SAP Ariba Live 2019 – What can we take away from 3 days in Barcelona
Welcome to Barcelona!
bluewaveSELECT was delighted to be back at SAP Ariba Live, this time from the sunny Ciudad of Barcelona, with the conference itself hosted at the CCIB (Barcelona International Convention Centre). And if you thought they went all out last year in Amsterdam, then this year you could not help but be impressed by the lengths gone to in order to create an engaging, visually aesthetic and informative arena for Europe’s (and beyond) best SAP Ariba Professionals to congregate, re-acquaint and interact.
We even had the Cirque Du Soleil running rampant through the Market Place and keeping attendees entertained. Yet whilst they kept things fun around their stall, it was all business on the opening day. We were treated to a truly iridescent performance ahead of the opening General Session headed by a supreme violist and supporting artistic dance crew on the main stage. And let’s also not forget that Cirque Du Soleil is an SAP Ariba customer too!
3 years of key messages:
What we know about Live is that SAP Ariba like to base these annual events around a single clear message, in recent years we have enjoyed the following:
Prague 2017 #MakeProcurementAwesome
Amsterdam 2018 #ProcureWithPurpose
Barcelona 2019 #3TrillionReasons
3 Trillion Reasons; where does this rather unfathomably large number come from? Amazingly, 3 Trillion is the amount of US Dollars that has been spent by business in the last year via the SAP Ariba Network. Now let’s just stop and grab some perspective… that number is more than treble the combined total spend on eBay, Amazon and Alibaba. We’re talking a huge volume of B2B transactions.
3 Trillion dollars of commerce through the network shows the scale of growth and engagement currently between buyers and sellers on the Ariba Network. SAP also looked to take this number and encourage us to think about the sheer volume of lives that are touched by commerce through this network – a nice Segway back to “Procure with Purpose” and the mission to eradicate non-compliance, child slavery, inequality, etc from our day to day business dealings.
Whilst on the topic of inequality, SAP listened to suggestions that in previous years their line up could be seen as somewhat male dominated and opted this year to give females the stage. We were treated to an all-star cast of 5 speakers for the opening session, all of them women.
Tifenn Dano Kwan (SAP Ariba CMO), as engaging as always, kicked off the Day 1 General Session and wasted no time in delivering the message to us in attendance that SAP Ariba is incredibly proud of this number. As they should be. The SAP Ariba B2B Network possesses an incredible amount of purchasing power, and to that extent this can be utilised intelligently to positively shape our future supply chains. So the challenges that now lay ahead are how can we continue to make spend more intelligent?
Well the answer from SAP is rather exciting. In an earlier article (view it here) I reported on the integration of SAP Ariba with SAP Fieldglass, and here in Barcelona we were introduced to what SAP are terming the “Intelligent Spend Group”. You’ll be hearing a lot about this I assure you. Somewhat fortunately I was sat next to David Obadia who serves as SAP Fieldglass’ Sales Director for the France, Southern Europe and Middle East and Africa regions and it was interesting to discuss with him the ambitions that he has for Fieldglass implementations over the next 12 months and their strategy which involves multiple new deployments within the UK, wider Europe and even as far as South Africa.
According to David, partnering with SAP Ariba is a fantastic move. And the challenges he foresees, is in the integration of the solution at the back end. Meaning that to the user, whilst there will be an integration of the two solutions, the interaction they have as a user at the front end will be seen as separate from the perspective of how they work across the Fieldglass and Ariba GUIs. For example, when signing a contract with Fieldglass as a supplier, the backend integration with Ariba will occur autonomously without any disruption or deviance from the experience of the user across two different graphical user interfaces at the front end. The call for Fieldglass solution implementation will only rise due to the closer alliance with Ariba, and this will be keeping the business busy for the foreseeable.
The Intelligent Spend Group
Take the relationship that has tightened between Ariba and Fieldglass, now add in Concur. SAP term this collective of solutions the Intelligent Spend Group (and I like it!). Headed up by Mike Eberhard, who literally postponed his retirement in order to take up this role, the vision is to help companies globally improve their end to end operations, vision and strategy for SAP’s integrated cloud solutions (Ariba, Concur and Fieldglass). It was a homecoming of sorts for Mike as originally he worked at Ariba prior to moving to Concur in the role of President, before returning a matter of months ago full circle and back to Ariba, to serve as President of the Intelligent Spend Group.
In an interview about Intelligent Spend, James Lee (SAP Ariba & SAP Fieldglass COO) explained clearly that Intelligent Spend is a huge theme this year. For years customers have asked SAP for a total platform offering the entire process from Source to Settle, and to cover spend categories. In response SAP have combined Ariba, Fieldglass and Ariba in order to offer all spend categories (direct, indirect, MRO, service, T&E, etc).
