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SAP Ariba Live: Making Supply Risk Management Awesome

Earlier this week, Andrew Bartolini and I attended the annual SAP Ariba LIVE conference at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. The event is one of the industry’s largest (~3200 estimated attendees) and covers many topics and trends, like innovation, customer success stories, and inspiring words from business leaders and practitioners. This year’s Live was particularly inspiring, with speakers from some of the world’s most recognizable brands speaking on a personal level about their work; and how technology and innovation enable them to not only succeed in business, but also help to improve people’s lives in the process. It was all part of the event’s main theme – to “Make Procurement Awesome” – and as the speakers said, it’s not all about dollars and cents.

Supply risk was a major and consistent topic at this year’s conference, with speakers and practitioners acknowledging not only the breadth and depth of risks in their supply chains, but also how difficult it can be to identify and manage them. Conflict minerals, child labor, human trafficking, modern slavery, unsafe working conditions – topics that once seemed to be important only to grassroots activists are now top of mind for Chief Executive Officers and Chief Procurement Officers. These business leaders recognize that identifying and managing supply risk within their supply chains is essential, not just to protect their bottom line, but to protect mankind.

  • On the main stage on Day One, Alexander Atzberger, President of SAP Ariba, implored a packed auditorium to “Make Procurement Awesome” by creating more ethical supply chains, improving people’s lives, and countering the scourge of modern slavery, which entraps an estimated 40 million men, women, and children in the world today.
  • Patrick Quinlan, CEO of Convercent, shared with the audience how he is driven to make supply chains more ethical; and that organizations that make ethics central to their core mission outperform their peers by 14%, illustrating that business ethics and business performance are not mutually exclusive.
  • Padmini Ranganathan, Vice President of Products and Innovation at SAP Ariba, shared how organizations can drive transparency, compliance, and ethical sourcing; and how SAP Ariba is reimagining supplier risk to help organizations do just that. For starters, they released the Supplier Risk Management tool in December 2016 and integrated it on the Ariba Network, covering roughly 10,000 suppliers and uncovering over a million risk incidents daily.
  • James Edward Johnson, Director of Supply Chain Risk Management and Analytics at Nielsen, talked at length about the challenges of managing supply risk – of monitoring multiple data streams and being proactive to crises rather than reactive. James also shared how Ariba’s supply risk management tools have simplified their tasks, provided them with risk indicators and warning, and allowed them to get ahead of the questions that inevitably arise during a supply chain risk event.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of Day One came at the end of James’s presentation, when the attorney and CPA got emotional as he reminded the audience what is ultimately most important: it’s not about amassing piles of money, it’s about making the world a better place for our children.

As a student of supply risk management and someone who cares deeply about its environmental and humanitarian impact, it was inspiring to hear these business executives and leaders address the importance of managing supply and supplier risk, not just from a business perspective but from a personal perspective. At the end of the day, better supply risk management is not only good for business, it’s also good for humanity. And as these business executives and leaders underscored, they are not mutually exclusive.

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