• Gordon Donovan

Reflections on SAP Ariba Live APJ Tour


Reflections on SAP Ariba Live APJ Tour

The plural of secretary general is secretary’s general like attorneys general or courts martial. Does this make the plural of Ariba Live, Ariba’s live?

Over the last few months, I have been fortunate to travel across the Asia Pacific region to attend and participate in the APJ legs of SAP Ariba Live series, and what a series it was. There were many highlights from the 3 events, and I want to share with you my highlights


Held at the Grand Hyatt on July 23rd, the event attracted over 900 attendees and was my first time in Tokyo and it was a completely different experience for me culturally. The journey to Roppongi took me back to my commutes into London from the number of people perspective, though the train was better!

The event itself was immense, held over three floors of the Grand Hyatt the atmosphere and hospitality were outstanding. There was a real buzz from the procurement community about what was going to be discussed. I am constantly in awe of language and language skills. Having the ability to listen along to the translation as live, was incredible.

The first key note speaker was Takanori Sakaguchi. This was an incredible keynote, especially for those of us that had grown up with the thought, and teaching, that Japanese procurement was to be aspired to. Essentially, he stated that, the last 30 years have bene driven by price and cost, measured by the cost of goods sold. We have therefore missed 30 years of opportunity of working with suppliers to drive the relationship and innovation. Whilst the drive for relationships is clearly what we try and achieve in procurement, it was startling to hear whilst in japan, that Japanese procurement has been concentrating on the wrong areas. Learning point, Grass isn’t always greener, and maturity is governed by perspective. I hear a lot that we are not as mature in procurement as…….,

The other key point he made was “Don’t be the red pencil - Be the black one” ie compliance can be delivered in different ways rather than us using our red pencil and sending things back, much better to be creating and writing than judging!

One of the final sessions, dealt with perspective. The activity was simple, the learning point was impactful. We were given a set of Lego (about 6-7 pieces), and told to make a duck!

As you would imagine, with a room of over 900 people there were many different versions, and interpretations. This led us to the power of diversity, and the need for different perspectives.

Overall, SAP Ariba Live Toyo was a great way to kick off the APJ series and set a high standard for the others to follow.


Held at the Raffles City convention centre on August 21, the Singapore event attracted over 600 delegates and began for me by hosting the Executive breakfast where we held a debate, a panel discussion and a one to one interview.

The debate centred around compliance, and if an over reliance on compliance would hurt procurements future value proposition. A good debate was held between SAP speakers and our partner and sponsor Thomson Reuters, and at the end the audience gave the debate winners a comprehensive victory that it would not harm future value proposition.

Our panel discussion brought a mix of Ariba, leaders from around the world including our GM for APJ, Jason Wolf, and our CVO leader Baber Farooq. We held a great interactive discussion around how can procurement drive innovation whilst driving compliance, touching on digitisation projects, whether procurement was more art or science, and how technology can help drive procurement forward.

Finally, Mani Naganathan took us through how procurement can become more strategic through the transformation of procurement within WiPro.

The main stage was full of great presentations and customer stories. Some great take-aways were the wonderful customer panel where Zuellig pharma and ASM talked about their transformation journeys and what’s needed to make a success, and the digital live demonstration with Celonis which visualises bad or broken processes and what the impacts actually are.

Scott Russell, President of APJ for SAP reminded us that we are in the experience management business in procurement, and that from a broader business perspective whilst the CEO may believe that they are giving a great customer experience, their customers may not share that. I was left to think what this means for procurement? How do we ensure that we are giving our customers, our stakeholders the experience that they want and need?

The key note speaker for Singapore was Professor Muhammad Yunus who won the Nobel Peace price in 2006. It was an enlightening, and inspiring speech, and was followed by a great interview conducted by SAP’s Baber Farooq. I highly recommend you watch the video (linked above) however, some key takeaways for me

"When you give $1 to charity, it’s a single usage, when you start a social enterprise with the $1 it keeps coming back"

"Start with one person, make one person's life better"

It really was an inspiring way to end a sensational day.


So on to the last stop in the tour Sydney held at The Westin on September 10. 616 attendees came to see another sensational event including for the first time live rapid training sessions in the market place. These sessions will no doubt be repeated and look out for some webinars to follow these shortly!

The day, again for me, started with the exec breakfast session, where we again had a debate and a panel session this time however we debated whether we had lost the war for talent and it was time to let the bots take over! It was an entertaining debate with two speakers from SAP Ariba and this time our partner was Deloitte. The result was a conclusive victory to say that the war for talent wasn’t over yet so the bots can wait!

Our panel discussion again featured Baber Farooq, and he was joined by Sapphire Loebler from QBE and Hannah Jaques-Jones from Deloitte who discussed how does procurement harness the power of human creativity and technology to drive its future value proposition where the discussion touched what the future proposition for procurement could take us, how we could measure it, and what may make us not get there.

Onto the main stage where the announcement of the partnership with Google was announced and we had another great customer panel between DXC, Medibank and CBH. One of the messages that stuck with me was from Medibank - " Because of SAP - 90% spend under management, 95% of payments made on time”

A big part of the main stage was the Diversity Market place announcement, this awesome initiative will make a direct impact on people's lives and allows all of SAP Ariba customers to buy from a range of suppliers for social enterprises, Indigenous suppliers and women owned businesses. This is just the start and we are hopeful that more of our customers will join this market place to really make a difference.

Paul Keating gave a provocative and insightful keynote, covering the global macroeconomic environment and how it will impact Australia, and then sat down for an interview with our ANZ MD, Damien Bueno. There were several “Keating moments’ which took us back down memory lane!

We followed the main Ariba Live day with a sustainability and purpose summit with over 150 people attending discussing building the business case for purpose and also how we may plan and prepare for modern slavery reporting.

Closing thought...

Over 2,000 people attended these three sessions, and I know I left inspired, and excited about procurements direction and what has been and could be achieved.

If you attended, I hope you enjoyed it also, and if not then I hope to see you next year at one of them!

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