SAP and Google: Partners by Design

In December 2011, a midsize company in France was evaluating a number of ERP applications. Among them was SAP Business ByDesign. Then, seemingly overnight, the company went from weighing several offerings to purchasing SAP’s solution without a backward glance. What convinced them to go with SAP so suddenly? SAP and Google had just announced their plans to integrate Google Apps with SAP Business ByDesign.

Google Apps is a suite of web-based applications that support individual and team productivity, including email (Gmail), shared documents (Google Docs), planning (Google Calendar), team communication (Google Groups), and more. Over four million companies run Google Apps.

The French company later told their SAP reseller that they had always intended to use Google Apps. So when they found out that SAP was planning to integrate Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar directly into its on-demand solution, the decision was easy. SAP Business ByDesign is the only end-to-end ERP solution for SMEs that allows users to link documents and interchange data with Google Apps.

“This customer bought the ByDesign license a week after we announced our On-Demand relationship with Google,” remembers Brian McPhail, senior director, On-Demand Ecosystem, Business Development. “We felt this was a really clear indication of customers’ and potential customers’ excitement about our relationship with Google.”

Next Page: Finding a game-changing partner

A customer-centric approach

Today, McPhail leads the On-Demand relationship with Google. It all started back in 2011, when the SAP Ecosystem & Channels organization gave him the rather open-ended task of seeking out “game-changing partners” for SAP Business ByDesign. That is, big companies with market power that offered complementary solutions or services.

Plenty of businesses match that description in Silicon Valley, where McPhail is based: “We were looking at companies like Intuit, eBay, PayPal, Google, and a number of others.” So how did he decide on Google? By talking to the sales force and solution managers involved with SAP Business ByDesign as well as actual users. “We were able to find out fairly quickly what customers wanted. This was partly due to the fact that we had such a small focused team, so the information didn’t get obscured through multiple communication channels.”

Christian Happel, Director Product Management for Business ByDesign, was also part of that small team. “We just sat down together and thought about what would be good for SAP’s customers and what would be good for SAP. We had to rely on our own insights gained from direct customer contact and we wanted to keep it simple,” says Happel. Following this customer-centric approach, Happel created a solution blueprint and then he and McPhail proposed the Google Apps integration. In their research, they had found market analysis that indicated up to 25 percent of SAP Business ByDesign’s target market run Google Apps in one way or another.

The next steps involved more talks with SAP Business ByDesign customers to find out which business functions they were using, which Google Apps they were running, and how they used both products together. “We built prototypes and took them to 10 existing ByDesign customers who were already using Google Apps to confirm we were on the right track,” Happel explains. By the end of the year, SAP announced its plans to integrate ByDesign with Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar.

Next Page: Roadmap for future collaboration

A glimpse of the SnapEngage Live Chat solution in action. (Source: SnapEngage)

A four-pronged partnership

For SAP customers, the integration of Google Apps is just one piece of a wider-ranging partnership that also spans devices, platforms, and go to market. “In terms of devices, we just launched support for the Android operating system. So now you can access and work in SAP Business ByDesign on your Android phone or tablet,” explains McPhail. “And even though the apps integration and mobile support are getting the most attention right now, one of the really intriguing long-term dimensions of our relationship with Google is the fact that we can now leverage the ecosystem of developers who use Google’s platform.”

Google’s platform-as-a-service offering is called Google App Engine. Around 150,000 independent software developers (ISVs) regularly develop apps on the platform. And now, thanks to the SAP and Google relationship, the ISVs are able to integrate their apps into SAP Business ByDesign and SAP’s line-of-business apps (like SAP Sales OnDemand), and even offer them on the SAP Store.

The first of these integrations, SnapEngage Live Chat, was announced in February, but has actually been available on the SAP Store since late December. (See the article “Instant Customer Support” for more information.) “Combining value offerings from our extended ecosystem – that’s what innovation really is,” says McPhail of the platform and ISV support. “It enables us to deliver more value faster than we could do on our own. And our customers and their customers benefit.”

The last piece of the partnership is the go to market strategy. SAP and Google jointly recruited a number of resellers and customers to take part in a pilot program in France, the U.K., and the U.S.A. They are currently working directly with these participants to refine the product and the go to market approach. The actual data integration between Google and SAP Business ByDesign is scheduled to be shipped with feature pack 4.0 in August 2012. At that time, the integration will be extended to other regions.