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SAP partners not in spotlight, but not forgotten at Sapphire

Channel StrategyCloudSoftware

For the SAP channel partners watching the Thursday morning keynote at SapphireNow, they might feel just a twinge of jealousy as Rodopho Cardenuto took the stage for the first time in his new role as the head of SAP’s new global partner operations organization – all his new best friends were of the non-channel variety.

Joining him on stage were new strategic partners such as OpenText CEO Mark Barrenechea and Adobe senior vice-president and general manager Brad Rencher. The keynote was an opportunity for SAP to put a spotlight on the new partnerships its forged since March, and to make clear the mandate of its new global partnerships division. While the newly minted “GPO” is responsible for all channel partnerships since its May 7 unveiling, it’s also going to be managing SAP’s broader eco-system of partners.

Until Cardenuto was promoted to head the new division, he was the boss of Bob Elliott, country manager for SAP Canada. Elliott explains Cardenuto now will be reporting directly to the CEO on all SAP partnerships.

“It’s any type of relationship that we have,” he says. “It’s all of our system integrators, all of our alliances, anything that is not us dealing directly with a customer.”

But he adds that channel providers should see their status elevated by the new organization. SAP is making its partner group more important – so there’s no need to feel jealous of who’s in the spotlight at Sapphire. The new GPO will help relieve some of the burden from managers like him as he focuses on quarter-to-quarter revenue concerns.

“It’s the most efficient way to manage the complexities,” he says.

The focus on announcing strategic partnerships is a wise move on SAP’s part, says Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research. The legacy enterprise software company has to fill some gaps in its offerings and cobble together an end-to-end solution for its customers that are on offer from other key competitors. Doing so with partnerships means they avoid costly acquisitions and the considerable task of building up new solutions from scratch.

“This is a world of eco-systems,” Wang says. “We’re connecting to different networks, different suppliers and customers, and you’re going to want to connect to as many of them as you can.”

OpenText CEO Mark Barrenechea took the stage during a Sapphire Now key note on Thursday.

OpenText CEO Mark Barrenechea took the stage during a Sapphire Now key note on Thursday.

While SAP has been building out its strategic partnerships over the past couple of months, its channel partners haven’t been ignored. Rather, it’s been focused on rolling out a new portal for its solution providers and VARs, designed to deliver them better support. The SAP PartnerEdge beta redesign is rolling out across different countries and is a total transformation of the service, says Carrie Maslen, global vice-present of the SME group at SAP.

“In the past, the responsibility of finding the information was left up to you. We heard from partners that they had to go out and Google things to find information,” she says. “Now you identify what information you want to get served up to you. We’re totally redesigning the experience.”

Channel partners have always been a strategic part of SAP’s business. It puts out a base solution for a specific industry vertical – ERP for retail, for example – and the channel partners take that and adapt it to the right customer (say, ERP for micro-breweries or shoe stores) while also considering local factors. Plus, channel partners can specialize at catering to SMBs – SAP has about 11,500 partners doing just that, Maslen says.

“It’s a level of confidence message we’re giving here,” she says. “Partnering with a company like SAP, our software can grow with you.”

SAP also has dispensed a few plums to sweeten the sales deal for the prospective customers of channel partners catering to SMBs. For example, in Canada and other countries, a 24-month zero per cent financing purchase plan is available, funded by SAP while partners get paid in full within five days of making the sale. An inside sales team at SAP will work with channel partners to do blitzes and delver leads to their partners too.

Other efforts to make software more accessible to SMBs, such as breaking HANA down into more edible modules and making user-experience layer Fiori free means channel partners have further opportunity to help their customers attain new capabilities and simplify work processes, Maslen says.

“We really rely on our partners here,” she says. “We expect them to be our touch point with customers.”

So partners may get over those pangs of jealousy from Thursday’s keynote. After all, it was on the last day of the conference after many were already on flights departing Orlando, and SAP started the week with its annual Pinnacle Awards show celebrating its top partners.