Ariba LIVE – Headed Down (Dispatch 1)

I'm sitting in the quiet confines of the United lounge at O'Hare, having made the right decision this morning to take a combination of taxi and train (rather than taxi / car service) all the way to the airport. Definitely saved 20 minutes that I would have spent stuck in traffic -- not to mention thirty bucks or so. Given that the highway tends to back up around 5:45 AM on Monday mornings, you need to escape from downtown by 5:30 for the car to beat the train all the way to the airport (this is a critical secret to learn if you visit downtown Chicago for work or live here and fly out on a regular basis). Regardless, I made it, and I'm just in the process of going over my notes about what I tend to focus on at LIVE when I get there this afternoon (for a list of my expectations/predictions for the event, check out this recent post).

In terms of my focus areas for the event, for one, I plan to spend quite a bit of time catching up with the folks who matter most at these sorts of events -- the customers. Gauging customer interest in solutions and particular areas of interest at the moment is the best use of time at user conferences. I suspect I'll hear a continuation of the recent trend towards revitalized interests in P2P (especially the downstream EIPP/invoice automation side of it) as well as a continued curiosity around supply risk and supplier information management. I am also getting push back from customers on network fee changes happening later this year, and intend to cover this as well (more specifics to follow next week once the event is over). Of course, spend visibility, which remains very hot this year in the market in general, should also be another major area of discussion and focus among prospects and customers as well. And you can be sure I'll drill into this area too.

Aside from the customer and solution focus, it will be helpful to connect directly with some of the product folks on the Ariba side, avoiding the marketing go-between between solutions and customers. I'm looking forward to hearing about enhancements in core solution areas and hopefully about a stronger roadmap for P2P SaaS integration, which has been a major area of complaint among larger SaaS prospects in recent quarters (e.g., VMS integration into Ariba SaaS P2P). Overall, I'm expecting to be in active listening mode around Ariba's focus and vision for leveraging the concept their new network in new ways. I'm also hoping to hear more about how Ariba plans to look at both SI and BPO partnerships going forward, an area that still requires material focus in my view.

As to breakout sessions and such, I'll probably cluster my time around P2P, invoice automation and working capital. If you see someone quietly typing away on a silver Macbook Pro in a breakout session, you'll know you've found me. Drop by and say hello if you can. I also posted on Twitter yesterday about running both Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. If anyone is up for a run on one or both days, let me know. I'll be headed out early, and need to get in a good 7-8 miles in on one of the days.

Last, if you're looking for more constant Spend Matters updates from the event, watch our Twitter feed (@spendmatters). I'll try to keep Twitter updated every hour or so (sometimes more) during keynotes throughout the day. And a final point: Justin Fogarty, Ariba's social media guru, asked if I'd post a link so folks could watch and comment on keynotes, which will be streamed live Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Here's the link to see Bob C. et al in high definition!

- Jason Busch

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