At the 2018 SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference, SAP was clear about its intentions to connect front-office and back-office technologies through the concept of the intelligent enterprise, with some help from the cloud. SAP’s procurement and supply chain offering, SAP Ariba, fits right in the center of such a tech stack. We were able to catch up with Barry Padgett, the new president of SAP Ariba, at ASUG Annual Conference to get his position on the future of SAP Ariba and how it can make enterprises more intelligent.

Lessons for SAP Ariba From SAP Concur

Based on the 20 years Padgett spent working with SAP Concur, he sees plenty of parallels and strategies that apply to SAP Ariba.

He calls out three specific opportunities SAP Ariba has to grow:

  1. Delivering a delightful user experience.
  2. Shifting its strategy to think of it as a network or platform instead of as a product.
  3. Adapting the platform for use in the small business market.

These are the advantages that Padgett believes allowed SAP Concur to generate new revenue streams in the midst of the massive cloud migration we’ve seen in the past 10-15 years. “When I looked at Ariba I thought, here are the opportunities to bring some of my learnings and experience to Ariba,” said Padgett.

SAP Ariba’s User Experience Facelift

SAP Ariba is already making some strides. At Ariba Live in March 2018, SAP Ariba launched a new user experience for both the buyer and supplier. This consumer-friendly experience is a big leap forward, as the user interface hadn’t been touched in nearly a decade.

SAP Ariba is also dipping its toes into the small- and medium-sized business market with its SAP Ariba Snap offering. Padgett describes this as “cheap and cheerful in terms of getting small- and medium-sized businesses onto a platform where they can start connecting with their suppliers and transacting digitally with respect to their POs and their invoices.”

What’s in Your Supply Chain?

Today’s consumers want the power to be able to see down your supply line to make sure they’re fully comfortable with your business practices. SAP Ariba’s source-to-pay system makes that possible. As Padgett outlined, “With Ariba, it’s the idea of not only knowing who you’re doing business with, but also knowing who is doing business with your suppliers and taking that two, three, four, five, six, seven layers down through the supply chain. You can make all that visible now for the very first time, having a platform where not only you have visibility, but the community itself has visibility.”

Companies that use SAP Ariba can see ratings on the ethical nature of suppliers and classify them into groups, so they can filter who is taking a certain position on the environment, ethnic diversity, or other issues. “We don’t want to be the certification board for the world’s supplier community,” says Padgett. “We want to be the platform that allows those certifications to happen.”

How SAP Ariba Makes the Enterprise Intelligent

Padgett identified procurement and supply chain as logical first proving grounds for those looking to take advantage of technologies like machine learning and blockchain. “The first place you can really go to add value in your company with something like machine learning is making sure that you’re not paying duplicate invoices or the invoices that you’re getting actually match to the purchase orders that were created, that the goods invoice actually matches the invoice. Those sorts of things are very, very simple to do, but very powerful in terms of providing real cost savings and cost efficiencies in the business.”

Padgett also acknowledged how using technology like the Internet of Things (IoT) can allow a company to take advantage of multiple connected platforms such as SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass, and SAP Concur. Padgett’s Boeing example brings the message of SAP’s intelligent enterprise to life:

“Boeing is fitting a lot of the airplane parts with IoT sensors, sensors to check fatigue in the metal or to check the number of flight hours on a particular part, and these sensors are supposed to raise their hand and say, ‘Hey, I'm due for maintenance’, or, ‘I'm about to fail.’ At that point, the network should make possible the idea that we have this automated process where the part alerts the company that it needs to be serviced. That kicks off a predetermined activity to go and find the part and purchase the part. It kicks off a Fieldglass search to find the technician or the engineers that are certified and capable of working on that airplane and that particular part, and it starts a Concur process to actually move the engineers or the maintenance folks to the actual airplane.”

The Next Supply Chain Transition

One thing that SAP ECC customers should know about is SAP Ariba’s hesitancy to continue offering them integration support. Padgett believes that many companies still running ECC may also be running SAP’s legacy SRM tool for its supply chain processes, while SAP’s supply chain future is in Ariba. But Padgett sees this as a potential opportunity for those preparing for the next digital step. “It’s more the opportunity for an ECC customer, who maybe has a digital transformation goal in mind, to start with something where there’s a quick win. A lot of material businesses hate savings, so they move the SRM, on-prem, SAP stuff to Ariba, and then they take the next step after that, which is maybe moving from ECC to SAP S/4HANA.”

Embracing the Digital Supply Chain

SAP Ariba is clearly poised to evolve into a key connector in SAP’s intelligent enterprise. As the potential bridge between SAP S/4HANA and the new SAP C/4HANA initiative, SAP Ariba is ready to help customers who want to integrate their front- and back-office operations and optimize the SAP user experience for their employees. Some companies will be in danger of falling behind if they wish to continue their ECC deployment for the foreseeable future. But if you’re ready to embrace the digital transformation and SAP’s vision of the intelligent enterprise, SAP Ariba is ready for you.

If you’re looking to learn how your peers are doing more with enterprise asset and supply chain management, you should join us at the SAP-Centric EAM & Supply Chain conference, March 16–18 in San Antonio, Texas. You can also register for our webcast, The State of the Supply Chain for SAP Customers.”