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April 29, 2019
SAP Ariba Live 2019: “Keeping it weird” in Austin
By: Kristin Ruehle

Austin, the city with the famous catchphrase and a reputation for an unconventional left-field philosophy, was the venue for the 2019 SAP Ariba Live. With so many clients attending the event, and a perfect “host” city, it was a really fun, exciting and interesting few days.

But behind all the good food, great music and warm Texan hospitality, the message was a serious one. How can today’s companies take all the fantastic procurement tools that SAP Ariba is developing and use them to truly transform how they operate?

Intelligent Operations takes more than technology

This question was reflected in the overall theme of the event – the Intelligent Enterprise. SAP Ariba has been highly focused on using data and current analytics to support smarter sourcing and spend management. And there’s a nice synergy with Accenture’s own Intelligent Operations philosophy – taking the powerful tools that SAP Ariba are developing and merging them seamlessly into day-to-day operations.

Accenture at SAP Ariba Live 2019: How we’re merging cutting-edge tools seamlessly into day-to-day procurement.
 
 

That’s obviously more than just a question of technology. It brings lots of other factors into play: people, skills, mindsets, processes, governance, structures, to name just a few. In fact, I hosted a breakout session on this very subject, exploring how best to use both human and machine intelligence to drive real transformation.

A 20-year partnership that just gets better with age

It’s one of the reasons Accenture and SAP Ariba make such an effective partnership: blending the latest and greatest technology with deep industry, organizational, and implementation expertise.

In fact, Accenture was honored to receive four (yes four!) partner awards at the event, including Partner of the Year for North America and Southern Europe, as well as Innovation Partner for 2019. On top of that, we were delighted to be given the SAP Pinnacle award, reflecting the great work our two organizations are doing to deliver better outcomes for clients in the procurement space.

Perhaps nowhere was this more evident than in the Nutrien case study, co-presented with Accenture at the event. This company is a leader in crop inputs and services to support sustainable farming. Having been recently formed through a merger (Agrium and PotashCorp to form Nutrien), it had some major synergy targets to hit, particularly in procurement. But thanks to SAP Ariba and Accenture, and a new source-to-pay solution, they exceeded their targets within just 12 weeks.

That was an amazing performance. And a great example of how SAP Ariba and Accenture work hand in hand with clients to deliver value at incredible pace.

Adoption: Still more to do

Talking to clients throughout the event, it’s clear there’s still work to be done to truly transform procurement at many organizations. Having the tools is one thing, confirming the teams on the front line are willing and able to use them is another.

Adoption often relies on first impressions. That means making sure procurement data (contracts, suppliers, pricing, etc.) is all present on SAP Ariba and ready for end users the first time they look for it. Clients need to be clear on a roll=out plan that would support content at pace. Getting this right is critically important.

It’s also essential to be thinking how to extend new tools and processes to more complex categories of spend (direct spend, services, and so on). That’s the way to really drive up spend under management and infuse the Intelligent Operations ethos across all areas of procurement.

Final thought: True transformation is holistic

As this year’s SAP Ariba Live came to a close, I was left with one thought above all. Transforming procurement needs new tech like SAP Ariba, yes. But it needs something more on top. If the team, or the organization, isn’t ready and willing to use the tools, they won’t. So transforming skills and mindsets and injecting a greater sense of proactivity into procurement organizations is vital. True transformation, after all, is holistic.

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