Innovation and Inspiration in Vienna at SAP Spend Connect Live
The atmosphere was undeniably celebratory during the 3 days of SAP Spend Connect Live on October 9-11 in beautiful Vienna. The former seat of an empire, and the birthplace of many “champions” as Etosha Thurman reminded all of us in her opening note, Vienna turned out to be the relevant setting for distilling a message of innovation and inspiration to an audience of customers & partners.
As responsible for the content and experience for suppliers on SAP Business Network, I’m sharing below my perspective on what this specific group of attendees got to experience during 3 intense days of learning and networking.
There was much to be said about innovation, both on main stage and in the two demo pods dedicated to suppliers. User experience was this year again one of the pillars of innovation, and SAP Business Network was no exception. Some of these enhancements are discreet, like the updates done in standard accounts to match the enterprise account navigation, or the introduction of PDF invoicing and summary invoicing (more on all 2308 enhancements in this blog). The more visible improvement announced by Muhammad Alam on main stage was the future, more automated supplier onboarding flow. This innovation is more relevant to the buy-side, but it will allow for transparent and fast partnerships on the network, which benefits all trading partners. And suppliers can play their part too, with the enhanced trading partner profile to easily manage their information and add certifications on sustainability and human rights. In the same mindset, the self-assessment questionnaire for suppliers now only needs to be filled only once before being shared with multiple buyers. Avoiding redundancy despite the many-to-many setting is definitely seen as a big win in user experience and satisfaction.
The reshaped SAP Business Network Discovery as well as the possibility for suppliers to publish network catalogs on their account were demoed on stage on day 2 and made the procurement story whole. This blog on key takeaways from Spend Connect Live summarizes it well. Suppliers will soon be able to easily promote their product and services on the network, reaching out to many buyers at once. Never had the buyer and supplier roles been brought so close together on main stage. Network supplier Rexel was also invited as guest during the keynote to share their perspective on innovations and experience. The transformation of SAP Business Network from a transactional platform into an unavoidable meeting point for all trading partners has definitely started.
The two innovations that stole the show in the breakouts and demo pods for suppliers were the new Guided Integration for Trading Partners, and the Trading Partner Insights, bringing respectively more automation and more visibility for suppliers. Guided Integration allows suppliers to accelerate and self-service the integration between their ERP and their network account by providing smart tools and templates filled with market intelligence. Our promise to “integrate once” is becoming a reality. Trading Partner Insights is a set of benchmarks and KPI’s showing the supplier performance at a glance, so they know what to focus on to perform better. This set of tools makes the supplier account more professional and more anchored in the reality of its context. No enterprise is an island, and the supplier account does reflect that.
Overall, the announced innovations at Spend Connect Live 2023 blurred the lines between buyers and suppliers. Network supplier Alexander Graff from Schweitzer Fachinformationen has been advocating it for years: “suppliers and buyers are only roles that are played by enterprises at a certain time of transaction. So it’s great to see that the experience from both sides is coming together and that collaboration is truly what matters this year”.
SAP Spend Connect Live 2023 also presented many opportunities to get inspired, and not only through best practices and customer success stories. The many innovations had in common that they were based on customer and user feedback, so the feeling of being heard and recognized dominated the audience during the whole event. Recognition also came for suppliers in the shape of an Awards Ceremony at the close of the first day. Eight suppliers received awards in three different categories, which inspired the other attending suppliers to get more involved with our teams in the near future and step into the spotlight next year.
Generative AI, murmured as being the elephant in the room for the event, was addressed clearly during keynotes. For the supplier experience, it will be used to improve matchings in Discovery postings, and to help suppliers enhance the description of catalog items, and even create images. Working actively on enhancing the buying experience by accelerating and simplifying the publication of catalogs is a welcome AI-powered innovation, and suppliers can’t wait for next year to see it in action.
The conference ended with the most inspiring keynote, proving that SAP does indeed help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Save the Children International told of their transformation story of digitization and improving digital literacy in challenging contexts, enabling them to reach more children, faster. Then, the Medical Procurement of Ukraine told their success story of urgently changing their procurement processes after the start of the war, and the astonishing response of suppliers offering their goods and services through SAP Business Network Discovery. The network has brought companies and people together to provide fast relief and support to a country in crisis.
Last but not least, tennis legend Martina Navratilova shared with us in a brilliant 20-minute talk her five lessons to become a champion. I won’t spill the beans here but I encourage you to go and watch this keynote in the virtual version of SAP Spend Connect Live. These lessons are as relevant to individuals as they are to enterprises in transformation, beyond being a buyer or a seller. Vienna was transformative in strengthening partnerships, so challenges of the world can be tackled in cooperation.
Want the best of SAP Spend Connect Live? Here are my recommendations of sessions to watch on the virtual experience of the event:
- Keynote: Unlock Your True Potential
- Breakout: Using Business Networks to Create Value for Buyers
- Breakout: Innovations in Invoicing on SAP Business Network
- Breakout: Global Logistics Success with Hitachi Energy