SAP Canada launches new push in the SME space

When you think of SAP (NYSE: SAP) you probably think of big business ERP software, but Mark Aboud says the vendor’s success in the large enterprise space has overshadowed its leadership in the SME segment, a perception he’s hoping to change.

Aboud recently joined SAP Canada in the newly created position of executive vice-president, SME and public services. A 12-year veteran of rival Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), where one of his positions was running Canadian sales, Aboud’s new position is part of a new global SME organization for SAP with each country investing resources in a major SME push.

“We are the market leader, by far, in the SME; it’s just been overshadowed by our success with large companies,” said Aboud. He notes SAP and Business Objects collectively have more than 1,170 customers in Canada, more than 60 per cent of which are SMEs.

“My role is really to change the perception, to build-out the strategy, to build-out the capability, and the main component is to direct resources to our partners to help us do that,” he says.

SAP’s main SME offering, Business One, is exclusive through the channel in Canada. The vendor also offers All in One for the mid market. Both applications have been tailored for the SME. As well, later this year SAP is set to launch Business ByDesign, its hosted software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering for the mid market.

“I believe this will give us really broad coverage for the needs that are out there,” says Aboud. “We need to get the word out to the SME space on what we can offer, one customer at a time.”

SAP Canada currently has “a couple of dozen” partners, most of which are focused on the SME. Aboud says he’s looking to recruit more partners to SAP’s PartnerEdge partner program with experience in industries, specific geographies, and different market segments.

“We’re aggressively looking for partners, but we want to be selective,” said Aboud. “We want to make sure who we bring on are going to add value to the SAP software footprint, and add value to our customers.”

He says SAP Canada is also investing in its telesales group to help it move to the next level in the SME, providing more coverage and working to grow partner business.

“We think we’re doing a lot … to build out not only the number of partners, but the capability of each partner to be successful,” said Aboud.

SAP’s SME partner pitch has found a receptive audience in Priell Ltd. The newly-formed Western Canadian implementation partner has decided to exclusively focus on Business One sales, consulting, implementation and service support.

Geoff Bell, a partner with Priell, says he and his partners have a background in business software, management and entrepreneurship, and will be targeting SMEs in the manufacturing and wholesale distribution space.

“Small businesses are incorporating more than ever, and bankruptcies are decreasing at just about the same rate,” said Bell. “It’s an interesting paradigm, and right now it’s a very competitive marketplace.”

There’s an increasingly high demand for business software in the SME, says Bell. For example, with so much of their cash flow tied-up in inventory many clients are investing in software to optimize inventory management and improve their cash flow. There’s the same push to standardize processes and gain visibility into all areas of the business that’s occuring at the enterprise level.

“Small businesses are in need of this software, it’s not as much a luxury any more but a necessity,” said Bell. “They’re also after low-cost, powerful solutions that are quick and easy to implement.”

One of Priell’s partners had extensive experience in SAP R3 implementations, so going with SAP was an easy decision. However, Bell says SAP’s big enterprise reputation did give them pause.

“There definitely is that perception out there, and I think that’s one of the biggest things we need to overcome. People know the SAP name, and it’s known for big business,” said Bell. “That was one of our concerns going into this market, is SAP right for small business?”

It’s a perception that Priell believes it can overcome. Bell notes SAP is changing its marketing focus to the SME, and Business One itself has been built on a completely unique platform while leveraging the vendor’s enterprise experience.

“What they’ve been able to do is invest an incredible amount of resources into understanding small business, and develop this system with them in mind,” said Bell. “We’ve just found that Business One is fun to implement and fun to use, it’s a very intuitive program using a Microsoft Windows look and feel, very intuitive and very easy to learn.”

Bell adds he’s pleased with the training and support Priell receives from SAP as a partner.

“The channel partner program they have from what we’ve seen so far, and we did investigate this, is highly supportive and provides extensive pre-sales, sales and implementation tools for their partners, as well as training,” said Bell. “They’re very supportive.”

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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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