#5 Newsmaker: Mark Aboud of SAP Canada

A few years ago, you wouldn’t have found business software vendor SAP AG this high up a list of channel newsmakers, particularly in a market as focused on the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment as Canada is. However, this isn’t your father’s SAP.

With Mark Aboud leading the way in Canada as president of SAP Canada, the German company has been working hard in recent years to shed its images on two fronts – it’s just for big business, and it’s not channel friendly – and it made significant progress on both fronts in 2011.

“A couple of years ago SAP launched an innovation agenda to create what we call the new SAP. It’s about innovation and growth, and our customers are interested in exactly the same thing,” said Aboud. “We’re looking at what strategies our customers are innovating on, and attaching our value proposition to their innovation agenda and helping them create a new company.”

Putting the channel first

On the channel side, a transformation from a direct-focused organization into one that leads with the channel has been underway for a number of years, including last year with the merger of the SME and channel organizations and the commitment to take most new deals in that segment indirect. It was kicked-up a notch early in 2011 with the promotion of Eric Duffaut to the newly created position of president, global ecosystem and channel, reporting directly to SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott, in an elevation of the worldwide channel chief role. In Canada, Rene Giguere took over as vice-president of SME and Canadian channel chief.

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“It’s an indication of how the market and our customers want to do business, and how we want to expand our channel model globally,” said Aboud. “We’re beefing up the channel to give partners more elbow room and a chance to make more money, and it gives us a chance to expand across Canada faster than we could do ourselves direct.”

Duffaut and Giguere will have their work cut out for them, as SAP has set ambitious goals for channel growth. The public goal is 40 per cent of overall revenue (including large enterprise) through the channel by 2015, and internally the bar has been set to reach 50 per cent in the same time frame.

To help get there, in February SAP opened up the large enterprise market to the channel for the first time. With its Greenfield program, 4,600 named enterprise prospects were reserved for the channel, including 500 in Canada. Essentially, the ceiling on the channel opportunity was removed. Also, SAP declared 100 per cent of all new SME deals will be taken indirect.

And to help change the perception that SAP isn’t a fit for the SME market, SAP also shifted its marketing focus this year by investing in what it calls the awareness side of the business. A key part of the strategy is getting into communities of interest that can influence IT buying decisions in the SME. It’s not about pitching SAP, but talking about what companies should look for when it comes to ERP.

Marrying mobility, analytics and ERP

On the technology side, SAP was busy in 2011 bringing products to market around what it sees as the three key trends driving technology going forward: mobility, analytics and cloud computing. Aboud said the big trend in the industry is around managing big data.

A key release for SAP this year was HANA, SAP’s in-memory computing platform. Delivered in an appliance model combining industry-standard x86 hardware with SAP analytical software and a services play for the channel, it sits in the data centre and allows companies to draw real-time analysis and reporting from their legacy data stores. Aboud says SAP has sold eight HANA implementations in Canada this year, with another 20 in the pipeline.

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“It’s really around companies wanting to manage vast amounts of data inexpensively and easily,” said Aboud. “HANA going forward will support all our SAP solutions for customers as an embedded database. We think HANA is as big a release for us as our SAP R3 release was a few years ago.”

The channel play for HANA is still being developed, and it’s expected to be in the channel soon. Aboud said recent partner training sessions across Canada for HANA have been well-attended and received.

Also new in Canada this year was Business ByDesign, SAP’s on-demand enterprise resource planning suite.

“More and more of what we’re doing is moving to the cloud,” said Aboud. “It’s a delivery vehicle, not a solution in itself, but its coming. Maybe slower than we thought, but we’re going with the cloud as it comes along.

What’s in store for 2012

Looking ahead, Aboud said SAP will be looking for partners to drive deeper across SAP’s product suite, bringing together offerings from not just the ERP side, but analytics and mobility as well.

“We’re not sure there’s another company in IT focused on all those areas,” said Aboud. Big data and HANA will be focus areas.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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