SAP and Microsoft announced a new integration plan Tuesday that deploys SAP HANA on the Microsoft Azure cloud and links SAP applications, including Ariba, with Microsoft Office 365, giving procurement organizations opportunities for enhanced collaboration, functionality and connectivity within the tools they regularly use.
According to Joe Fox, senior vice president of business development and strategy at SAP Ariba, the partnership with Microsoft shows SAP/Ariba’s commitment to delivering innovation through an open platform, its ability to “stretch” its cloud solutions into the Office suite and make life easier for procurement departments.
The partnership plans to have SAP HANA run development, test and production workload on Microsoft Azure. Additionally, SAP cloud solutions, including Concur, SAP Fieldglass, SAP Ariba solutions, will integrate with Office 365 communication, calendar and docs solutions, giving users more integration within these platforms. The companies say the integration offers a natural user-based flow between SAP cloud procurement applications and cloud Microsoft Office tools like Outlook and Excel.
Use cases for this integration include a buyer being able to look at an invoice (perhaps under a scenario in which it was flagged for a match failure), click on a contact/phone number and call the supplier directly through Skype (in the case of a question or error). Another example is integrating Ariba Contract Management solution to the Microsoft Office 365 app suite, which grants multiple users within the organization the chance to edit the document at the same time and from various devices.
For SAP, it was important to provide these enhancements in the tools procurement organizations are already using every day.
“We wanted to connect in the cloud, where employees live,” Fox said.
A goal of the new integration partnership is also to simplify procurement workflow, provide more direct connections and remain compliant with an organization’s standards and regulations. Simple isn’t good enough for procurement — business compliance is also key, Fox added.
“It’s important to point out that we really focus on making this easy but staying compliant,” he said.
SAP and Microsoft announced the news earlier this week, with a presentation dedicated to it at the SAPPHIRE NOW conference. So far, feedback has been positive, Fox said. Procurement departments want to ensure buyers are actually using the technology adopted by the organization and enhancing the solutions they already use is one avenue to that. Fox expects more integration such as the SAP/Microsoft plan going forward as more organizations connect to the cloud. It’s a “natural progression,” he said, and one that allows end users to collaborate with trading partners and suppliers.
Overall, procurement and supplier management activities are increasingly becoming collaborative within procurement and across the supply chain. Spend Matters believes document collaboration, messaging and communication capability that link cloud-based desktop productivity applications to procurement technology suites will increasingly become standard issue. For those organizations that take advantage of it, the SAP and Microsoft partnership will ultimately have a significantly larger everyday impact for typical procurement users than most technology feature/function enhancements.