Last week, we published the first part of our conversation with John Wookey, president of SAP Business Network and Intelligent Spend, to discuss the SAP Business Network. In the second part of this interview, he discusses some topline features of the solution and how customer feedback impacted the development of the SAP Business Network.
ASUG: Why do you think the SAP Business Network is so vital for SAP customers at this specific moment in time?
John: The SAP Business Network is critical because people have recognized that the way supply chains have been working—from point-to-point, organization-to-organization integration –have had way too many failure points. People don't have great visibility into the optimal way to manage their supply chain. Whether they're a manufacturing company or a services company, their ability to understand the resilience of their supply chain is critical to supporting their business objectives.
Having greater visibility into the supply chain is important. This can only happen in a model which is network-based, not constrained by an organization-centric view. It must be based on understanding, in a very holistic way, the network of relationships that are driving their business. With the SAP Business Network, what we've done is modeled the reality of the world that they're living in and give customers a platform to see that.
ASUG: You mentioned the trading partner portal. What are some of the other top-line innovations that are part of SAP Business Network that you want to highlight?
John: There are two key parts to this. The portal is a big piece of it, along with all the business intelligence we built around it. One thing to call out within that is the idea of showing a lot of supplier information such as sustainability scores, carbon footprint, and the amount of waste. Giving people sustainability scores as well as social measures is something that customers increasingly think is incredibly important when organizations are trying to make decisions balancing financial, operational, environmental, and social trade-offs when they're thinking about building out their supply chain.
The other important piece is our ability to support all the transaction flows from the sourcing events—like requisitioning, ordering, and invoicing—all the way through to payment services and supplier financing. While we talk a lot about the portal, underpinning that is the fact that we have full support for all the business transactions and processes that are part of supply chains. That's the other key piece and one of the reasons why I think we're in a unique position here, because there are very few other companies that have the breadth of critical business processes across our portfolio that we support. Our ability to understand those business processes and connect to them as part of this network is truly differentiating.
I also want to mention supplier financing. We’re now adding the financial dimension to everything we're doing and we're helping suppliers, especially small and medium businesses that typically are working on 90-day net terms with the customer to get paid sooner. A bank will step forward to take that receivable and pay the supplier immediately as part of running their business. It’s a great value-add for SMB suppliers to leverage the network to gain access to working capital.
ASUG: You all did a lot of work with customer feedback and that played in the development of the SAP Business Network. Can you go into further detail on that?
John: We've been providing early access to the unified trading partner portal to hundreds of customers, and have been getting continual feedback from them on design iterations. The other thing we've done is embedded Qualtrics experience management capabilities within our application to enable buyers to get feedback from their suppliers, which also allows us to understand their perceptions of the applications. It's everything from broad reactions to very granular things including tweaks in the user interface. All of the feedback has been incredibly valuable in helping us launch something that we feel will resonate with organizations.
ASUG: One of the main themes throughout the SAPPHIRE NOW 2021 keynote was sustainability. How is sustainability baked into the SAP Business Network?
John: A lot of this comes down to the way we're building out the supplier profiles so that companies can see the relative impact and carbon footprint of a supplier in their supply chain. There's a lot of discussion about GreenToken, which is a unique supply chain traceability tool from SAP that offers companies a new level of transparency in their complex raw material supply chain. Companies that need to source raw materials can now accurately report on origin and sustainable or ethical facts, even if the raw materials are mixed or blended, allowing them to meet their procurement goals. That's part of what we've adopted across all the application areas. An equally important piece is that we are trying to add this dimension to everything we're building now.
We are focused on both sustainability and social constructs like diversity and inclusion so that we can make those part of all the business processes that we're supporting. You'll see sustainability in what we're doing in the SAP Business Network, and you'll also see it in areas like our SAP Concur solutions. When you book a trip through SAP Concur, it can show you the carbon impact. We're building partnerships now where you can buy carbon offsets as part of your trip. We're looking at every business process for ways to embed that thread of visibility around the impact to specific sustainability goals.
ASUG: It’s great to see that sustainability is such a focus for SAP.
John: It's interesting. I have to hand it to Christian Klein, CEO of SAP, and the other leaders at the board level because this became a strategic priority for them several years ago. They started putting the foundation in place. What's interesting now is a lot of companies have caught on, but we're seeing more and more regulations now in different jurisdictions, like in the European Union, where it's becoming a regulatory requirement to monitor your sustainability targets and goals.
ASUG: Paige Wei-Cox mentioned during her aspect of the keynote that the SAP Business Network can connect to third-party networks, industry networks, and other value-added services. Can you give a little more insight into that?
John: We've already done part of this by connecting the SAP Logistics Business Network with project44 to give customers real-time shipment visibility. We’re building the network in such a way that it’s easy to connect with other networks as they start evolving in the marketplace and gain industry traction. Catena-X, a network for secure and cross-company data exchange in the automotive industry, will be one of the initiatives we work with, for example. A key enabler of the Catena-X network is the pan-European GAIA-X data infrastructure initiative, which is supported at the EU level and within the German federal government, pushing for shared standards for data. Our ability to connect to those networks will be a key piece of what we want to do going forward with this industry group.
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