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SAP Intelligent Spend Management shows where the money goes

In this Q&A, SAP's John Wookey explains the current makeup of the SAP Intelligent Spend Management and Business Network group and how it helps companies track their spending.

The SAP Intelligent Spend Management business group continues to evolve.

The SAP Intelligent Spend Management unit is a portfolio of SAP products related to how a company utilizes spend management and brings them together under one structure. Spend management includes everything from direct procurement of materials used to manufacture goods, indirect purchasing of office supplies, bringing in contingent workers and managing travel expenses. The unit also now includes the SAP Business Network group, a new service that knits together functionality from SAP Ariba, SAP Concur and SAP Fieldglass so that organizations can establish relationships and collaborate on business processes with a wide network of partners.

In October, former SAP executive John Wookey rejoined SAP to head the SAP Intelligent Spend Management and Business Network group after six years at Salesforce where he was responsible for Prior to Salesforce, Wookey was an executive at SAP, leading the development of SAP's line of business on demand applications, a precursor to cloud application delivery models.

In this Q&A, Wookey discusses how Intelligent Spend Management applications are now more integrated with each other to provide customers with a comprehensive view of how organizations spend money.

What does the Intelligent Spend Management unit encompass and what is its overall strategy?

John Wookey: There are five key components of the Intelligent Spend Management and Business Network unit. Ariba for procurement, Fieldglass for contingent workforce management, Concur for travel and expense, and the procurement piece of S/4HANA. There's also the Business Network, which is a new initiative built around how to bring companies together on how they work in their businesses. For example, how you manage your procurement process over a network of suppliers. Each of these is a category leader in its individual space, but we're trying to build a set of common themes around them with the intelligent enterprise.

What are some of those common themes?

John Wookey, head of SAP Intelligent Spend Management and Business NetworkJohn Wookey

Wookey: One is the ability for a CFO -- or any company leader -- to get a comprehensive view of their spend decisions. This could be direct material procurement into a manufacturing process, an indirect process for buying office supplies, bringing in contractors or managing a travel and expense budget. The second piece, which is going to be increasingly important, is a focus on things beyond the traditional financial measures. While it's still going to be important for companies to manage to financial objectives, you'll also need to do it for operational objectives. For example, you don't just optimize your manufacturing process simply to reduce cost, you also optimize it to ensure you can supply orders to customers. We're also increasingly focusing on things like environmental issues: What's the carbon footprint in my supply chain? How do you know how much wastage is going into the environment as part of that? Social issues have also become much bigger this year: Are your suppliers engaging in unethical work practices? What we're hearing increasingly is that people need a stakeholder view of their company and how they manage financial, operational, environmental and social objectives. Part of the intelligent enterprise is how we provide that consistently across all of our applications so companies can manage that holistically.

Are the SAP Intelligent spend applications coming closer to having one UX?

Wookey: We've moved to a model where there's a federated management structure for the company, where everything converges on a standard look and feel on a set of central practices with Fiori 3 as the UI guide. But each of those applications is still within the unique business processes that they support. The process of bringing a contingent worker into an organization is pretty complicated, often with multiple parties involved, so that involves a unique workflow. But we want to put this unique workflow in a user experience that's consistent with everything else used in SAP. It combines marrying common, centrally created design patterns with specific workflows that are unique parts of every business process.

Can the various applications share functionality as well as a common UI?

Wookey: In SAP Ariba, we created Guided Buying, an Amazon-like shopping experience that's based on the catalog of goods within a company that the purchasing department has contracted for purchasing. That Guided Buying experience has been very popular within Ariba because it helps users who have to do indirect purchasing like buying a laptop once a year. We also have a specific direct procurement function in S/4HANA, but those users may also need to do indirect purchasing in a lightweight, employee-friendly experience, so we've taken that Guided Buying experience from Ariba and made it available as a self-service function inside S/4HANA Procurement. So you have the exact same purchasing experience happening whether you're a complex manufacturing company or one that's just doing indirect procurement.

How can the Intelligent Spend Management applications address some of the challenges that have come up in the last year?

Wookey: People have probably heard the term supply chain more in the last year than they ever have before. The idea that you would go to the grocery store in the U.S. and find nothing in the toilet paper aisle was a little shocking, but it made them understand the realities and complexities in the process of getting goods from manufacturers to end consumers. So, we've tried to focus on supply chain resiliency, and a lot of the tools that we have -- like SAP Ariba and the supply chain collaboration tools in the Ariba Network -- have allowed organizations to be more flexible in how they think about the ability to find alternate sourcing capabilities. For example, there's a sourcing tool that allows people to quickly go out and find suppliers for any kind of goods that they need to bring into their company and then integrate that into a procurement process that simplifies the requisitioning, ordering and payment process. Then the Logistics Business Network can help find the logistics support. This has helped companies to adapt quickly and ensure that their supply chains are less affected by global issues than they would have been otherwise.

How does the Intelligent Spend Management connect with the SAP intelligent enterprise core?

Wookey: That's been an initiative for several years and part of the intelligent enterprise is this integration level comprised of three pieces. One is the UI layer and moving to the standard Fiori look and feel across all of our applications so there's consistency for all the consumers of those applications. Second is transaction-level integration, which is about how to integrate the business process flows across the entire enterprise. Third, which is important for the intelligence, is what we call semantic data model mapping. This means that as you build any application, you tend to find data -- a supplier, a user or an organization -- that every application will define differently based on their specific requirements. The semantic data mapping model says a customer may have a procurement application that maps a supplier in a certain way, but the common data model allows them to integrate the application into Ariba or S/4HANA or other parts of SAP system. So, it's those three layers, UI consistency, transactional integration and data-level integration.

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