At SAP Ariba Live in Las Vegas, and other SAP events in the past year, a key focus for the vendor has been the concept of purpose—doing something with its technology that not only serves its customers, but also seeks to address societal problems. SAP provided one example of how it has used the SAP Ariba platform alongside an educational nonprofit to positively impact Florida residents with children on the autism spectrum looking for specialized educational resources.

Educational advocate Katie Swingle found out firsthand what a struggle it can be to build a successful educational program for a child on the autism spectrum. When her son Gregory was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, Swingle and her husband decided they would do whatever it takes to make sure he could attend school. After years of intense therapy and services, Gregory was sent to kindergarten. He wouldn’t last a week before being pulled out.

Swingle found a school in Tallahassee that was specifically tailored to children on the autism spectrum. It was expensive, and she stretched all she could to pay for the first semester. It was worth it, as Gregory was making strides. For the second semester, Gregory received state assistance and soon he was able to read and write—things that were nearly unfathomable at diagnosis.

“That second semester sent Gregory on a trajectory that I didn’t know was possible,” says Swingle, who spoke on the keynote stage at SAP Ariba Live.

Untapped Scholarship Funds

State assistance came in the form of a scholarship designated for low income families and children with extraordinary needs. Swingle used it to pay for Gregory’s tuition. There was one challenge however: The tuition had to be paid first, then submitted for reimbursement.

Swingle and her husband were able to swing that, but there are many families in Florida that receive the same scholarships and simply cannot afford to purchase tuition or educational resources for their children upfront while waiting for reimbursement.

That’s where nonprofit Step Up for Students, which helps administer the state scholarships, along with SAP Ariba and SAP partner Premikati, stepped in to fill a gap that the scholarship program couldn’t address.

“For some families, it became an unsettling balancing act. They had to make life choices that sometimes could mean paying a household bill late while awaiting reimbursement for [scholarship] purchases that could sometimes take up to four weeks,” said Step Up Chief Operating Officer Anne White in a press release last November.

Technology Provides a Solution

SAP Ariba and Premikati came together to build an online marketplace called MyScholarShop on the SAP Ariba platform where families can purchase educational resources and payment is taken directly from scholarship funds. MyScholarShop launched as a Step Up offering in January, relieving the burden of paying upfront and waiting for reimbursement.

“There are few thousand parents in Florida for which [MyScholarShop] has changed the game” says Swindle. “I talked to a mom who told me that she had $16,000 in scholarship funds she couldn’t touch because she lives month-to-month—she couldn’t do that upfront. Now she can go pick out tools and put them in a basket. There are so many great things available to her.”

Bottom Line for ASUG Members

This is an example of SAP doing good work with its technology. For a potential customer, perhaps that’s a tipping point for deciding on purchasing SAP Ariba. However, there’s also an interesting technology story in here as well—MyScholarShop sounds like something that could be adapted for enterprises.

Perhaps MyScholarShop is an example of how a company can build an internal procurement system, where employees can charge their purchases of laptops, desks, and chairs to an account that is specifically attached to them or their department. That doesn’t have the societal impact of the Step Up, SAP Ariba, and Premikati partnership, but it could address a business need.