People who know me know I love a good travel adventure, especially if it contains a lot of “firsts.” SAP Ariba Live in Singapore gave me a great opportunity for many firsts! It was our first SAP Ariba Live held in the Asia-Pacific region. We have done smaller events before, yet nothing on this scale. But in the spirit of the national motto for Singapore, “Malujah Singapura,” which means “Onward Singapore” in Malay, we moved forward with excitement and a lot of nerves as we ventured into the unknown.
The conference was held at the Marina Bay Sands hotel and conference center, a massive landmark complex near downtown and close to many historic sites. This was truly going to be an impressive inaugural event!
We kicked off our welcome reception with a game of the “Perfect Handshake.” A buyer and supplier each had a playing card and had to pair them to make a sum of 17 – 21. Then the two would enter a drawing to win an Apple Watch. We had over 110 matches submitted. Hear what Angela Maniscalco of Insight Enterprises said about the value of this networking activity!
As with previous SAP Ariba Lives this year, the main stage keynotes really honed in on presenting the new SAP Ariba, emphasizing our innovations and speed to market with features and functionality. And supplier features ranked high among the mix of innovations discussed. For example, the new Ariba Supplier mobile app got plenty of air time, as did the new enablement dashboard that highlights how each supplier is enabled—including the new Light Enablement method via Interactive Email.
With the help of our local supplier account management hosts, Brian Drake and Felicity Zare (@felicityzare), we worked to create exciting and informative breakout sessions that introduced game-changing ideas and approaches on a wide range of topics, including:
- Supplier Success on the Ariba Network: We kicked off our breakout sessions with a supplier overview session. Since this was our first SAP Ariba Live in the Asia/Pacific region, we wanted to make sure that every supplier learned how to get the most out of both Ariba Network and the event. A whole gaggle of SAP Ariba folks presented during this lunchtime session:
- Michele Sarko (@MIcheleSarko) - spoke on user experience
- David Landsman (@SourcingDavid) - championed the importance of your SAP Ariba supplier profile in getting your company found on Ariba Discovery
- Austin Whitehead (that’s me) (@AK_Whitehead) discussed how to get the most out of SAP Ariba Live and gave an overview of the mobile app, breakout sessions, and networking events
Buyer Learning Session: How to Talk to Your Suppliers about the Value of Joining the Ariba Network: Facilitated by Jeanne Rodriguez, this session was an interview panel with Angela Maniscalco from Insight Enterprises, Chris Tearle from Clarius Group, and myself. We discussed topics such as supplier value, how a buyer can talk to a supplier about joining Ariba Network, and the “elephant in the room” topic, where Angela and Chris spoke about paying fees and why they do not view it a “bad” thing…at least paying SAP Ariba’s fees. This session really wowed the attendees, with 83% saying they would absolutely attend sessions by these speakers again.
- Best Practices in Catalog Strategy: As always, this session was PACKED! Russell Stebbins from Ally Financial focused on buyer catalog strategy, while Phil Remington from Insight Enterprises and Michiel Dorhout Mees from Dimension Data led the section on supplier strategies for managing catalogs to support and grow their global businesses. Customer comments included, “Great lessons learnt from various experience. Well done!”
- Selling E-Commerce to Your Leadership: This is another session we get frequent requests to do. Supplier companies really want to know how to successfully discuss e-commerce investment with their upper management, as one attendee’s response makes especially clear: “Thank you for a wonderful presentation. This session was both informative and enjoyable.” Experienced e-commerce professionals Grahame Davidson from IBM and Hiroyuki Kaneda from Misumi Group led the discussion, explaining the key performance indicators they’ve used and the success their organizations have realized through e-commerce.
- Selling in the Next Generation—How Millennials and Technology Are Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business: “Experiences provide connection opportunities,” noted presenter Sean Sands (@seanjamessands), associate professor of marketing from Monash Business School, who talked about how technology is changing the way companies build relationships with their customers. “Millennials buy experiences, not products or items,” he said. “They have high expectations in the moment.”
- Using E-Commerce to Automate Your Collaborative Business Transactions: “From a buyer’s perspective, it’s good to see suppliers from integrated companies,” was the comment that stuck out to me about this session. While I manage the sessions and topics for suppliers, it’s really great to know that we have plenty of buyer customers also interested in our suppliers! This is one of the main points of SAP Ariba Live, to create opportunities for networking and trading partner collaboration. I have to thank Sarah Trueman from Complete Office Supplies, Shane Wisniewski from Wesfarmers Industrial & Safety, and Xavier Etienne from Lyreco for creating such a great session.
All I can say is that it was a wonderful adventure. And it’s not only Singapore that is moving onward. With SAP Ariba and the innovation that characterizes the Asia-Pacific environment, I know that the entire region is in for an exciting future!