SAP solutions previewed at the recent Spend Connect Live conference address supply chain and procurement organizations’ urgent needs for agility, resilience, transparency, and sustainability, with more capabilities to come.

During interviews at the conference, SAP leaders emphasized these themes as they talked about what they hear from customers as well as SAP responses and priorities going forward. ASUG interviewed Tony Harris, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer, SAP Business Network, and Etosha Thurman, Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer, Intelligent Spend & Business Network, about their customer takeaways, outlooks, and advice. Here are some highlights of those conversations.

‘Days Not Weeks’

While it seemed like “the world turned upside down” for supply chains given the pandemic, business and market dynamics instead show “one type of disruption replaces another, and another,” according to Harris, prompting companies to mitigate risk and seek alternative suppliers “in days, not weeks. The three-month supply qualifying process is a thing of the past.”

Harris said SAP Business Network’s current and forthcoming improvements discussed at Spend Connect Live aim to improve value and services for suppliers and procurement teams. Suppliers want to provide “more information proactively on their SAP Business Network profiles, so they surface as part of the discovery process for buyers who need to access the information, quickly and more completely,” Harris said.

Potential buyers, meanwhile, want to be able to share and get responses not only to purchase orders but real-time forecasts as well, to be assured of availability, delivery, and the logistics landscape. Additionally, they also want transparency to view the supply chain “into the ‘n’ tier with material traceability and sustainability data,” Harris said.

Digitally Enabled Procurement Processes

Harris said SAP will continue to enhance SAP Business Network with more digitally enabled processes between buyers, suppliers, and other trading partners. Plans include supplier profiles that include public catalogs with list prices, additional industry-specific information and services for buyers and suppliers, and a Business Network marketing/awareness-building campaign in 2023 for customers, suppliers, and trading partners.

“Suppliers still say they are getting 200-question questionnaires from potential buyers, often with significant overlap on the questions. We’ve got to simplify that process to save everyone time and money,” Harris noted.

Thurman reflected on the massive change and challenge procurement professionals have experienced since April 2020. “Customers were in shock. They had been focused on operational compliance, not on transparency, agility, and strategic supplier relationships, and they were seeing fissures in their supply chain. There was a scramble for suppliers, firefighting. That continues now,” she said.

She envisions “more mature customers who reimagine digital transformation not just as a foundation, but in re-imagined processes to emphasize [supply chain] transparency and agility.”

Replace Tactics with Technology

The predictive procurement, category management, Icertis-based smart contracting, and SAP Business Network enhancement featured at the conference will help procurement teams with “how to start replacing tactics and tasks with technology,” and allow “sourcing to leverage intelligent insights on behalf of the business as a real differentiator,” Thurman said.

In addition to urging customers to increase their understanding of the current and future Intelligent Spend and Business Network portfolio and capabilities, Thurman reflected on her own procurement officer experience to offer advice.

“Start with your pain points: is it margin? Or is it a focus on operational procurement? Tackle visibility across your supply chain. Collaborate with suppliers; maybe co-innovate with great suppliers. Look at what best-in-class looks like. The CFO and COO want the best prices. Sourcing drives this and more,” she said.

And for SAP Intelligent Spend & Business Network, Thurman said the aim is “to get procurement to be more strategic; to bring insights to the business, to customers, and to suppliers; to elevate the conversation to stakeholders and to bring organizations’ entire spend picture to life.”

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