My Thoughts on SAP Ariba Live 2018

As I write this I am sitting in Schipol airport waiting for my flight back to Manchester. I am pretty exhausted after three busy days (and evenings) at SAP Ariba Live in Amsterdam.

The event offered another demonstration of SAP’s huge investment in Ariba, its commitment to developing a market leading range of solutions across procurement and now supply chain. There was also evidence of their products geared towards both enterprise and what they are classifying as mid-market customers with the introduction of new tools like Snap.

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Tania Seary of Procurious with Andrew Daley at Ariba Live

The event was significantly bigger in scale than last years equivalent in Prague. The venue itself, the RAI Exhibition Centre, was big enough to easily accommodate what some estimated to be nearly double the number of attendees compared to last year (SAP have since said delegate numbers were up 47% on last year at 2088). In addition to the SAP representatives from all the various business units from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa there were, of course, a huge number of current and potential clients. However what was the most noticeable change from last year was the increase in the number of partner/sponsor organisations who are part of the ever expanding Ariba ecosystem. It’s actually quite an interesting list and I’ve posted a link to it below along with a link to the videos of many of the presentations.

I felt the overall sales pitch was toned down from last year, with most sessions I attended being a bit more understated, particularly on the main stage. I don’t know if that is a style thing coming from Barry Padgett (who took over from Alex Atzberger at the start of the year) or a change in marketing approach. This year’s marketing push centred around “Procurement with Purpose” with a lot of talk about visibility across supply chains offering the ability to promote agendas like sustainability whilst eradicating problems including child labour and modern slavery.

Personally I think this is a clever play given the importance of these issues and the potential for procurement to be a positive influence in this area (we’ve covered it ourselves in our recent Insider report). It also nicely promotes the potential of their relatively new capability across the supply chain.

Last years “Let’s Make Procurement Awesome” theme supported the more salesy demonstration of the new solutions that Ariba had in the production pipeline at that time. It was also a clear message that the investment from SAP was going to raise the bar.

At this event we were able to see what these solutions can really do now that they are available or about to become so. For me the big game changer for Ariba could be their move into direct spend and supply chain, not least because so few of their competitors can offer much in competition in this area.

Perhaps my favourite presentation was “Procurement In A Digital World” from the charismatic Dr Martin Kotula of SAP Ariba’s Value Engineering team. He spoke about his future vision for procurement and made it feel almost inevitable. He talked about the increasing pace of change in the modern world and how that applies to procurement and supply chain. Here’s one of his slides

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The Muziekgebouw was the venue for the celebration party on the Tuesday evening. In my opinion it was a better layout than last years in Prague and made for an excellent atmosphere. The food was good, the beer and wine flowed and as a consequence there was even the sight of some procurement people dancing! Other delegates chose to record the evidence of this on their phones.

Not everything ran as smoothly as the organisers would like. Certain Amsterdam coach drivers responsible for ferrying delegates to the evening events could benefit from using Google maps, and some of the sessions in smaller rooms were full meaning that some delegates missed out. I was disappointed to miss the first IBM presentation entitled “IBM’s Cognitive Procurement Journey with SAP Ariba” but these issues were rare exceptions to what was another excellent event.

I did make a second presentation by IBM about building a Cognitive Procurement Strategy and these photos of some of the slides will make for interesting reading for anyone working in this area.

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I’ve been to a lot of these events recently including several hosted by the other solution providers. They each have their strengths and weaknesses but all offer an insight into the company cultures and objectives which are fascinating for those of us who are interested in these things.

As I’ve said in previous articles if you get the chance to go to these events grab it with both hands. You’ll learn loads about the technology that’s shaping the future of procurement and meet some great people. You’ll also get some valuable insight into areas that could have a very positive influence on what you do for your company, and how you develop your own career.

If you want some guidance on the latter please get in touch directly, or watch out for me in the networking areas at any of these events – my next stop is Procurement Leaders in May. Hope to see you there.

Here’s that sponsor list – https://events.sap.com/aribalive-2018-amsterdam/en/sponsor

Here are the videos of many of the presentations – https://events.sap.com/aribalive-events/en/agendav