Getting More Value from the Platform

Foto: Privat
Photo: Private For years now, SAP Business Suite has been seen as a basis that partners develop products and services for. How has SAP’s alignment changed – apart from the fact that SAP now offers other platforms too?

Bernd-Uwe Pagel: SAP never seriously saw itself as a platform vendor in the past. Our core product developed into a platform that system integrators – for the most part – created extensions for. Other software vendors linked their programs to SAP systems via interfaces. But hardly anybody used our technology to create and market completely new applications.

In contrast, we now have platform technologies that are constructed in such a way that they are of great interest to other software vendors – independent software vendors, or ISVs for short. We are specifically addressing agile developers who can quickly and cheaply implement and bring smart mobile and cloud applications to the market. With SAP HANA, we are also successfully advancing into a platform category that was always the focus of the most intensive software development activity in the past: the database.

With SAP platform technology changing, is the SAP partner landscape changing too?

Well, first of all, our new platform technologies represent a considerable opportunity for our existing partners, and we’re registering a great deal of interest over and above the usual consulting or operating business. Heightened margin pressure in the IT services business is forcing many of our partners to expand their business models by channeling their process and industry expertise into software solutions, or intellectual property. Our platforms are exactly what they need at the time when they need it.

At the same time, we want to move into partner segments that we have not addressed before – by working with mobile experts and conventional ISVs whose products have never contained SAP technology, but who are being forced to respond to megatrends such as cloud, mobile, and big data in order to stay competitive. Our competitors in the platform business have thousands of ISV partners. In 2012 we have started to also offer attractive programs for such ISVs and see a lot of momentum.

The important point is that the shift to platform business must spark a change in our attitude: We start seeing software vendors who build applications on our platforms not as competitors but as partners – and focus on making these partners more productive. This is the only way we’ll get them to increase their investments in our platforms and thus accelerate the spread of our technology.

Can you give me some examples of successful partner apps based on one of our platforms that are providing added value for customers and that address a promising market?  

In 2012, we staged a series of partner app contests all over the world that produced some very interesting results. The apps that won awards in these contests show particular potential.

There are already more than 100 mobile partner apps available in the SAP Store; many address high-quality, complex use cases. It is already becoming clear that most partners are developing industry-specific apps.

Next page: Read more about the partner programs

Which special partner programs for specific categories – mobile, cloud, SAP HANA – already exist or are planned?

We began with mobile in May 2012. One hundred and fifty partners joined the SAP Mobile Apps Partner Program in the first seven months, and the current sign-up rate is about one partner per day. We officially launched the SAP NetWeaver Cloud Applications Partner Program at SAPPHIRE NOW in Madrid in November, though we had already signed a number of initial partner agreements by then.

We intend to push both of these programs in 2013. In the mobile area, I anticipate that we’ll have several hundreds of partners and apps by the end of the year. We expect to achieve three-digit figures in the SAP NetWeaver environment too.

SAP HANA is more complex. This platform offers numerous opportunities; as a database or a development environment, in the cloud or on premise. Accordingly, it is possible to address different types of partners for a wide range of use cases. We will build on our experience from both of the programs I have already mentioned. And we will work hard towards offering the ISVs a comprehensive partner program including access to SAP HANA and other products from the Sybase portfolio, such as SAP Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise, starting at this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW.

SAP needs partners to develop apps and solutions for its platforms. At the same time, SAP is building its own apps too. Isn’t that a contradiction?

We want to be both a platform provider and an application provider. This means we have to take a disciplined approach to our own development activities. Our partners need a reliable basis on which to plan and they need us to be transparent.  That’s why we disclose a detailed road map of our own mobile app development to our partners. The important point is that we communicate exactly what SAP is developing under its own steam. That way, our partners can identify the areas in which customers are likely to select SAP apps and the areas that SAP is staying out of.

To give you a rough idea: SAP is focusing on horizontal solutions that cover as broad a market as possible and that can be deployed in various sectors of industry.

You’re also responsible for e-channels. What does this category include?

“E-channels” are all of our online channels to customers or partners, though some of them have come to us as a result of acquisitions. At the moment, we have a number of shops and portals, including the Sybase eShop, the BusinessObjects eStore, the SAP EcoHub, and the SAP Store.

Read on the next page: The SAP Store as a central platform

What is the strategy here?

First of all, we will converge these into one landscape for customers and partners. We’re planning to migrate the main stores by the end of the year.

Our aim is to establish the SAP Store as the central platform – although it is much more than a conventional shopping portal. On the one hand, it maps the enormous breadth of solutions and prices offered by SAP: services, rapid-deployment solutions, cloud solutions, conventional software. That requires a comprehensive infrastructure, because everything needs to run automatically in the background at the touch of a button.

On the other hand, it is equipped with highly sophisticated order-processing functions. After all, there’s a big difference between buying additional user licenses, downloading software, and accessing an on-demand system. There are already numerous variants and, with innovation progressing at top speed, new ones will be added all the time. The Ariba Network and freemium offerings are prime examples. And, it goes without saying that high-quality customer service is a must too.

What products fit in the SAP Store?

Self-explanatory products that can be used immediately, small-scale transactions, and automated repeat orders are examples of products that fit in very well. In a nutshell: all products that can be sold and delivered on a self-service basis.

But the SAP Store can also be used by existing and prospective customers who would like a chance to find out about more complex products at their leisure – without a sales colleague having to be involved right away.  In this way, the store can generate leads that are then adopted and followed up by other channels, such as partners or SAP Direct Sales. The sale of additional users is another promising scenario.

The more customers who find their way to the SAP Store through positive references and ratings, the sooner it will be perceived as a self-service purchasing venue. We need to encourage this development by making attractive offers – such as trial versions or free basic packages for the first 20 users or the first 30 days. We also have to design the software in such a way that it is possible to offer an entry-level version for beginners.

For sales units such as SAP Inside Sales, the SAP Store will become an attractive playing field in which to make solutions more tangible for customers and to automatically and efficiently process smaller sales orders via the underlying infrastructure. The same applies to our sales partners. Here, the SAP Store can help keep costs down and increase profitability, which automatically leads to greater customer satisfaction.