When we look back on 2023, we’ll remember it as a year when economic conditions put the spotlight back on cost containment. At the same time, spend management professionals continued to face unexpected supply chain risks and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) requirements created more pressure to comply with government regulations and consumer demands.

It was also the year when business leaders worldwide decided enough is enough. They began taking steps to future proof their supply chains. And we can’t forget that 2023 was the year when generative AI came to dominate every conversation about technology.

Now it’s time to look ahead. Where will world events, business developments, and technology innovations take spend management in 2024? What strategies and technology will business leaders employ to bring greater resilience and efficiency to their supply chains?

Here are predictions for 2024, from SAP’s intelligent spend and business network leaders.

“In 2023, generative AI was like a bolt of lightning that compelled every business and technology leader to sit up and take notice. We’re no longer asking if businesses will adopt AI technology, but rather how quickly they can deploy it and realize its benefits. In 2024, businesses leaders will look beyond the industry buzz for solutions that deliver real-life, AI-based use cases. They’ll also see firsthand that AI is only as effective as the quality and availability of data. With the huge number of data and transactions running through our systems and business network, SAP is uniquely positioned to help organizations access the data they need, visualize it, and take decisive action to drive their success.”

Muhammad Alam, President and Chief Product Officer,
SAP Intelligent Spend and Business Network,
and General Manager for SAP Business Network

“As we enter 2024, procurement organizations will continue to focus on cost containment and supply continuity in order to bring value to their businesses. These have traditionally been the primary value drivers and, in today’s economic environment, I see this continuing. The opportunity will be maintaining the expanded voice earned with stakeholders during the volatile, crisis-riddled past few years, given the resurgence of hyper focus on cost containment. I believe that the scope of procurement will not contract back to a sole focus on supply stability and cost containment. In fact, I think procurement’s remit will continue to evolve to lead broader supply chain risk management, given the growing variety and number of risks faced such as geopolitical tensions, sustainability expectations, the need for more diverse sources of supply, and lingering labor availability concerns. The challenge facing procurement will be how to tackle all of this successfully. What we’ll see is the use of innovation like generative AI, spend analysis, and category management solutions to not only provide relevant, real-time business insights, but, importantly, to increase the efficiency and productivity of procurement teams, giving more capacity to focus on the strategic work stakeholders now expect.”

Etosha Thurman, Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer,
Intelligent Spend and Business Network, SAP

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or do they? Last year we were talking about how businesses needed to grapple with economic, political, and environmental uncertainty. That hasn’t changed. What’s different is how quickly new strategies and technologies have emerged to help businesses deal with these challenges. In 2024, I expect business leaders to continue pursuing supply chain resilience and to look for solutions such as AI that enable them to make big leaps. There will also be a continued focus on cost savings. With economic concerns looming as central banks raise funds rates to counter inflation, I foresee leaders being asked to deliver higher margins for their enterprises. To do this, traditional cost-focused sourcing and procurement cost compliance will be essential.”

Jeff Collier, Chief Revenue Officer,
Intelligent Spend and Business Network, SAP

“As enterprises continue on their journey to digitalize procurement processes, the need for an even more intuitive user experience will increase. Procurement professionals are looking for ways to spend more time on value-adding tasks and are looking to generative AI and analytics to support them at the point of decision. Moving into 2024 and beyond, we expect the demand for these technologies to increase, as well as for new use cases to arise. At SAP, we are already evaluating further ways to embed generative AI and analytics into solutions throughout our SAP Ariba portfolio to help make our customers’ business lives easier than ever.”

Salvatore Lombardo, SVP, Chief Product Officer,
SAP Ariba Procurement Solutions, SAP

“As technology evolves, pragmatic business leaders are looking for ways to leverage these new developments to help streamline and simplify their processes. Managing a workforce that can be comprised of up to 40% external workers demands tools that can simplify the user experience and offer broad visibility to both external and full-time workers. I predict that in 2024 we will see more organizations lean into total workforce management strategies to address this need for greater visibility across full-time and external workers, allowing businesses to align the skills they have with the work they need to complete. Along with a more holistic approach to managing their workforce, these same companies can leverage innovative AI tools designed to offer efficiencies and improve the user experience. In 2024, SAP Fieldglass customers will be able to leverage powerful AI tools, including AI-enhanced statement of work creation, translation capabilities, and our new job description builder powered by generative AI. These offerings are just the beginning, with many more use cases to come.”

