Yesterday, SAP announced its intention to acquire business-to-business (B2B) integration provider Crossgate http://www.sap.com/index.epx#/news-reader/?articleID=17515. This was no great surprise, as SAP was already a part-owner and worked closely with the company in product development and marketing and sales activities. SAP will be able to offer a much better ePurchasing solution to customers when it has integrated Crossgate into its business, because supplier connectivity is currently a significant weakness. As I’ve written before (So Where Were The Best Run Businesses Then?), many SRM implementations rely on suppliers manually downloading PO from supplier portals or manually extracting them from emails and rekeying the data into their own systems. Not only does this cost the suppliers lots of money, it creates delays and errors that discourage users from adopting SRM.
SAP doesn’t intend to use Crossgate only for transactional processes; it also wants to develop support for wider collaboration between its customers and their supply chain partners, both upstream and downstream. That’s a sound objective, although not an easy one for SAP to achieve, because its core competence is in rigidly structured internal processes and it hasn’t done a good job to date with unstructured processes, nor with ones that go outside the enterprise’s four walls. Buyers who think they can force suppliers to comply with their edicts, just like employees do, soon end up wondering why no-one is using their ePurchasing solution.
What does the acquisition mean for sourcing professionals who are wondering where Crossgate or its competitors fit into their application strategy? My take:
Have you ever thought seriously about the future of business processes? If not, it’s time to. With trends coming at us fast and furious — business transformation, the age of the customer, mobility, cloud, social, process outsourcing — processes of the future will look very different from how we work today.
Forrester is in the process (pardon the pun) of looking at business processes in 2020. We’ve interviewed 10 major thought leaders at large global organizations and a number of systems integrators and vendors in the BPM space. Wow, have we learned a lot from these deep thinkers! Many of the trends they identified are already being actively worked on in their companies — so these are not just pipe dreams — and include:
A major strategic alignment between business process transformation and customer experience
Very little concern about technology issues — because they believe the technology will work well (and this is not what keeps them up at night even now)
A major focus on standardizing processes across the globe so that work can easily flow to the lowest-cost labor at any given moment
The belief that processes will run in the cloud (private or public) and that businesses will consume processes-as-a-platform
A strong conviction that IT will largely vanish into the business
The need for access to global talent pools driving some of the need for business process transformation
The expectation that being dynamic and turning on a dime will be critically important