What's in Store at SAP Sapphire? — Supplier InfoNet, SRM, Sourcing and Beyond (Part 1)

I have an extremely packed conference week between SAP Sapphire and ISM's Annual International Supply Management Event. Fortunately, both events are taking place in Orlando, so shuttling back and forth should not be such a big deal. I know a bunch of us are in the same boat, so perhaps if you're attending the events, we might find ourselves sharing a taxi together. I'm presenting twice at ISM (once with Sherry Gordon covering supplier management technologies and once facilitating a panel on supply chain risk management), but I'll leave the specifics of these discussions to another post.

At Sapphire, I'm presenting at an SAP "micro forum" on the latest in procurement, facilitating a discussion that's likely to touch on such areas as commodity risk, sourcing and P2P technology advances (and adoption) and supplier relationship management. But to be candid, I'm actually more excited about digging into the latest news and announcements from SAP (the session will be fun, but actually SAP is up to some really cool stuff these days that they're just starting to talk about). Of particular interest -- at least to me -- are continued developments with SAP Supplier InfoNet, a type of shared service information backbone incorporating supply risk operational indicators from SAP customers which leverages in-memory database SAP HANA technology (more on this next week as well).

From what I've heard from a few close to the SAP Supplier InfoNet project, the model SAP is pursuing is not quite like anything else in the market. Consider it a more ambitious version of what OpenRatings originally attempted to accomplish using operational data elements (combined with financial risk indicators). But in this case, the underlying datasets incorporating operational performance data across SAP deployments (not just SRM, but core operational systems data) are absolutely huge (think billions of data points, if not more). InfoNet is but one of the many things SAP appears to have up its procurement and supplier management sleeve at the moment. Still, it's one area you can bet that we'll invest a great deal of time probing on next week (I say "we" because I'll be joined at Sapphire by the latest member of the Spend Matters research team, Thomas Kase).

In addition to creating a radically different type of shared operational information backbone store to drive supply chain risk analysis, SAP has been making material if not significant strides across a range of other more mundane areas (after Supplier InfoNet, just about everything would seem mundane by comparison). I'll leave the discussion of the latest adoption stories of SAP SRM 7.0, SAP's new supplier network offering and the like to future installments of this preview post, but it suffices to say that on the core P2P side, SAP is readying the battleships and putting Ariba in the cross-hairs (however, as we all know, battleships are legacy technology and despite the massive commercial firepower SAP can bring to the table in terms of direct sales and channels, there are other determining factors that might hinder SAP's attempt to market share at the rate it is after within the eProcurement and related e-invoicing markets).

Consider that SAP might be aiming at the wrong target in terms of Ariba. Or, perhaps, both organizations might be flanked by new, emerging models and architectures. Regardless, this is a subject we'll explore more in due course and it will be fun to watch the fireworks from the sidelines. Check back later today and tomorrow as we continue to preview what's to come from Sapphire. We'll also begin to explore SAP's Wave 8 Sourcing release.

Jason Busch

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