Over the past 25 years, my travels in the enterprise software business have taken me far from my native Buenos Aires. In meetings with customers around the world, digital transformation tends to dominate the conversation – but not before an exchange of pleasantries. Upon learning I’m Argentine, the host occasionally asks whether I partake in my homeland’s best-known cultural export: the tango. I politely reply that I possess what we call in Spanish dos pies izquierdos, or “two left feet.”

Yet I hasten to point out that cloud technologies have more in common with the tango than one might surmise. On the stage of business-to-business commerce, cloud solutions – not unlike dancers in a recital hall – lend simplicity, agility, and collaboration to complex processes in motion.

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique. They are great because of their passion.”
—The late choreographer Martha Graham

As every beginner can attest, the steps involved in the tango are anything but simple. Once mastered, however, the intertwined movements of the dancers exude grace, elegance, and vigor. When performed skillfully, the tango appears effortless – to the observer. Much the same holds true for digital business networks. To the various personas that rely on them to perform core business processes, cloud solutions bring simplicity to otherwise intricate tasks ranging from procurement, supply chain, and external workforce management to finance, travel and expense, and enterprise resource management. By extending visibility across the interconnected operations of trading partners, increasingly integrated business networks free up professionals to shift their focus from the tactical to the strategic – and from incremental to exponential value.

Tango steps graphic
Designed by SAP’s Klaus Hertweck

Unlocking value, of course, requires agility. Here, too, the boardroom draws inspiration from the ballroom. Sometimes described as “a secret danced between two people,” the tango follows a broad range of rhythms. To keep the secret from spilling, both leader and follower must remain strictly attuned to changes in tempo. Failure to achieve exceptionally responsive coordination between partners can result, at worst, in a fracture – whether to a limb or to a supply chain. To militate against this risk, partners – in dance and business alike – require boundless agility and unimpeded visibility across all motions.

But what happens when the music unexpectedly cuts short? As business leaders have become acutely accustomed in the past two years, disruption takes many forms – many of them unwelcome. Cloud solutions need to be just as nimble in sourcing alternative components or circumventing logjammed seaports as a dancer must be when switching time signatures or even partners. Meanwhile, digital business networks create maximum value when they facilitate collaboration across stakeholders near and far, both within an organization’s four walls and across those of its trading partners. After all, successful businesses – like popular dances – flourish globally, shaped by influences far from home.

To leap forward in competitive advantage, business leaders are wise to embrace the agility of the cloud, emulate the elegance of the tango, and explore the support expertise and services offerings necessary to instill enduring resilience for themselves and their partners.

Claudia Boeri is president of Latin America South at SAP.