology for tasks that can and should be automated so that businesses can apply human expertise where it is needed for greatest impact.

“The only way to make this possible is to get the process out of the way and get more insights into the hands of you, your training partners, and every part of your business. That’s the ultimate goal of intelligent spend management… reimagining processes to let intelligence do more work, so we can do more work better,” Haydon said. “We want to embed sustainability and risk context into every single supply chain event and reshape how we connect with trading partners by driving collaboration deeper into our supply chains and truly unlocking the power of community intelligence.”

Committed to Customer-First Experience

Having walked in the customer’s shoes, Haydon said that he understood their challenges, and with its co-CEOS at the helm, SAP was more focused than ever at “ensuring the customer experience is the true measurement of our success.”

“Ariba Network is the most powerful and effective network of its kind,” he said. “Sensing the opportunity to combine, streamline, and make your businesses run even more effectively and efficiently, we’ve pulled together SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass, and SAP S/4HANA operational procurement under a single organization with one clear vision… for intelligent spend management.”

Haydon closed with the promise to continue collaborating with customers as early adopters and partners.

“Your voices, insights, and ideas are key in helping us reshape procurement. If we can combine the depth of knowledge in our collective minds and the depth of feeling in our hearts, and our understanding of this new world of rapid disruption and accelerated changes, there’s nowhere we can’t go together. We believe in a future where procurement sits at the heart of the business, and together we can make this future possible.”

HPE: Path to Transformation

For a great example of intelligent spend management in action, I pivoted to Lucille Trickett, senior director of Global Solutions for the Office of Legal Affairs and Administration at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). In her video, she shared how HPE is using a suite of intelligent solutions from SAP to holistically view and manage multiple categories of spend from indirect, travel and expense, contingent labor, and service providers.

As a long-time SAP Ariba customer and partner, Trickett said that HPE’s transformation to the cloud was originally slated for two phases, starting with source-to-contract and followed by procure-to-pay processes. The company then decided to bring in SAP Concur solutions. The second phase coincided with an overall next-generation IT transformation at HPE that would also consolidate enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems on SAP S/4HANA. One of the objectives was to dramatically simplify and consolidate the customer, vendor, and partner master data structure.

“We now have a holistic view of our relationship with an entity, regardless of whether they’re a customer, partner, supplier, or all of the above. We took the time and effort to clean up our vendor master database and the new one was optimized by 39 percent,” said Trickett. “Given the size and scale of the [procure-to-pay] project, it was absolutely imperative that the business unit and global functions within the HPE company be ready for these changes.”

Trickett called the transformation journey an incredible experience for everyone involved: “Not only did we deliver everything we had committed to deliver in a changing environment, but we also found opportunities to drive additional innovation as we delved deep to solve issues along the way. We also strengthened our partnerships and collaboration, not just internally within HPE, but more importantly with our SAP family. I’m looking forward to working with the SAP team to design and innovate in the procurement arena for the future.”

Holistic Procurement View

During his introduction to Trickett’s talk, Haydon emphasized the importance of having a holistic view of procurement, because “it can help identify opportunities for economies of scale, enable better spend decisions, and drive better business outcomes.”

His thoughts were particularly relevant given fast-changing events in the world today: “When we at SAP tout our innovations and our never-ending commitment to make the procurement process as efficient and effective as possible, we do so to help protect the continuity of your business, employee livelihoods, and economies. It’s a bold charge forward, but the times call for boldness.”

To echo Haydon’s closing: Take care, stay healthy, and enjoy the SAP Ariba Live virtual experience.