Mike Eberhard’s delivery on Day 2 quite clearly stated that he believes the key to ensuring success here will be for SAP to ask questions, to listen carefully and to understand. That is, to ask questions of the customer and listen to what they have to say. What causes them headaches currently. To go the extra mile to fully understand the root of these issues, the current limitations, the ambitions moving forwards, etc, and to actively work with these customers in delivering solutions that positively impact the end to end experience for their unique supply chain. Enabling them to “spend more intelligently”.
Accountability, Visibility and Transparency
Intelligent spend effectively means spending better. SAP want customers on the Ariba Network to become more responsible for their spend. To think about what is ethical and to take accountability for spend decisions. We heard from President of SAP’s Cloud Business Group, Jennifer Morgan who spoke to us about important areas identified from listening to customer feedback (namely better/faster support, intelligent spend integration and innovation).
To address this feedback, SAP have invested heavily in bolstering numbers across support in the guise of Assurance Representatives, Cloud Architects and a deeper dive into assessment of their processes. The Intelligent Spend Group has been formed to address integration demands, and this will also cross over into the wider SAP domain of S/4 HANA. And innovation is now at an all time high. Jennifer spoke to us about the $8-Billion acquisition Qualtrics, a useful software company that can provide insightful data by way of feedback, and how bringing them into the fold now allows a more complete ability to attain meaningful data; and where SAP Ariba already had the ability to assess Operational Data (the “What?”), they can now in addition attain key information across Experience based Data (the “Why?”).
Lisa Smith of Ford Motor Company (Global Director, Purchasing Information Management) described the changes made by Ford in partnership with SAP to undertake a major digital procurement transformation. I remember that last year in Amsterdam a key theme was that we need to embrace Change Management in order to successfully redefine our procurement processes and Lisa’s account was testimony to just this. If one message from her was to be taken on board, it is that managing change amongst the business is mission critical to a successful transformation. For Ford, this resulted in sizeable improvements such as the reduction of Approval Flows from 25,000 to an impressive 14!
Capping off the contingent of female speakers we heard from Amal Clooney, International Law Human Rights Barrister, Activist, UINICEF Signatory and Special Envoy on Media Freedom to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Amal encouraged us to make a difference to the world by doing good.
“If doing good can be profitable, then doing good can be sustainable”
The message was to be accountable, to provide visibility and to be transparent in business. To take an active approach in ethical practice and equality for all in the workplace. Sharing her experiences with aiding in conflict zones through collaboration with technology companies Amal has helped develop an app that is now being rolled out across courtrooms globally which will aid in the assessment of justice for crimes against human rights. She implored us to consider the implications of the business decisions we make, and when opportunity presents itself to ensure we can be held accountable for making the right decisions to make the world a better place.
Barcelona also provided a platform for SAP Ariba to talk about successes following on from last years’ visions. Sean Thompson (SAP Ariba SVP for Business Network & Ecosystem) who was returning for his second year at Live talked about the success of improving the Delivery Partner Model in which SAP encourage collaboration with systems integrators to deliver on implementations. Over 50% of SAP Ariba implementations are now partner led, and SAP have tripled the investment in their partner delivery programme. As before, the goal is to continue to push this partner first strategy further.
Other improvements Sean spoke of include the addition of an API roadmap for integration and the inclusion of SAP Fieldglass into this ecosystem.
For example, Concur customers wanted better ways to integrate with the cloud prompting SAP Concur to lay out new APIs allowing access to application data to the ecosystem. In addition, the partnerships developed with the likes of Uber and AirBnb gave enhanced user experience through seamless integration (such as receipts into Concur for expense report creation).
When looking at the inclusion of SAP Fieldglass into this ecosystem (allowing for portfolio expansion of delivery partners) we see that Fieldglass can elevate the role of the managed service provider. Essentially a lot has changed for SAP Ariba culturally in a short space of time.
On the topic of Partnerships… a big player this year are Celonis, a process mining company that will allow you to vastly simplify your business process through utilisation of cutting edge AI technology yielding maximisation of operational speed, efficiency and fluidity. Mike Evans (Senior Solution Consultant for SAP Ariba, and “Process Junkie”) gave an impressive demonstration of how Celonis help us identify and improve routes we take to get from A to B with minimal deviations from what is optimal. We saw the software in action where Mike showed us the beauty of the interface, and the user experience that Celonis offers to identify inefficient process flows, and to reduce these inefficiencies. The benefit of this to customers is so great that SAP have included Celonis as part of their offering.
