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Adding to its portfolio of solutions that create rapid value for customers worldwide, SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) today announced its intent to acquire business-to-business (B2B) integration provider Crossgate. A leading provider of hosted B2B integration services, Crossgate enables companies to fully integrate and network with trading partners, clients and suppliers, allowing electronic data exchange with any business partner regardless of their technical capability. As a result of this acquisition, SAP will enable networking at the enterprise level, providing an easy way for trading partners to collaborate, share data and automate processes that link customers and suppliers for streamlined B2B e-commerce.

You have a set of accounts payable processes that would be comfortable in a 19th century setting. Pieces of parchment passed from from the vendor documenting the agreed transaction. An original signature scrawled with indelible ink pen proving the authenticity of the document. And the legislation surrounding the processes - the laws that allow the authorities to be sure that they're getting their slice of the commercial cake, rely on these paper processes.

I'm really looking forward to speaking on the dos and don'ts of e-invoicing at the 5th annual P2P conference in Amsterdam next week. It's a relatively small conference but some of Europe's leading P2P practitioners will be there either speaking or as delegates.

You think purchase to pay is a back office function? e-invoicing is a technical innovation? AP automation an incremental improvement to financial supply chain management? And you wonder why nothing ever gets achieved. P2P is as boring as you make it. The reality is though, that purchase to pay, positioned properly, can deliver commercial benefits on a scale that would astound most executives.

It was at the beginning of 2011 that we wrote about Tradeshift catching the wave just right. And it was just a few months before that I asked a couple of their competitors what they thought about Tradeshift. Ariba people and OB10 people were all singing from the same hymn sheet. "Trade who?". Well, a few weeks ago I asked them again and they both conceded, Tradeshift are becoming difficult to ignore.

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