Since the early days, SAP’s industry partners have had a hand in developing preconfigured solutions for their industries. SAP Best Practices, for example, is a product built on partner cooperation. Over the years, partners have had a strong influence on the choice of business scenarios for each version, pinpointed additional preconfiguration needs, and essentially steered SAP Best Practices in the direction it is heading today. The set-up of the partner network for mySAP All-in-One and new additions to the product portfolio has not altered this equation. In fact, it has paved the way for even greater cooperation. The recent development of the SAP One Server toolkit, available since September 2003, was guided by partner feedback, which influenced SAP’s choice of database for the toolkit. The current SAP Best Practices strategy has taken its lead from partner input. It was partner demand for a more flexible and generic foundation on which to build their solutions that prompted the latest SAP Best Practices Building Block technology and the recent release of the first SAP Best Practices Baseline Package in August 2003.
Get in on the ground floor
Since SAP Best Practices represents the jumping off point for many mySAP All-in-One solutions, it’s in both SAP’s and the partner’s interests to ensure that new releases match the bulk of customer requirements from the outset. This saves partners time and money at the solution development stage and helps guarantee the resale potential of the end solution. And partners can also have their say in the development of other products in the mySAP All-in-One portfolio. By making their wishes known, they can ensure that all products are designed specifically with their development needs in the mind.
The best way for partners to get their voices heard and influence future development in the area of mySAP All-in-One is to use the feedback channels provided by SAP. SAP uses three main methods to roll in feedback from its partners – questionnaires, workshops, and development requests. The process for the latter has been significantly improved in recent weeks with new components for specific mySAP All-in-One development requests.
Put it in writing
The first level of feedback is collected from the mySAP All-in-One partner community by means of questionnaires. Carried out at regular intervals in each country, the aim of these questionnaires is to find out more about how partners use products from the mySAP All-in-One portfolio. Do they use a SAP Best Practices version as it stands or build on it to create their own custom-made solutions? Do partners combine Building Blocks from different SAP Best Practices versions or different scenarios to get their end solution? What kinds of additional development aids are needed? And the really crucial question – what kind of feedback are partners getting from their customers? Questionnaires are localized for each region, so partners have the chance to air their views on SMB market or development issues specific to their country. For example, SAP might ask partners about the implications for their customers of Basel II, the new international agreement covering equity capital. The response mechanism used in these questionnaires is not set in stone. Questions are open and flexible and leave plenty room for free expression. In some cases, questionnaires are only used as a guideline in one-on-one discussions between partners and SAP Solution Architects.
Partner workshops speak volumes
Partners can get more actively involved in the feedback round through partner workshops. These workshops usually take place early on in the development cycle, before specifications for a new release of SAP Best Practices or a development toolkit have been decided upon. Participants are invited to workshops on the basis of their industry sector or area of expertise. However, partners are often called upon as a result of input they have provided in a questionnaire or a development request. Workshops take place in various countries and either concentrate on a particular industry or take a more solution-oriented approach with cross-industry topics such as customer relationship management. The goal is to provide partners with a forum to speak their minds freely and put forward their development proposals. SAP can find out (straight from the horses mouth so to speak), what kind of scenarios partners would like to see in future SAP Best Practices versions or hear suggestions for enhancements of SAP One Server or the VSDK. Partners might request preconfiguration for additional functions and business processes or point out areas where SAP could make mySAP All-in-One deliverables more partner- and consumer-friendly.
Moreover, SAP is able to glean valuable information from their partners on what direction the market is taking and how SAP Best Practices needs to evolve to keep up. Partners benefit in the long run from products that are tailored even more precisely to their needs and the needs of their customers. They can also exploit this opportunity to meet with other partners and forge valuable partnerships that could lead to joint development ventures in the future.
Make a difference
The final partner feedback option takes the form of development requests. SAP has recently made efforts to make this process more convenient and encourage partners to exert greater influence on development in the mySAP All-in-One arena, particularly in the area of SAP Best Practices. Partners are now able to specify exactly what area their request pertains to. This makes the collation and evaluation process on the SAP side much more efficient. SAP has also created a new page in the SAP Service Marketplace under the alias bestpractices to explain in more detail how partners can go about making their development requests.
In the same vein as the feedback presented in partner workshops, development requests can cover a wide range of requirements. Partners may be looking for additional SMB functionality in the standard software. In this case, requests are forwarded to the core development team for that solution. Partners may want SAP to address consumer demand in their country for a localized version of an SAP Best Practices release or express a need for a new SAP Best Practices version specific to their industry. A partner’s experience in the field may uncover a gray area in a particular SAP Best Practices version, where customers could make use of additional preconfigured business processes or a new scenario. Whatever the request, partners can make their views known quickly and easily in the SMB Partner Portal under the alias rollin.
See the results
And what happens to the input? All development requests are classified according to their subject area and are forwarded directly to the central SMB development team. Localization or country-specific issues are passed on to the relevant people in SAP’s subsidiaries worldwide and questions specific to a particular project are redirected to the respective project team. Requests are reviewed on a regular basis. In some cases, SAP will contact partners for additional input or organize a workshop to deal with a developmental need that has been noted by a number of different partners. After careful evaluation of all the input from the development requests and resulting workshops, SAP is able to incorporate partner feedback into their development strategy and can mold future mySAP All-in-One offerings in line with both SAP and partner vision. Partners also have the opportunity to participate in development and testing onsite at SAP.