Vish Baliga, Chief Technology Officer,
SAP Fieldglass Solutions, SAP

“In my conversations with customers and prospects about their plans for 2024, they consistently voice concerns about supply chain disruption and economic uncertainty. Meanwhile, most seem to appreciate that artificial intelligence is vital to maintaining their competitive edge, yet many are unsure how to distinguish the actual value from the ample hype. In 2024, we will see more of the value that AI can deliver to organizations with capabilities to support their value chains. These include generative and predictive AI capabilities to help forecast disruptions, recommend alternate sources of raw materials, detect errors in invoices, extract pertinent data from requests for information, predict shipment and delivery times, and complete catalogue details. Trading partners need the ability to enter into additional collaborative relationships, such as those between buyers and suppliers spanning SAP Business Network Supply Chain Collaboration and material traceability and freight collaboration solutions. Also in 2024, we see network convergence taking center stage to give organizations a shared onboarding experience across all network applications, as well as a set of common data federation services to support data residency requirements.”

Joern Keller, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer, 
SAP Business Network

“In 2024, generative AI will deliver trillions in economic benefits. It will help companies realize greater top-line growth, be more productive, and safeguard supply chains. At the same time, resiliency will continue to be a major focus. The combination of AI and business networks will drive game-changing resiliency and productivity by facilitating improved demand forecasting and more efficient inventory management. These technologies will empower businesses to respond proactively to market changes, allowing them to source new suppliers quickly. In times of supply chain disruptions or demand surges, the nimblest companies will benefit most. Business networks will help them anticipate challenges with real-time information sharing and enhanced supply chain visibility. And there’s more good news for midmarket and smaller companies: as enterprise adoption of these technologies may begin to lag behind due to complex and unique use cases, segments like the midmarket and smaller companies will start to gain the competitive edge, building more resilient, predictable, and sustainable supply chains at scale.”

Val Blatt, Global Head, SAP Business Network
Customer Success and Go-to-Market, SAP

“We’ll see business digitalization efforts go a level deeper – and become substantially more integrated – in 2024. Continued adoption of AI, automation, and virtual forms of payment will drive streamlined processes in travel, expense, and invoice. Instead of using a company credit card, employees will be able to expand their use of virtual payments for all business expenses, including travel. In turn, we’ll start to see two types of transactions emerge: trusted and exceptions. Most transactions will use trusted payment methods, and AI will quickly validate them as compliant, enabling near-immediate reimbursement. Exceptions will trigger AI-driven, automated audits to ensure compliance. In both cases, payments will be issued faster with more ease, and employees will have more time to focus on what matters most to them and the organization.”

Christopher Juneau, Head of SAP Concur Market Strategy,
SAP Concur

Get more predictions from SAP Concur

“After another year of significant disruption caused by economic and geopolitical uncertainty, supply chain optimization has risen up the agenda as companies seek to better manage their working capital. Embedded finance has emerged as a solution, promising to reshape the way we do business and interact. Embedded finance has the power to expedite transactions, facilitate financing between trading partners, and lower trade barriers. By harnessing embedded finance, companies have the potential to optimize processes and access financing solutions seamlessly through B2B platforms. Ultimately, this will result in more streamlined payments, faster credit decisions, and expanded access to working capital.”

Danielle Weinblatt, Chief Product Officer, Taulia

“As organizations, especially midmarket companies, continue to navigate today’s dynamic business environment, they are realizing the need to work with solution partners to create more value for their customers and themselves. A strong relationship between organizations and their partner ecosystems is critical to success, and I expect we will continue to see more businesses, both large and small, looking to establish these relationships. With the cost of managing sustainable supply chains continuing to increase, companies should turn to their partner ecosystems to leverage their expertise, skills, and services. This approach can help unify a company’s operations to provide a greater experience for its buyers and sellers, enabling stronger collaboration, greater visibility and transparency, risk mitigation, and more efficient operations.”

Claus Gruenewald, Head of Intelligent Spend and
Business Network Partner Ecosystem, SAP

One More Prediction

Recent times have shown that unexpected disruptions aren’t the only reason businesses struggle in times of crisis. It’s also about their readiness to deal with disruption, to adapt, and to come out stronger when the crisis subsides. Many business leaders have learned this lesson. They’re taking action to ensure – to the best of their ability – that their businesses are prepared for what comes next.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Sometimes it feels like we need a crystal ball to see into the future. Or, to use a more common term, we need “visibility.” Visibility into market trends. Visibility into world events. Visibility into every corner of the supply chain.

Here’s a prediction you can take to the bank: in 2024, SAP will continue to design and deliver spend management and business network solutions that can drive efficiency, leverage AI in ways that are relevant, reliable, and responsible, and create greater visibility for every size business.

Mike Conners is a communications specialist for the SAP Spend Management Communications team.

Get the latest SAP news delivered to your inbox once a week