I’ve been to lots of Ariba LIVEs since my first one in 1998, but this is the first one as a tweeter and blogger. The real-time nature of “social” gives instant insight into what others are thinking. It also allows me to issue instructions such as “#AribaLIVE attendees, put down your phones, eyes up and listen to the violinist”, as the mainstage kicked off with the awesome Lindsey Stirling. It gradually dawned on the attendees that she wasn’t your average Vegas session artist: she herself was the story. Stirling is herself a stunning example of the power of Networks, and the way the Internet is breaking down the distance between a brand and a consumer.
Tim Minahan is often asked about the acquisition of Ariba and what it means. He stated that it is helping Ariba achieve its original dream for Business Networks. He introduced Chakib Bouhdary; (pause in twitter streams as bloggers furtively checking spelling, as he wasn’t in the program) who gave the stat that 74% of the world’s transactions touch an SAP system, so attaching the Ariba Network to all that commerce would be “pretty interesting”.
Ariba LIVE has always featured lots of customers speaking, but what struck me was how comfortable Blue Chip companies are with sharing numbers. I know that slides at these events have to go through endless levels of review. For example, Mark Loring (VP Proc, Deutsche Bank) announced that they had used the Ariba Network to reach a target of 70% e-Invoicing, and that the total program target was a reduction of opex costs of €4.5Bn : a billion here, a billion there, soon you’re talking real money. The many purchasing practioners in the room appreciated his comments of moving from “No PO: No Pay” to “No Budget: No PO”. Don’t spend what you don’t have, must tell my wife. Also noticeable was that the speaker stayed away from the Holy War of “Cloud vs On-Prem” and highlighted that they used a Hybrid approach, utilising what they had. For example their most recent implementation (Italy) was full cloud (deployed in 16 weeks, too) but other countries are using Hybrid: procurement on-premise with the Ariba Network in the cloud.
Erik Gershwind, the CEO of MSC gave the best analogies of the day (and I love a good analogy). He said that with ERP companies had their direct spend really under control, and it was as though they had spent a long time clearing out the garage. All clean and tidy, well labelled, no junk. But it was then as if your wife had said “Now you’ve done that, can you take a look at the attic?” The attic is full of unlabelled boxes, stuffed in haphazardly, dirty and dark. Just like your MRO spend (indirect, or goods-not-for-resale). Another great stat: there is 145Bn of MRO inventoey out there in companies, and 100Bn will never get used: that’s a lot of capital tied up. Erik said that you need three things to get a grip on this spend: Time, Technology and a 2nd pair of eyes. Another image that stayed with me was the comment “let technology be a flashlight”: use a Network to service your customers, good for you and good for them.
Bert Jacobs, is the CEO of Life is Good: I had never heard of this company before. And like most Brits, I’m usually pretty cynical when it comes to “motivational speakers” but Jacobs was different. Very funny and charismatic (I heard one breathless female delegate say to her friend “OK, that’s it, I want his babies”) he told a relentlessly upbeat message without being soppy or simplistic; and always in the context of his business. Unlike the sportsmen/fighter pilot/musical conductor we often get, this guy ran actually ran a business, and in spite of his long hair and stubble, was no hippy socialist: “Capitalism can be good”. One take away for me, start conversations with “What’s Good?”. Every interaction, whether sales forecast call, customer meeting, or “Honey, I’m home” conversation with your partner will be better if you start with “What’s Good?”.