In the old days, procurement’s job description was pretty straightforward. Just follow the five “rights” of procurement: right quality, right quantity, right place, right time, and right price.

These days, business buyers need to think very differently about how they buy, who they buy from, and the impact of their buying decisions. The five “rights” still apply. But there are other factors at work, requiring a more elevated buying experience.

Consider personal online buying, where it gets easier all the time to find and purchase the goods we need. Today’s casual business buyers and procurement professionals want that same experience – one that is personalized for them and their role as well as predictive, offering suggestions based on the work they do. They also want intelligent recommendations to help them make informed decisions and weigh the sustainability and environmental impact of their purchases.

Elevating the Guided Buying Experience for Today

The guided buying capability in SAP Ariba solutions remains the gold standard for purchases of goods and services. At SAP Sapphire, we demonstrated how guided buying continues to evolve as we incorporate SAP innovations and other leading-edge technology. The buying 360 capability is the latest step in this evolution. It adds new services that help make purchasing more predictive, personalized, and sustainable.

Buyers are directed to goods and services based on their role and the organization’s procurement and sustainability policies. This helps make procurement more targeted and strategic. Additionally, integration between SAP Ariba solutions and SAP S/4HANA enables a seamless fulfillment experience by converting purchasing requests into purchase orders and then tracking the fulfillment process.

Our plan is to make the new buying 360 capability available in SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition during the third quarter of 2023. For existing SAP Ariba Buying customers, the buying 360 capability is available via the standard SAP Ariba Buying cloud upgrade process.

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A More Flexible, Personalized Buying Experience

The buying 360 capability is built using SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) services to make it highly flexible. We are planning other innovations to enable smooth adoption by existing customers.

The new capabilities leverage artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent recommendations, and machine learning. This creates a holistic view of what the buyer is purchasing and how the purchase stacks up against their organization’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals.

A Personalized Buying Experience

With the buying 360 capability, SAP Ariba Buying and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition can deliver a buying experience that is personalized for individuals and their roles. As soon as the user logs on, they are greeted with a clean and friendly user interface. They are directed to goods and services based on their role and their organization’s procurement and sustainability policies.

Predictive Recommendations

Leveraging AI and machine learning, the buying 360 capability offers intelligent recommendations to help users make informed decisions for their role. We’re designing the user interface so these recommendations display at the right time and the right place – for example, in catalogs, in contracts, in the marketplace, or even as a spot quote – using automation to reduce the manual work required of buyers. In the future, we plan to add functionality that will help buyers make purchases that comply with the procurement and sustainability policies of their business.

Here are some of the predictive capabilities being made available via the standard SAP Ariba Buying cloud upgrade process and that are planned for availability with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition:

  • “Recommended for You”: Guided buying is extremely helpful for buyers who know what they’re looking for. But sometimes they need more information. The buying 360 capability understands the user’s role and the roles of their peers, and it uses AI and algorithms to determine what people in similar roles have ordered to make recommendations.
  • “Intelligent Search”: The buyer types a search term and our Intelligent Search 3.0 sorts through connected marketplaces and supplier-connected catalogs to show the best options. This helps provide relevant entries that have been sorted and personalized to their role.
  • “Also Bought Together”: After the buyer selects the item they want, the system displays other items their colleagues purchased with that item. These are chosen based on previous shopping carts with the help of a powerful machine learning algorithm.
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Environmentally Aware Buying Decisions

As the needs and priorities of business evolve, so will the guided buying capability. Today, organizations are being challenged to balance cost savings against the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions. To help them, we are designing enhancements for future releases to provide sustainability information, including carbon footprint, packaging footprint, and energy consumption.

The Future of Buying

While the buying of yesterday was just about price and policy, future purchasing also needs to be personalized to the user, predictive to reduce manual effort, and done with an eye on sustainability.

The buying 360 capability represents the next wave in the evolution of guided buying services from SAP. As we roll out these new capabilities, we will continue to focus on the individual and their buying needs, the organization and its objectives, and the ESG aspirations of both with a holistic, 360-degree view of the purchasing process.

Look for more developments moving forward. In the meantime, current SAP Ariba Buying customers are already seeing many innovations provided through SAP’s standard cloud upgrade process. We also plan to make the new buying 360 capability available in SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition during the third quarter of 2023.

Learn more about the guided buying capability and see it in action along with more SAP spend management innovations at SAP Spend Connect Live in Vienna.

Salvatore Lombardo is senior vice president, chief product officer, and head of Engineering for SAP Procurement.