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The Business Network is the future

By Derek Kudsee, COO at SAP Africa 

In September, SAP announced a deal to acquire Concur, a company that provides integrated travel and expense management solutions – or, in simple terms, makes business travel easy by automating the entire process, from booking flights to reconciling expenses.

The deal didn’t attract much attention here in Africa, in spite of it being one of the largest acquisitions in the history of the cloud industry. Across in the US, the focus was largely on how the deal will grow SAP’s cloud business. And indeed, the numbers are impressive: when the acquisition is completed, more than $600 billion will be transacted on that network annually – 50% more than Amazon, ebay and Alibaba combined.

This deal is about far more than the numbers, though. The real promise of what this deal means for the cloud, for the travel industry and beyond is a new world of networked business.

Let’s use business travel as an example to explain this brave new world.

As anyone who travels for business will know, every step in the process – from planning, booking, traveling, paying and reimbursement – has the potential to be intensely time-consuming and frustrating.

But it doesn’t have to be this way in our modern, connected era. For a hotel stay, why should a traveler even see a hotel bill, when the hotel could send the invoice directly to the employer? Why should you have to spend valuable time going through receipts from airlines and car rental companies, when they can be imported directly into expense reports?

It’s a simple question of collaboration – between companies, between networks, between systems. And if it’s easy for a traveler to use a service, it should be easy for businesses to collaborate, as well. If credit card companies were to connect, they could create a single cohesive value chain to make life simpler for the traveler. The entire travel process should be frictionless, and thanks to services like Concur, it can be.

And here’s the real “wow” behind the Concur deal: this idea of “frictionless commerce”, which Concur currently enables every day for business travellers, will ultimately form the foundation of the largest business network in the world.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott talks of a new era where businesses connect like people connect; where it will be as simple to share plans, invoices and contracts as it is to share photos. This hyper-connected business network will extend business processes that used to stop at the walls of the enterprise, and will fulfill the promise of the real-time global networked economy to reduce complexity without sacrificing sophisticated work.

As the business activity on this burgeoning network increases, we’ll begin to see new patterns and new models emerge. With powerful real-time analytic platforms powering this business network, the potential to innovate for the individual on any device with rich, context-aware applications is limitless.

The challenge to every business is simple: to get networked, and to be part of this connected economy that makes it easier than ever to share information and make sense of the masses of data that our businesses collect every day. The opportunity is real and it’s expanding as we speak. This is not just the future of travel: it’s the future of business.