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For the audio version of the Blog, click here

So I’m here sitting on plane drafting out this report and reflecting upon all the information that I heard over the past couple of days at AribaLive in Las Vegas. For this blog, I’m going to take a slightly different approach than what I’ve done in past. Last year and for many of the event’s I’ve blogged about in the past, I tried to give you a play by play. This time, let’s just focus in on a few things that I observed instead.

So back to the event. I must say, this continues to be a great event because of the sheer amount of focused content and people that you get expose to. Perhaps that’s what makes these LoB specific events different from the TechEDs and Sapphires.

For 3 days (or 2 1/2, depending on if you’re hosting talks), you’re completely immersed in the world of procurement and the SAP Ariba eco system. Everyone you talk to, everyone you run into is involved in this process; buyers, suppliers (vendors), partners of all disciplines – you name it, they’re there. While I was sitting in the lounge, I happened to sit next to a partner who looking at how to “extend” the SAP Ariba Network, bringing additional value to that process. So of course the conversation was steered in the direction of me asking the partner what business problem he was trying to address and where he intended to build it. His general idea was to build a solution utilizing blockchain to help finance the value that is generated through the network. I won’t go into details here, but the gist of his solution was to allow buyers to more easily finance and pay their suppliers to get the best terms and conditions. When the conversation turned to where his solution was being built and operated, I learned that they had not yet decided – so of course I went into pitchman-mode (not sure if that’s an actual word), and asked if he had heard of SAP Cloud Platform, the platform formerly known as SAP HANA Cloud Platform – his answer was oh yeah, you mean HANA – not exactly. After explaining to him that no, we were indeed not HANA, and furthermore an independent platform from SAP Ariba and talked about our tools and services, including some of the innovations we were making available, he was really excited and asked – where have I’ve been that I have not heard about this!  Honestly, since we've been around for a few years now, I didn't really expect this reaction. I would suspect that many of my colleagues might have the same feeling.

From this perspective, I think we still have opportunities to still make the SAP Cloud Platform a part of every solution conversation, and I’m starting to think that perhaps it’s not just by name, but really by putting in the context that is meaningful to our audience. The good news is that we already have help in these cases because I think you, our customers, are already familiar with many of our solutions. You may have heard of our integration services (HCI), Identity Authentication (SCI), API management. What they don’t realize is that all these solutions are a part of SAP Cloud Platform. We need to be more clear in our conversations that it is not any one solution that delivers on the promise of a “platform”, but it is the collection of the tools and services, such as those afore mentioned, that is the platform. Collectively we should aim to mention SAP Cloud Platform in every service discussion. Let me take a quick tangent here (For my readers/listeners who are The Walking Dead fans [great zombie apocalypse TV show btw], “I am Negan” – you’ll get it).

If we can do this, we will help avoid diluting the message. What I mean is that we don’t reduce the SAP Cloud Platform to just one functionality and have to work to retell an entire story. We could very well set the story straight from the beginning. I was in a presentation where an SAP manager said something to the effect that “yes - we work with SAP Cloud Platform, HANA Cloud Platform, known by many things but it’s the integration platform.” That’s only partially true, but to me, hearing this was astonishing, because it made me realize, is this all that people think our platform is? Now, I do acknowledge that in some cases, starting a conversation from this point is conducive to helping your audience understand what our platform is, but we should also be cognizant that it is not very much more effort from that point to explain that it not only does this or that, but so much more as well.   By not putting it in the right context, we will either reduce the capabilities of our platform, or allow for confusion in the future. So whether it’s the Web IDE, Portal, Business Objects cloud, or Integration services; are used, we are, SAP Cloud Platform. Now, we know we’re not helping ourselves by changing the names of our products, but we’re learning what is helpful and what is not, just like taking “HANA” out of our name will hopefully shift the conversation from the database, which is still available as a part of the platform, to one of unbridled innovation.

Now let me turn back to some of the keynotes of AribaLive and offer my humble perspective. In the first keynote, Ariba President, Alex Atzberger’s spoke - he also had a whole line-up of customers come and tell their story upon how they help “make procurement awesome” and the power of “&”, meaning the things we can do collectively together. He had shared some staggering numbers about the amount of commerce that flows through the SAP Ariba Network and the growth that had occurred over the past year; 230k new relationships, 134M business commerce transactions over the network, and $300B in commerce added to the network. The customers who were presenting on the main stage, talked about the things the network was enabling them to do, such ConnXus who are working to improve people’s lives through inclusion and diversity, or high lighting Toyota who is conducting business with a purpose. There are so many things that our platform can help change. Exposing organizations to new technologies and educating them better ways to optimize their business through the inclusion of diverse ideas and concepts and really be able to show them the value of participating in such activities. It would not only show that conducting business in such a way is ethical, but essential to be competitive. Our SAP Cloud Platform can directly influence, not only the digital transformation, but in transforming society, when we participate in creating these solutions that have a purpose, a-la Alex’s message.

…And if that idea is too philosophical, the second keynote touched on technologies being delivered and planned for SAP Ariba.   For me as an early advocate for SAP Cloud Platform in Ariba, it was very refreshing to see SAP Cloud Platform making an appearance in so many slides and presentations. Not only in cameo, but also being spoken about by all the executives from Ariba. They were speaking about how the services from the SAP Cloud Platform, has enabled SAP Ariba to offer solutions, such as the Ariba Cloud Integration Gateway, or using the SAP Cloud Platform to consume SAP Ariba’s Open API’s where they will participate in publishing these API’s in one place, (API Business Hub). The message was quite clear this year that while Ariba would be platform agnostic, more can, and will be achieved if it is built using SAP’s platform as a service solution, the SAP Cloud Platform, which too is an open platform. Which brings to another tangent. I joined a session where there was a panel discussion with couple of our partners, Accenture had built a solution using SAP Cloud Platform that was able to bring together processes from ServiceNow ™ with SAP Ariba, delivering on the promise that SAP Cloud Platform, not only extends SAP Solutions, but 3rd party products as well. Deloitte shared a solution that they had built that helped simplify a goods receipt process. This session was so popular and had so much interest that there was a standing room only. I found that many of the sessions that involved SAP Ariba’s Open API’s and integrations had full attendance and it was exciting to see people engaged. Again, I was excited to see SAP Cloud Platform being mentioned in all of them and hope that it does plant a seed within this line of business to explore the opportunities that we have together with such a powerful platform.

The close of the second key note, was our very own Bill McDermott who joined Alex Atzberger on stage and he shared some personal stories of perseverance and triumph. For us in the SAP Cloud Platform, our story with procurement may seem like it’s only the beginning, but really we are at the beginning of the second stage already. The first was courtship as SAP Ariba was learning to “open up,” but now, together we are building upon this relationship. We have all the momentum as many are seeing the opportunities that SAP Cloud Platform brings to procurement. Partners and customers are excited about the new innovations we are able to help introduce them to, and for us, we’re excited to see how we, (SAP Cloud Platform) & Ariba can make procurement awesome (stolen tag line from the event).