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SAP improves UX functionality for Intelligent Spend

At SAP Spend Connect, the vendor unveiled new updates to SAP Intelligent Spend applications, including a consumer-like buying experience and a centralized procurement capability.

SAP Intelligent Spend applications are getting new capabilities aimed at providing better buying experiences and tightening the integration between applications.

Improvements -- unveiled at the SAP Spend Connect conference this week in Dallas -- include new capabilities for guided buying in SAP Ariba and a centralized procurement UI.

SAP Intelligent Spend includes SAP Ariba for procurement and supply chain, SAP Fieldglass for contract labor management and SAP Concur for travel and expense management. The SAP Business Network integrates the SAP Ariba Network, SAP Logistics Business Network and SAP Asset Management Network under one umbrella.

"There's a set of deep user experience enhancements -- essentially redesigned experiences -- starting with the [SAP Ariba] procurement application," said Muhammad Alam, president and chief product officer of SAP Intelligent Spend and Business Network.

For example, SAP Ariba's guided buying feature will be updated with a capability called "buying 360" that introduces a more personalized, predictive and consumer-like buying experience, Alam said. The capability will make purchasing recommendations based on data like the purchasing history, the purchaser's role and corporate priorities like sustainability.

"It's predictive and personalized to the user and for sustainability first, because organizations are becoming more and more concerned about what they're buying and what that adds to their footprint," he said.

Other SAP Intelligent Spend updates include the following:

  • Integration between SAP Ariba and the Icertis contract management platform, which lets users author contracts in Icertis while automatically populating the contract with master data from SAP Ariba.
  • Introduction of SAP Central Procurement, which lets customers manage processes like procurement, sourcing and contract management from a central UI without having to move in and out of different systems.
This shows Muhammad Alam, president and chief product officer of SAP Intelligent Spend and Business Network, speaking at SAP Spend Connect.
Muhammad Alam on stage at the SAP Spend Connect Conference.

Hitting the right note, but roadmap clarity needed

The SAP Intelligent Spend improvements hit the right notes for Sharad Mantri, senior director and global IT leader for sourcing and procurement at Baker Hughes, an energy technology company in Houston.

Mantri attended SAP Spend Connect primarily to find out more about the SAP Intelligent Spend roadmap and learn from other users.

"We want to find out what SAP is thinking long-term for the applications," Mantri said. "There was a lot of good information coming out, particularly with the focus on sustainability because lots of customers like us are focusing on that area."

They really have changed the look and feel of these apps to make them look very much more like consumer apps, with a more Amazon-like buying process.
Joshua GreenbaumFounder and principal, Enterprise Applications Consulting

The buying 360 feature stood out to him, he said.

"The guided buying upgrade looked really good," Mantri said. "I do use guided buying, so I understand what has been done. The mobile experience is good, and the ease of the user experience has been improved."

Mantri acknowledged that these new capabilities are in the early stages, and it will take time to see how they work out. SAP also needs to show how the applications are synchronized so customers can better understand overlapping functionality know what to use when.

"They need more clarity on those roadmaps more quickly because customers cannot wait. You can't implement something now and then, after one year, change it again," he said. "[SAP needs to] get in front of those functionality roadmaps and clearly define what we should use and when we'll get the benefits realization."

Much needed improvements

The updates to the UX were impressive and should be welcomed in particular by SAP Ariba users, as it has long suffered from a reputation of being difficult to use, said Joshua Greenbaum, founder and principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting.

"They really have changed the look and feel of these apps to make them look more like consumer apps, with a more Amazon-like buying process," Greenbaum said. "This was well received, because clearly Ariba -- and some of the other moving parts in this portfolio -- haven't always been that easy to work with."

The SAP Central Procurement capability was also impressive, said Patrick Reymann, research director for enterprise and procurement applications at IDC. He described it as a single analytics stack that lets users gain visibility into things like requisition or invoice status across platforms, he said.

"I hear that amongst buyers all the time -- that their biggest challenge is spend visibility," Reymann said. "We're 20 years into the procurement application journey, and that's still job No. 1. So I'm all for anything that can be done to facilitate that and make that easier."

Reymann agreed that the UX updates are welcome improvements and indicate that SAP knows the UX is not where it needs to be.

"There is marked improvement, especially with the new transformation of guided buying into buying 360," he said. "It's attractive, it's clean and it's intuitive -- and it facilitates informed and intelligent decision making, which is significant."

Jim O'Donnell is a TechTarget senior news writer who covers ERP and other enterprise applications for TechTarget Editorial.

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