Alex Atzberger, President of SAP Ariba, talked with SAP News about the real power of business networks to add value, improve efficiencies and transform business models for individual companies and the greater good in a digital economy.
What is Ariba’s vision and strategy?
Atzberger: Our vision is to simplify commerce between companies by providing a transparent marketplace to conduct business. While many companies have optimized internal processes, we are simplifying how organizations do business with each other. These are the relationships between buyers and sellers, and also others such as banks and logistics providers who deliver additional services to organizations.
Initially, Ariba focused on procurement best practices like sourcing, purchasing and payment. Now we’ve added more value to the seller side, meaning solutions to find new business, accelerate payment, and expand a company’s global customer base. The beauty of it as more business is moving over the network, we can harness the wealth of information across the Ariba network and allow companies to become data-driven businesses.
How does your organization align with the larger SAP mission?
Our vision directly supports SAP’s strategy to digitize the economy, Run Simple and make the world run better. Being a digital enterprise starts with understanding the consumer demand signal that comes through the supply chain to suppliers. Anticipating, understanding and acting on those signals requires a collaborative network to engage suppliers as partners, which is what Ariba provides for them. This is an important part of SAP’s digital enterprise framework. Moreover, we are simplifying complicated, manual paper-based processes like invoices, purchase orders and payments. AribaPay is a fantastic example of what it means to run simple.
What feedback do you hear from customers about their short and long term business demands?
Customers want three main things: innovation, user experience and adoption. They find incredible value in the Ariba network because it accelerates innovation in the digital economy, which is characterized by rapid and often unexpected change. Connecting digitally with their suppliers, our customers can scale up and down with everything from the fluctuating supply of natural resources to their customers’ evolving demands. Procurement becomes a value creator, finding and collaborating with the right suppliers in more meaningful ways. Delivering a beautiful, Amazon-like user experience is one of our top priorities as well, ensuring everyone company-wide can easily use the network for compliance to organizational standards. Adoption is most critical for a cloud business model. Users have to love the solution and companies toned to adopt new processes of doing business with their suppliers. If we succeed doing that, our cloud will successfully grow.
Why is Ariba partnering with Made in a Free World?
The fundamental question is whether companies want to do evil or good. However, a company purchasing supplies may not know everything about how the raw materials in those products were sourced and assembled. We are making the business a hero by giving the procurement department a way to eradicate slave labor in the supply chain. Using the Made in a Free World database of trade flows and the Ariba platform, companies can track raw materials that go into their products, and identify potential risks based on location and other factors. They can then work thoughtfully with suppliers making them aware that their sub-suppliers might be using slave labor. Instead of activism, this becomes a collaborative effort to improve business practices.
The response has been phenomenal. Individual purchasers are amazed because they didn’t realize they could do something good for the world, while companies now have the ability to use big data for better decision-making that helps improve the world. The Ariba business model is an example of how you can have a tangible impact on people’s lives by aligning business and social purpose for the greater good.
What’s it like to keep Ariba’s startup culture thriving following its acquisition by SAP?
You can have a founder’s mindset by moving quickly while also taking full advantage of being part of a big organization. Our Number One priority is to operate at the scale and speed of a cloud-based business to drive innovation and customer focus. We don’t accept bureaucracy because our customers don’t work that way and neither do our competitors. Our culture needs to be firmly rooted in a positive impatience to deliver business outcomes for our customers.
What can customers expect from Ariba and SAP in the future?
Customers can expect an acceleration of innovation across our source-to-pay solution portfolio, and in our network. We will continue to simplify procurement and bring more supply-chain related processes onto the network. We will also leverage more of the power of the community to generate content, and drive new innovations like SpotBuy and AribaPay. We will also harness the power of SAP HANA and the combined business network to enable companies to do things they never imagined possible faster and better. We are very excited about the future.
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Related Content: Ariba and Made in a Free World Mitigate Slavery in the Supply Chain
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