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Since the dawn of time, we’ve been building bridges.  Their construction and geometry varies widely in terms of span, material, form and placement. But whether as rudimentary as a fallen log across a stream, or a complex feat of engineering like a suspension bridge, they all share a similar purpose: to carry something or someone across a space or obstacle.

Now, you won’t find me viaduct-spotting or waxing lyrical about trusses, but in Madrid recently I drove under a pair of bridges that got me thinking. So on my return I did a little research. Madrid experienced rapid urban growth in the 2000s, and with the expansion a series of new motorways appeared. The Madrileños were keen to buck the trend of typical motorway footbridges and asked architect Leonardo Fernández Troyano to construct this pair of elegant suspension bridges, which you can see over the Motorways R-3 and M-40.

Madrid Bridge2.jpgMadrid Bridge3.jpg

It made me wonder how suspensions bridges are actually built, and I tracked down this image which shows one of them under construction. Madrid Bridge1.jpgThe answer is obvious really:


A Bridge is always built from both sides


There are several ways to build a bridge, but for suspension bridges, the way this is done is to build it from both sides. Trying to do it from one direction only is inherently unstable.


This is what we will be talking about at our upcoming conference. How do you build a connection between your buyers and your suppliers. Answer: you need to build both sides at the same time.

For Buyers that means addressing: motivation, ease-of use, on boarding, training and making sure what they need to buy is actually there. It also means that the Business Unit owners (who direct the Buyers) need to understand the benefits of the system, and be able to track the adoption and payback. Only then can they encourage/mandate the end users.

For Sellers that means an efficient, localised on boarding which takes care of technical and business challenges

I see some striking similarities in the way that a commerce network is created. It’s effectively a bridge that spans the gap between trading partners, providing safe and compliant passage for transactions. But crucially, it needs to support a viable business model at both ends, providing value to vendors and buyers in order to maintain its structural integrity. Favouring sellers over buyers, or vice versa, would result in something wonky and unstable.  


Take the Ariba Network, for example.  As the world’s largest B2B marketplace which just recently passed the Trillion Dollar mark, it connects a global community of large and small businesses, which collectively have an enormous impact on ecommerce: 


  • The Ariba Network enables companies to tap into the biggest digital supplier base, streamline its procurement, collaborate with suppliers in multiple ways, and simplify interactions with other, complementary business functions.
  • Business collaboration means joining a global community of trading partners who share these best practices to accelerate, optimize, and simplify transactions – and enjoy tight yet flexible interactions
  • The network offers true flexibility without compromising transparency.
  • Leveraging the Ariba Network both simplifies and accelerates collaboration externally with suppliers and internally among key stakeholders. The gains are both quantitative and qualitative in nature, improving a wide range of interactions and touch points between trading partners.


So, to “mind the gap” a bridge or network needs to be built from both sides.


The best chance to see these bridges, and learn how eCommerce can span the gap between trading partners is to attend SAPAribaLive. You'll hear about the volumes and connections of the world's largest B2B network, and hear from dozens of companies on both sides on the bridge: Buyers and Sellers talking about how the network has improved their business.

Aristotle’s wisdom is more extolled today than probably in his lifetime. But rarely do occasions in business merit such usage, which probably amplifies the importance of this simple statement:


            The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


In this competitive world, where companies acquire and gobble up smaller competitors to maintain market share and play to the street, it is rare to find strategic acquisitions that deliver on its perceived value or business case. Many acquisitions have gone horribly wrong, despite the best intent and efforts. What people tend to miss out are the softer aspects of such forced partnerships. Aspects like Leadership, making efforts to align cultures, bringing people together, and importantly the vison around the product strategy and roadmap and communicating that in a coherent manner.


SAP acquired Ariba in 2012, and over the last few years the evolution of this relationship is a true testament to the topic of this discussion. What prompted me to pen this blog was Analyst Simon Fellis IDC Manufacturing Insights Perspective on the recently concluded SAP Ariba Live in Las Vegas. For someone who has been an Ariba watcher for years, he has one of the best perspectives of the past, the present and where he sees the future for SAP Ariba. In his words:


“…SAP Ariba seems on the right road to meeting the stated goal of being the best-in-class procurement vendor. My own worries that SAP "meddling" might erode the Ariba brand appear unfounded, as customers both old and new continue to extol the virtues of the business, and the forward-looking road map has never been more exciting.”


Truly exciting for someone like me to hear this, as we talk to customers day in and day about our commitment to make them successful. But the comment also brought me to the topic of SAP Ariba Live. The next edition of the event is now planned in Madrid from June 13-15.


SAP Ariba will be showcasing an array of innovations. These include:


  • Guided Buying: A whole dimension to UI & UX. Making buying in an enterprise as easy and intuitive as in a consumer scenario.


  • Light Enablement: New suppliers big or small, strategic or tactical can now become part of the Ariba Network.


  • Supplier Management & Risk Insights: With supply chains going global, it is important to know not just who your supplier is, but their suppliers and the entire supply chain. Analyze the different types of risks involved and take appropriate action without waiting for disaster to strike.


  • Direct Materials Sourcing & Collaborative Supply Chain: The Supply Chain and Supply Management platform just got truly collaborative. Not just for the Buyers, but also for the Suppliers. Meet with our solution experts in the Commerce Pavilion, while at SAP Ariba Live in Madrid to understand how this could be a game changer for your business. 

Chief Information Officers and Chief Digital Officers will be intrigued by the discussions around S/4HANA integration with the Ariba Network, and how it can extend the value of their SAP platform and investments.


Similarly, the breakout sessions on 'Moving to the Cloud' will share insights and expertise on how user organizations can migrate to a SaaS powered procurement platform in a simple, quick and efficient manner and with the least amount of disruption.


Digital Transformation is not an option, but an imperative. What Businesses tend to struggle with is the ‘When’ and ‘How’. At SAP Ariba Live, meet with your peers from varied industries. Understand how they are dealing with these challenges. Engage with subject matter experts. Listen to thought leaders. All of this under one roof. How much better can it get.


We eagerly look forward to welcoming you at SAP Ariba Live Madrid, 13- 15 June.