People may be surprised to learn that SAP generated thirty-three percent of its revenue from partners last quarter, and intends to reach forty percent by 2015. In this interview Ira Simon explains how SAP has doubled down efforts to help partners make more money faster from innovations like mobile, cloud, and in-memory computing.
SAP.info: What excites you about SAP’s partner program today?
Ira Simon: When I was hired eight years ago to help develop our small and mid-size partner program, SAP was a different company. We were ERP-focused, and just beginning to explore the revenue possibilities of a multi-route business. Today, we have a worldwide network of close to 12,000 partners who help take SAP to market to reach customers of all sizes, co-innovate with us, and provide services and sales across every solution area.
SAP.info: SAP just posted its best ever second quarter earnings. Where do partners fit into the growth strategy?
Ira Simon: Partners are crucial to help meet our aggressive business goals. Over sixty percent of our customer base comes from partners. Partners sell and service 98,000 of our small and mid-size customers.
SAP.info: Partnering with SAP hasn’t always been easy. What do you say to partners hesitant about working with SAP?
Ira Simon: Like any large company we’ve had our growing pains. But we’ve worked with our partners to identify and address issues. We’ve made dramatic improvements, and partners are making serious money with us. We have a world class infrastructure in place with our partner service delivery team. We have hundreds of people in hubs worldwide whose sole job is to support partner business. We have dedicated partner account managers, sales and marketing tools, and partner enablement e-learning and education.
SAP.info: What is your team doing to change the partner experience?
Ira Simon: We’re transparent and open. We listen to partners, prioritizing what we need to work on accordingly. We recently launched sappartneredge.com, a new partner only website, which consolidates in one secure, dedicated site all the resources partners need to build, sell, and implement all SAP solutions.
SAP.info: How does sappartneredge.com work?
Ira Simon: Already 60,000 unique people use the site over 100,000 times each month. This single portal provides information our partners need. This includes industry and market insights, competitive information, and SAP product and solution resources, along with operational activities including software license keys and ordering. They can get real-time status on partner program levels and training and certification. For new partners, the site hand holds them through on boarding so they are productive quickly.
SAP.info: Thousands of new websites are launched every day. How will you know this one’s a winner?
Ira Simon: Our Partner Advisory Councils aren’t shy—they’ll tell us what they want and need. We track site traffic, and use formal and informal surveys to see what resources are being used and most valuable. We’re constantly refining, always looking for best practices outside of SAP.
SAP.info: SAP leadership talks about your commitment to partners. What about the rank and file within SAP; has this required serious adjustments?
Ira Simon: More employees are experiencing how partners help them achieve their KPIs, sales targets, and project objectives. Programs like Extended Enterprise Sales bring partners and direct sales AEs together to close business we couldn’t close alone. Inside sales collaborates with VARS on new business. System integrators work closely with direct sales worldwide to identify opportunities and provide services to supplement license sales. Development collaborates with partners to develop and expand SAP solutions.
SAP.info: Some question SAP’s co-innovation results. Can you prove SAP’s co-innovation commitment is real and not just a marketing message?
Ira Simon: Without partners, we couldn’t have brought SAP HANA, our in-memory computing solution, to market as one of the fastest growing products ever introduced. Partners played a key role in development and providing the hardware platform. Partners use Afaria and the Sybase Unwired Platform to develop and manage mobile apps. Partners are taking Business One on-premise and co-innovating to create cloud solutions. Thousands of partners take our core solutions like Business-All-in-One, and develop add-on functionality for micro-verticals, becoming industry leaders in the process.
SAP.info: What new trends will impact SAP’s partner program?
Ira Simon: First, partners have to understand where mobile, cloud, and in-memory play into their business—it’s what customers want. That’s why we make it easier than ever for partners to expand into new solution areas. Second, SAP technology is increasingly being embedded into OEM products. Third, we’re adopting a two-tier distribution model as we move to higher volume sales from our evolving portfolio including database, ASE, mobile and analytics solutions. This allows thousands and thousands of partners to access SAP solutions through distributors and resell more products faster.