With the rise of big data and the volume at which we collect it, it’s no surprise that demand for data scientists is growing. As more businesses are in search of someone who can analyze and interpret large, complex data sets and assist in decision-making, it’s likely the demand will outgrow the supply of qualified individuals.

SAP is no different than other organizations looking for data science expertise to help make smarter business decisions. Dave Herman, chief data scientist, was brought on board shortly after the company acquired the cloud-based business commerce network, Ariba, in 2012.

Dave Herman, Chief Data Scientist, SAP Ariba

“I started with SAP in 2009 working on new, innovative business models,” Herman said. In 2014 he made the switch to the SAP Ariba team to focus on the massive amounts of data that flow through the commerce platform. “I was tasked with creating new opportunities for our customers.”

Bringing B2C to B2B Buying

Herman took the first steps of identifying ways that would drive both internal and external productivity. He and his team primarily focus on discovery of patterns that can help customers make effective decisions. “’That’s all that data science does,” Herman said. “It uses algorithms and user interfaces to drive discovery and productivity. It’s very straightforward.”

Since 2015, SAP Ariba has introduced a guided buying application for buyers. “We wanted to help buyers more effectively do their requisitioning. We’re currently working on a recommender system, which will tell you not just how to buy, but what to buy.” Like their B2C counterparts, B2B buyers are looking to purchase products and services more seamlessly. That’s why SAP Ariba is using data science to make their experiences easier.

Putting the Science Behind the Data

The team has introduced a better user experience with new interfaces and embedded intelligence capabilities. According to Herman, this allows SAP Ariba to address the data scientist shortage issue in the industry. Herman and his team aim to make it as easy as possible for customers to not involve a data scientist. “We’re just taking care of it for them,” he said.

This strategy plays well with Gartner’s definition of a citizen data scientist, which it has defined as a bridge between mainstream self-service data discovery by business users and the advanced analytics techniques of data scientist. SAP Ariba is part of this trend, as it’s making it easy for any business to analyze its own data.

“Those customers who are using the SAP Ariba Spend Analysis software have access to a custom network that helps them classify their spend and better understand what they’re purchasing, as well as find opportunities for cost savings.”

The “What If” Possibilities Are Endless

Supplier Risk was SAP Ariba’s first big data play. In addition to customer data, the application consumes data from more than a million public news and compliance sources, as well as enrichment data from big companies. “It is the first time that we’re showing customers how to generate insights from data that comes from these different areas,” Herman added. Customers have always had access to historical data, but now they get to combine it with other rich data sources and ask “what if” questions as opposed to just “why?”

Herman is now beginning to hear from customers with data scientists who want to change the way the algorithm works. “We have created the ability for the customers to change the algorithms for predicting supplier risk and taking actions, and the ability to collect custom information. Because really, all these different neural networks and different algorithms thrive on data. The more data you can throw at them, the better they become.”

Opening the Data Floodgates

Another way the SAP Ariba team has made it easier for customers is by providing an open system using open APIs. “Customers and partners can now use APIs to get access to their data as well as our analytics,” Herman said. “The next step is to enable the digital core.”

Herman and his team are rebuilding the platform from the ground up, this time to support more intelligent machine learning and cognitive interfaces.

He pointed to SAP Data Hub, SAP HANA, SAP Leonardo, and SAP Analytics Cloud as building blocks of an intelligent enterprise. “And to open things up even more, there’s a new, expanded commitment to third-party solutions.”

Taking Data Science to New Heights

Last year, SAP Ariba reported that the Ariba Network achieved record growth, connecting more than more than 3.8 million buyers and suppliers in 190 countries. Collectively these buyers and sellers engage in 150 million transactions totaling $2.64 trillion in commerce, annually—more than Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba combined. More than 10 percent of all global trade flows through SAP Ariba. That means that if SAP Ariba were a country, it would be the world’s fifth largest economy.

The network itself is the place where a lot of the transactional or operational bits and pieces of procurement happen. Here’s where it gets interesting: When intelligence is applied, both the buyer and seller can detect and respond to risks in the supply chain.

Customers can already take advantage of technologies such as SAP Leonardo or SAP Analytics Cloud within the SAP Ariba platform to expose data and automate decisions. “The fact is that analytics is going to drive procurement more than it ever has before. And so, when we look to what our customers will need, it’s about enabling the digital core now and then migrating the workforce so that by 2025, when there are more people in procurement than there are today, that they’re enabled for intelligent spend management.” You can learn more about the SAP Ariba Network at SAP Ariba Live.

Interested in learning more about SAP Ariba and the supply chain? Register today for the EAM: How to Succeed with Your Ariba/EAM Integration webcast.