So I've been to a lot of these Lives since 1998, but I had a feeling this one is going to be the best yet. The engineers had generally been keeping a lid on things, but you knew that good things were going to happen when SAP Ariba President, Alex Atzberger said that the two themes for the event were Adoption and Transformation. But first, as they say on NPR Marketplace, "Let's Do the Numbers". Did Alex just say $1 Trillion, with a T, the full twelve zeroes? Yup, we joined the exclusive "four comma club" by announcing the latest volume on the Ariba Network. Alex continued that for every customer, adoption is the key as it is the only way to hit your business case.


Guided Buying

First, a quick view of the newest innovation, Guided Buying. Indeed, "it looks gorgeous", but not all demand comes from UGuided_Buying_01.jpgsers, some comes from "things" such as sensors. Alex's first demonstration used SAP IoT technology to show how a sensor can initiate a request for a part or an engineer to "fix me".


Our first guest speaker was SAP board member Rob Enslin. "The digital economy is all about speed, the ability to make decisions based on data is critical." He went on to say that the Ariba Network is the only network for connection to the digital economy and you  will absolutely need a network just to survive.


Next up, the always-entertaining Sudhir Bhojwani, SVP Product Management, who expanded on Alex's message on adoption by giving us the equation: Adoption = compliant spend + happy users; innovation without adoption is a waste of time. To get high rates of adoption you need to engage all buyers: including the "light touch" functional buyers, the big spending departments of marketing, logistics, IT, facilities who have historically never engaged with Procurement.

In the new Guided Buying paradigm, Search will be at the centre of the new interface with one big search box to mimic how people work. Amusingly, the first example was using an iPad to buy a Surface Pro - using the Spot Buy capability. This new way to buy is more than just a drop dead gorgeous interface, it's a way to engage those big spending departments in a way that makes sense to their users.

Supplier Management

The 3,000 strong crowd broke into spontaneous cheers when the supplier management screen popped up. It looks great and will solve a big challenge: how to streamline the thousands of connections that you'll need to make. We aren't shying away from the hard task of vendor management, it's time to solve it once and for all. Ariba is well-placed to finally bring together data in cloud, the network and ERP systems.


SAP Ariba Chief Design Officer Michele Sarko provided a great change of pace by focusing on the user: "a lens we use to think about everything". She provided an overview of how the User Design team works to create these great user experiences we had just seen.


The next speaker, Sanjay Almeida, offered the audience the choice: "78 PowerPoint slides... or the real product? You choose." Of course we chose real product and Sanjay showed the newest innovations to come for suppliers, striding around the stage just with his phone. Millennials are like my kids, they never answer the phone but reply to a text immediately. That's the user experience we need to support. He then introduced Josh Greenbaum who is not only an analyst but also an SAP Ariba customer, showing that many of our customers are actually small suppliers. He challenged "So a great UI, but what's next?". Sanjay followed up from Michele by saying that our objective was to take the friction out of all our products.

Supplier Risk

The next panel was hosted by Padmini Ranganathan who focused on supplier risk. "Managing supply risk is not optional: you can only keep your head in the sand until you can't", NYU's Michael Posner said. He added, that it’s just not realistic to fly under the radar on human rights."Young people want to work for companies they are proud of", that’s certainly been the impression I get from my daughters’ age group.


At SAP Ariba Live we have dozens of customer sessions, and the next panel just gave a taste of the great customer stories being told throughout the day. Particularly memorable was Melanie Singh, VP at Canadian retailer Loblaw. She said that they needed a nice, friendly Canadian-style slogan, so they came up with: “Ariba, the only way we do business". Quentin McCorvey of M&R Distribution Services said that "The art of the e-deal is about mastering the digital handshake.” A good quote and the only Trump reference today, mercifully.


Community Voting

One more innovation for Super Tuesday: we announced the new community voting for customers to drive our innovations. Vote early, vote often.


Alex left us with this final story. He recently met a CPO in Asia who had just launched an Ariba project and was wearing a T-shirt saying "Procurement is Awesome". Based on what we all saw this morning, that slogan is spot on.


After the excitement of the mainstage we handed the afternoon over to our customers to tell their own stories. With eight tracks running concurrently it's hard to pick the right session, but I always gravitate to customer sessions. I was able to hear great stories of Discount Management at So Cal Edison and SG&E, and impressive roll-outs at GSK, CSC and SunTrust. Ashley Miller from SunTrust was particularly compelling, as they used Contract Invoicing to reach 96% of spend under management.


After all the mainstage innovations and stories of customer success it is now time for the famous "After Hours" party. No more details: what goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas.


Get a closer look at the innovations revealed at SAP Ariba Live—and invite your colleagues. Sign up for the Innovation Thursdays webinar series.