SAP‘s partner network has been around almost as long as the company itself. Along with integration and implementation partners, who work face to face with customers, SAP has numerous development partners as well. “These partners augment SAP’s product portfolio with their own products,” explains Volker Schulz from SAP Partner Management.
Companies that develop a product for SAP naturally have special status for the firm. Collaboration with these “Software Solution Partners” covers everything from more casual associations to very close business partnerships. Embedded OEM is one example. Here, partner-developed components are vital to the functionality of the SAP product and are shipped as an integral part of the product.
Other partner products are shipped as standalone add-ons. Although many partners develop these products independently, they only run when SAP ERP is implemented, as in the case of SAP Reinsurance Management. Other products are developed independently by partners, but marketed solely by SAP: These partners are known as “SAP Branded Resellers”. “Vendor Branded Resellers”, on the other hand, develop products that are sold by SAP with joint SAP and vendor branding. And “Endorsed Business Solutions” are sold by the partners.
SAP closely scrutinizes each partner product before pronouncing it market-ready. In the Product Innovation Lifecycle (PIL), each product passes through a different sequence of software engineering phases. SAP first looks at how a product idea fits in with its portfolio. Key drivers here are the general strategic alignment, customer wishes, and alignment with SAP Solution Management. SAP Branded Resellers input their own ideas at this stage, and these have an impact on the subsequent definition phase. Partners are always involved from the planning phase at the latest. Because products from Vendor Branded Resellers are generally the finished solution, they follow a separate PIL path.
The ideas and recommendations that partners contribute from the planning phase onward are often based on customer feedback. So partners can incorporate this information into future releases.
Once the scope and alignment of the future product have been defined, the development process advances to the first Quality Gate. At this point, the team determines the “deliverables”, that is the requirements that the finished product must fulfill. If it is unrealistic to expect these to be realized in the current release, the team decides which future release they will appear in. Once these decisions are made, the crucial phase of the development work begins.
Once a product has been developed, a detailed testing phase follows. This phase and the next Quality Gate ensure compliance with product standards. The product is then handed over to SAP’s production department, where it passes through two crucial processes: solution validation and component validation. Solution validation checks that all the required functions are in place and that the product does what it’s supposed to do. Component validation examines whether the product runs on the necessary platforms. Having passed yet another Quality Gate, the product enters the ramp-up process. Typically ten customers are selected from a list of applicants to implement the product. As soon as one customer goes live, the ramp-up phase ends and the product advances to general release.
SAP offers partners a wide variety of ways to collaborate, from more casual to very close business partnerships. These different partnerships are defined by various contract frameworks.
- The closest form of partnership is the “Embedded OEM”, which means that partners develop products that are an inseparable part of SAP solutions.
- SAP Branded Reseller products, on the other hand, are partner products that are sold as standalone SAP products under the SAP brand name and for which SAP has sole distribution rights.
- SAP Vendor Branded Reseller products are also sold by SAP, but as a joint brand.
- Other partnership categories include Endorsed Business Solutions, Qualified Business Solutions, and the new Co-Innovation Program, and many other, generally informal relationships.
For more information, see: http://www.sap.com/our-partners/index.epx