I recently returned from SAP Ariba Live in Las Vegas, and as those who attended agreed, it was truly a watershed event. Along with the introduction of our new SAP Ariba brand—an exciting shift underlining the synergy and value that result from uniting the powerful resources of both Ariba and SAP—the show’s focus on innovation drew rave reviews, dramatically illustrating how the latest technology is transforming business commerce.
And participants were eager to hear about it. The high number of first-time attendees was just one indicator of a growing market shift: companies really want to know how business commerce technology in general—and SAP Ariba in particular—can help them solve collaborative business problems and gain competitive advantage. From people with extensive e-commerce experience to those just getting their feet wet, the question was the same: how is business commerce technology evolving, and what can it do for me?
Emerging trends, exceptional payoffs
Answers to those questions abounded throughout the conference. With topics ranging from visionary predictions to day-to-day pragmatics, speakers explored where the market is now and where it’s headed. Across all these conversations, three high-level themes dominated:
- B2B is adopting the best traits of B2C. The transactional speed, simplicity, and customer-driven convenience that drive the world of consumer commerce are also redefining business commerce. A wide range of B2C-like innovations—such as mobile buying, electronic payments, and community interaction around commerce—are now available through leading business commerce solutions, and the list continues to grow.
- Everything is being automated. Gone are the days when automating all your business processes required hopping from one e-commerce tool to another, and then manually completing activities not covered by existing applications. Business commerce solutions are filling the gaps of previously unmanaged areas between buyers and sellers, turning the dream of end-to-end business process automation into an achievable reality.
- We’re all getting connected. Integration with other classes of innovations is swelling from a trickle to a flood. Business commerce solutions are connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT), an ever-increasing array of device platforms, social media services, and more—elevating the power of business commerce to levels unimaginable just a few years ago. For an example of business commerce technology connecting to IoT, watch how a part can “learn” to request its own replacement
The technology of tomorrow is here today
SAP Ariba Live showcased how companies are embracing these trends and capitalizing on the new possibilities coming to the fore. In session after session, buyers and sellers alike shared compelling stories about what that means for their business.
One great example was the lively main stage session led by deputy editor of WIRED and prominent futurist Greg Williams. He first painted a vision of how the world is experiencing an exponential rate of change through innovations in software and services. And to follow that up, Greg headed a panel of speakers from companies that are leading the charge in the latest business commerce technologies: P.J. Bain from PrimeRevenue, Anne Kramer from Ergo Works, and Geoff Goetz from Ulta Beauty. They discussed how they are leveraging the latest business commerce technologies to solve real-world problems and open up major areas for growth for their businesses. These include:
- Business payments and supply chain financing innovations that let buyers and suppliers collaborate to better manage payables and receivables, improve working capital, and increase free cash flows. The upshot? Lower costs, reduced risk, and a healthier financial supply chain that helps both sides succeed.
- Spot buying innovations that make it easy for buyers to purchase non-contracted items—which make up an estimated 15% of indirect goods and services—in compliance with their procurement policies, so they can better manage this crucial area of spend. These same innovations give suppliers access to a vast new sales channel with unique opportunities for building relationships and growing their business.
- Supply chain collaboration innovations that deliver total supply chain visibility for direct materials procurement, enabling buyers to reduce inventory levels, increase fill rates, and minimize supply chain risk. Suppliers gain the information and visibility they need to meet fulfillment requirements more effectively and make smarter decisions in collaborating with their customers.
And these are just a few examples of the game-changing benefits companies are experiencing. Clearly a lot is already happening, and plenty more is visible on the horizon. We’ll be continuing the discussion at SAP Ariba Live in Madrid, Spain, and I look forward to meeting many of you there.