The need to have a clear view across the enterprise and its extended value network is vital to improving the business – and companies in Africa are well positioned to respond quickly to changing markets.
This was the main message from this year's SAP World Tour for Large Enterprises, held in Midrand last week.
More than 900 delegates attended the two-day event, which forms part of SAP's global programme that was held in more than 70 cities spread in 50 countries.
"There is a renewed focus on the benefits of having enterprise-wide clarity in these times as companies need to be able to properly identify opportunities and threats to mitigate the global slowdown," comments Pfungwa Serima, MD of SAP Africa. "There are many examples of companies that have been able to make progress despite the state of economies, which has been made possible due to the clarity and foresight they gained from implementing SAP solutions."
In his keyword address, Jeff Word, SAP's vice-president of product strategy, highlighted the benefits to companies of having a clear and immediate view of their organisation, customers and suppliers.
"Clarity is key to implementing effective business improvements," he says. "The globalisation of business networks has brought about a changed environment in which the reliance on other companies, partners and clients is a new business reality.
"This has led to a shift away from a cost focus to a value focus in which collaboration and strategic partnerships are now valued far more highly."
Word sees a significant shift in the balance of power away from traditional, developed markets to emerging economies such as the so-called BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China.
He says companies in these, and other emerging economies such as Africa, have a distinct advantage over those in mature markets as they are able to move quicker to implement systems that will help them identify gaps in the market and act accordingly.
They are also able to respond more quickly, Word suggests, as established competitors' priorities are on surviving the global meltdown, while newer companies are able to implement greenfields projects, that generally leap-frog older technologies and solution.
"You see that happen to a lot of companies – they skip the evolutionary stage of their businesses, so when they put in the new ERP systems they are starting off way ahead. They also operate in slightly different environment where they may not have the same resistance to technology that other companies had early on," he says.
"We have seen a lot of that in some of the countries, where companies have gone very rapidly to being a best-run business. And that rapid ascension to operational efficiency, visibility to analytics, we see this especially in India, China, Russia and Brazil."