With more than $2.6 trillion of global commerce annually transacted on the SAP Business Network, it is no exaggeration to say that SAP is the technological center of global B2B commerce. It is also uniquely positioned to understand not just how a network operates but why it operates the way it does.

The SAP Business Network team developed a better way to help customers by integrating SAP data across systems and across companies to build the most complete view of global B2B commerce ever constructed.

As the digital era gives way to the intelligence era, customers are turning their focus from process automation to decision automation. “Every company has data, but not every company has the context to drive intelligent decisions,” says Darren Koch, chief product officer at SAP Ariba and SAP Business Network team lead.

SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass, and SAP Concur networks bring the solutions — and the data and capabilities — together to help customers as a precursor to the Intelligent Enterprise conversation.

It changes the game for SAP customers by expanding the scope of available data to outside the four walls of an organization – including data from financial markets, transportation systems, and weather systems.

By enabling a unified data management system that integrates data across internal and external sources, SAP provides the foundation upon which the intelligent suite can be built. Bringing the data together helps ensure that the systems talk to each other, and an artificial intelligence engine defines the next steps in the process, develops a decision, or delivers a solution.

To maximize the value of such a robust data set, SAP exposes this data as a platform service in SAP Cloud Platform. This means that SAP applications, the SAP developer ecosystem, and SAP customers can leverage it to provide innovative products and solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of SAP’s global customer base.

But in the era of GDPR, sharing data also has its challenges too. The team had to navigate data privacy laws and varying legal entities to drive the project forward. The open platform — comprised of SAP HANA and Orient DB, an open source project from Callidus, as well as AWS and other technologies — serves as the backbone and allows for the scalable technology.

According to Henry Tsai, vice president of SAP Business Network, “Our partners get it immediately. In the spend management or the process automation space, this is gold for them. They can easily layer their product on top.”

Koch attributes the success of the project to the team. “It’s a unicorn project. There is an amazing value proposition, amazing support from leadership, and tremendous people working on this,” he says. “We went from a whiteboard 18 months ago to something that can change the company and make us a market leader for the next 25 years. There is something special going on.”

The Hasso Plattner Founders’ Award is the highest employee recognition at SAP, awarded annually by the CEO to an individual or a team.