Breakout Sessions Throughout the Event
Away from the main stage SAP Ariba put on a wealth of smaller presentations, breakout sessions, seminars, demonstrations and discussions that allowed attendees to really tailor their trip based upon unique reasons for visiting the conference. My discussions with peers was interesting in that the event served as a hunting ground of sorts for many wanting answers to specific questions that would help them back at their desks come Monday morning (for example, to speak with previous implementers of Guided Buying to discern mistakes that could be avoided in their own implementations… learning from others mistakes).
I enjoyed the chance to sit in on some smaller presentations by Delivery Partners IBM and EY. IBM’s session on SAP Ariba Solutions and SAP S/4 HANA Implementation, led by Karla Gil Ruiz, Mayank Chandla and Bilal Rahman showcased their Accelerated Implementation Methodology, an impact solution. The demonstration featured a talk through of migration and assessment tools, the design approach and various transformation road map options for customers based on where their move to Ariba (complimented by S/4 HANA) sits on the spectrum of Greenfield through Bluefield to Brownfield.
I was also intrigued by EY’s presentation on leading innovation through use of RPA and Guided Buying to drive digital transformation. EY innovation is helping us to improve procurement value proposition, and Kristin Galiano and Hamish McKechnie introduced the term Guided Sourcing. Working with Eamonn Kelly at MetLife, EY have helped optimise sourcing operations through RPA and we were treated to a demonstration of what this looks like for the user, an easy to navigate interface (reminiscent of that for Guided Buying).
And That’s Not All
At the top of the article I mentioned that SAP Ariba Live goes BIG when they put these events on. Just walking around the CCIB the evidence of this was everywhere. Kudos to the team that put this all together. Bar a few issues with regards to timings of speakers overrunning, the whole 3 days ran very smoothly. Asides from the core SAP Ariba messages and take-homes there are many other elements of my time spent in Barcelona that I will bring back with me as fond memories, namely Cirque Du Soleil, the Celebration Evening on the picturesque Barcelona Beachfront, the introduction to the final session; an incredible orchestral piece with SAP Ariba and Fieldglass’ very own COO James Lee playing Piano, and a highly engaging final Key Note speech delivered by Rana El Kaliouby (pioneer in artificial emotional intelligence; technology evangelist, inventor and research scientist and co-founder & CEO of Affectiva) on the importance of Emotional Intelligence and not just Artificial Intelligence. She discussed power of emotion and its connection to intelligent spend management and the intelligent enterprise. We were also treated to a live demonstration on stage of Emotional Intelligence in action via an app (download it here) that can recognise real human emotion in real-time!
bluewaveSELECT SAP Ariba Specialists
For bluewaveSELECT, it was our second year in attendance and we welcomed the opportunity to speak with many of you (consultants and companies, customers and delivery partners, existing clients of ours and hopefully some new ones).
For those of you we did not get to meet I hope you had a great time and I wish you all the continued success with your own SAP Ariba journey through 2019/2020. Perhaps we can meet next year in Berlin. Feel free to reach out to me today if you do want to speak…
What I take home with me is just how much the demand for SAP Ariba talent has grown in such a short space of time. There are more and more projects in the pipeline and plenty of opportunity for Delivery Partners to get involved in new implementations globally. From Guided Buying, SLP, CIG and S/4 HANA the innovations keep coming, and now that we have the Intelligent Spend Group I expect to see further opportunity for Partners to expand their existing delivery portfolios.
The challenges posed to Delivery Partners is in keeping up with demand on pipeline in terms of delivery capability. I spoke with a high number of consultancies who expressed interest in permanent talent all across Europe, specifically in regards to Germany, the Nordics and Spain (native speakers). And whilst the contractor market is rife with available talent, those wanting to commit to long term permanent roles are more sparsely populated. So if you are somebody who would consider a move to a full time permanent position within a business that can offer investment in training and opportunity to work on cutting edge SAP Ariba projects in your region then I again welcome contact.
On the flip side, if you need SAP Ariba experts for your own teams, be it temporary or permanent then I’m confident we can help. We are one of very few businesses across Europe who have a dedicated SAP Ariba Team; a team with a pure focus on sourcing SAP Ariba. Our database built up of over 1,000 profiles across EMEA means we can react quickly when speed is of the essence, and you can trust that not only do we “know the difference between upstream and downstream”, we can also delve deeper into the intricacies of project specifics with extensive knowledge of the wider SAP Ariba landscape.
To back this up here’s a snippet of what some of our happy clients think of us:
Get in Touch
If you’d like to speak then feel free to get in touch today with myself or the bluewaveSELECT team.
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