SAP Spend Connect Live: Top 5 Takeaways

CCP Global had a large team at SAP Spend Connect Live and we can’t express how great it was to meet up in person once again after a 3-year hiatus due to the pandemic. We met a lot of great people, attended a lot of very informative sessions, learned a lot and can’t wait until next year. In the meantime, here are our top 5 takeaways from the conference.

1. Icertis’ expanded role in contract management

This was without a doubt the biggest buzz at SAP Spend Connect Live. Following the announcement of the expanded partnership between SAP and Icertis earlier this year, the two companies are committing further to the integration between Icertis and the SAP Ariba contract management solutions.

The question on many SAP partners and users’ mind was: is Icertis going to be replacing SAP Ariba’s contract management software?

The answer seems to be that SAP Ariba contract management would still be supported but may not be improved upon in the classic framework. Icertis and Ariba introduced that going forward they would be supporting a shared roadmap – so it is not certain if there would be two separate tools or if Icertis would be replacing Ariba Contract Management.

This is still a very new partnership and there are more details that will follow – but the announcement was met with some concerns by those who have recently deployed Ariba Contracts due to the uncertainty of what this will mean for them.

2. Buying 360

If you like the convenience of SAP Ariba Guided Buying, you’ll love Buying 360. It makes the purchasing experience simpler and more intuitive for everyone involved in the process. It’s predictive and personalized for each buyer’s role. In the demo we saw, it looked very much like the type of experience and user interface we see in our personal shopping experiences from big, online retailers.

“Those who can benefit include everyone from the employee in need of a new laptop to buyers managing strategic categories across all types of spend – direct and indirect materials, maintenance, repair and operations and service,” according to an SAP news release.

At this time, only select customers will be able to access this new solution over the next few months; further rollouts will come later in 2023.

3. Increased focus on digitization across the supply chain

SAP is focusing on greater digitalization in their supply chain solutions in response to the disruptions caused by the pandemic that are still ongoing today. The goal is to make the procurement process as agile as possible to pivot quickly from potential roadblocks, such as a supplier that is slogged down in backorders, to one that can deliver now.

Here are three areas that are the main focus of the increased emphasis on greater digitization.

1. Category Management

In a recent survey sponsored by SAP, category management was named by 40 percent of respondents as one of the most important drivers of digital transformation in procurement.

“We are increasing our focus and investment in developing solutions that will help our customers truly digitalize category management to turn data into insights that can lead to improved business outcomes,” says Muhammad Alam, President and Chief Product Officer, Intelligent Spend and Business Network, SAP.

2. Supplier Management

Increased digitization is also the focus of an improved supplier management solution. This enables organizations to have a multi-tiered strategy to source suppliers, so they can quickly find additional suppliers both locally and globally.

3. SLP

As with the many other weak links in the chains highlighted by the disruptions brought on by the pandemic, supplier management stood out. The good news is that the promise of better supplier management is coming. Improved data and dynamic dashboards for easy-to-read results – including significant improvements on the “P” in SLP, that is, supplier Performance.

As with Buying 360, these three enhanced solutions will begin rolling out to select customers by the end of 2022 and will become more widely available throughout 2023.

4. SAP Ariba Preferred Success, expanded edition.

Building upon the SAP Ariba Preferred Success program that’s already in existence, this expanded edition promises more hands-on guidance, including identifying the value of SAP Ariba solutions based on individual goals and challenges and analyzing the impact of adoption to set expectations and determine required changes.

In addition, SAP is adding tracking to activate new features that will be beneficial to the user when they become available.

For context: This is an AMS (managed support) program that is offered by SAP and by most SAP Ariba consulting and service partners. The cost depends upon the level of support, but for SAP, the minimum contract length is one year – so unlike CCP Global’s AMS program – this isn’t a service that can be used for short-term staff augmentation.

As for the new features tracking, SAP Ariba releases four primary updates per year that are meant to improve the user experience. These quarterly releases happen in February (Q1), May (Q2), August (Q3) and November (Q4). CCP Global tracks them and highlights the best updates in our series, Ariba Quarterly Updates. We also offer Proactive Monitoring of Quarterly Releases as part of our robust AMS (SAP Ariba Managed Support) program. We would encourage anyone considering an SAP Ariba managed support program to compare offerings and prices and compare them with SAP’s enhanced edition.

5. Change Management was a hot topic

There were too many “we loved our Ariba system but couldn’t get users and suppliers onboard and this is how we (hopefully) fixed it” sessions to even count. Even outside of sessions, in our conversations with attendees from both small and large companies, what we heard over and over again was that getting people to use the system is an ongoing challenge.

While SAP is not necessarily focused on that aspect of transformational technology, it was a recurring theme that we could not ignore. Especially since, as an SAP Ariba consulting partner focused on a big picture approach to our clients’ systems, we try to impress on every current and potential client that change management is an essential component of any project. Taking that approach will help you avoid the types of issues that seemed to be the theme running through the entire conference, regardless of solutions, system or size.

Check out our comprehensive blog series on this important topic.

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